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North Carolina HBCUs Partner with NC Spoken Word Artists to Rally Early Voting

The Student Engagement and Empowerment Network (SEEN) has teamed up with Emmy-winner Bluz (Boris Rogers) and Poet.She (Kelly Rae) on an Early Vote campaign. The campaign launches on April 19 — the first day of early voting in North Carolina — with two videos filmed on the campuses of Bennett College and Johnson C. Smith University. Produced by UNC professor and emcee Pierce Freelon (@durhamite) and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala (@KidEthnic), the videos will be published on youtube April 19.

SEEN is a network made up of students from 10 historically black colleges and universities in North Carolina. Created by the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NCCU, SEEN is dedicated to voter empowerment and community organizing in the 2012 election and beyond. In collaboration with North Carolina’s rich spoken word community, Dr. Jarvis Hall, director of the NCCU Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change, said he hopes to connect with younger audience.

“The people we are targeting, 18- to 24-year-olds, are just entering the electorate, so there is a lot of work to be done in terms of registration, education and awareness,” Hall said. “We want them to be continuously engaged in the democratic process. We want their interest in politics to extend down to state and local elections.”

In the 2008 presidential election, the Institute registered 300 new voters and helped boost voter turnout to 90 percent in the precinct that includes NCCU. An awareness march on campus during the first day of early voting drew more than 2,000 participants. This Early Vote campaign seeks to generate similar enthusiasm throughout the state.

A larger SEEN campaign, which will include more videos and performances from North Carolina Hip-Hop and spoken word artists, will launch later this year leading up to the general election. Network members, artists and communities surrounding NCCU, Shaw University, Bennett College, Livingstone College, St. Augustine’s College, N.C. A&T, Winston-Salem State, Fayetteville State, Johnson C. Smith University and Elizabeth City State will be involved in the general election campaign.

The Student Engagement and Empowerment Network is funded through a $75,000 grant from the Open Society Institute, a philanthropic organization dedicating to building democracies where governments are accountable to the citizens.

To learn more about the network, or to join, contact Dr. Hall at 919-530-7256 or