Your Vote Matters: A Call to Arms in South Carolina

INTERESNI KAZKI, posted by @recountmag on

 

 

 

In the loosely packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina, the crowd murmured anxiously as they waited for a glimpse of the headliner:  Dr. Cornel West, radical black activist, a demi-god to some. He, with other local prominent leaders hosted a town hall in support of Bernie Sanders’ higher education and labor reforms. Although Sen. Sanders himself was not present, the crowd littered with educators, young professionals, pastors, bartenders, and all else in between displayed a fervor usually reserved for the man himself. The town hall was co-organized by the South Carolina Labor for Bernie Committee and Higher Ed for Bernie, and was sponsored by the University of South Carolina Student Government.

Dr. West stressed the importance of dignity within Sanders’ campaign, mentioning at one point that, not party alliances, but honesty, dignity and integrity were the most important factors in measuring a candidate. He even went so far as to refer to Sanders as a “moral and spiritual laxative” for America. In these vivid descriptions, Dr. West exhibits his true belief in what Sen. Bernie Sanders has to offer, especially to communities of color and young people. Much of the rhetoric surrounding Bernie Sanders’ campaign for presidency dictates that he will not succeed, unless youth who support him and his commitment to higher education and labor reform, turn out to vote.

When the speech ended, the floor opened for questions from the audience when a man asked why it felt as though the fate of civilization rested on these elections. After taking a moment to let those words sink in for both the speakers and the audience, Dr. West answered in such a way that you or I would: he commiserated, then went on to point out that, for most people of color and those living under oppressive systems, it feels that way every election, rather, everyday.

As primary results from Iowa, New Hampshire, and soon Nevada roll in the youth vote is particularly crucial now. In Iowa, Sanders received 84% of the youth (17-29) vote, while Clinton left with only 14%, yet Clinton won by 0.3% of the overall vote, appealing to the middle age and older demographics. Although 0.3% is not wide of a margin, every vote makes a difference. As we saw in New Hampshire, Sanders won by percentage (59.9%) through more demographics than Clinton, save for the senior vote and those voters whose families make more than $200K/year. While the Sanders’ campaign still views Iowa and New Hampshire as victories, they are even more significant as representations of what can be accomplished by mobilization of the people and ideas for an America based on our dignity.

As I write on the cusp of primaries in my home state of South Carolina, I urge you, whoever you may be, whomever you may vote for, make sure you are registered, turnout, and make sure your vote is not wasted. Engage others through action; find a local campaign office and volunteer. Although civilization may not rest on this year’s elections, smaller fates do, and if you’re anything like me, you’re aware that yours is one of those smaller fates. I hope to one day join and flourish in this shrinking middle class. If I want that to happen, I must galvanize young voters like you, and myself.

Register to vote.

And for those who ask the question, “What’s the point of voting?” your frustration is beyond understood, but not tolerated- apathy never sparked a revolution. If you’re still not convinced, John Oliver recently did a segment on Voter ID laws that threaten our voting rights. Check it out below:

New year, same Ms. Lauryn Hill

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Hannah Sommer Photography

COLUMBIA, SC It’s an hour til the new year.  The clock is ticking on an empty stage directly in front of the South Carolina State House, where the notorious confederate flag had waved for fifty four years… until 2015 took it down.  A congested and anxious crowd stretches all the way down Main Street as they patiently and confusedly wait for the infamously late Lauryn Hill. An equally confused DJ sporadically appears on stage, giving his all to hype up the crowd with old school hip hop and classic Fugees tracks. Ready or not here she comes.  Lauryn strides across the stage in a layered cape-like black dress and rimmed hat. She sits quietly on the couch in the middle of the stage next to a table of burning white candles. She picks up a guitar, a surprising sight for most fans who know her as a rapper and poppy R&B singer, and lets her voice flow over the relieved crowd, offering a sense of peace to the close of an intense year for the city.

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Hannah Sommer Photography

Since the release of her solo – and only – original album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998, Hill has fallen from the public eye to become somewhat of a musical mystery. Ms. Hill, famed for being the first female musician to win five Grammy Awards, is now renowned for her outlandish behaviour and critical comments toward the music industry and press. In 2013, Ms. Hill served three months in prison for tax evasion. Ten years prior, in 2003, Ms. Hill made controversial statements attacking the Catholic church about child molestation, while playing a Christmas concert at the Vatican. She often appears hours late for her shows and will sometime not appear at all.

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Hannah Sommer Photography

Despite media criticism, Ms. Hill has kept herself busy with various personal projects. Her dedication to social justice and activism is little-publicized. She founded The Refugee Camp Youth Project in 1996 to help inner city kids and children living in harsh conditions in countries such as Zaire and Haiti. In fact, her performance at Columbia’s “Famously Hot New Year” was a benefit for local victims of the flood that occurred this past fall.

She recently resurfaced, contributing to “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary. “Feeling Good,” is jaw dropping and sincerely showcases Ms. Hill’s connection to the late Nina Simone. The cover expands Simone’s work with a more upbeat rhythm and familiar sentimental undertones.

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Hannah Sommer Photography

In the wake of her performance, Ms. Hill’s reputation inconsistency in the public arena is easy to dismiss. This just might be one of the last true artists, not owned by the industry, but by her artistry. She renounces her celebrity status and creates work on her own terms and time, producing for herself and not because it is expected or owed to anyone. Ms. Hill, mother of six and longtime partner of Rohan Marley (yes, Bob Marley’s son), has kept her values close to home. She abandoned the spotlight for the sake of her family and self, an act that we can assume is difficult for one of R&Bs superstars to undertake.

Ms. Lauryn Hill has been an inspiration and influence to many. In 2014, fellow rapper and activist Talib Kweli penned “In Defense of Ms. Hill” on Medium and produced a song titled “Ms. Hill,” spelling out her legacy and struggles with fame in 2005.

She has been referred to as one the greatest R&B singers of all time; and who could doubt it when her seventeen-year-old Miseducation still resonates with crowds and sells records. (Disclosure: Hill’s producer, Phil Nicolo, just made a statement that a new original album is on the horizon.)

As Ms. Hill ends her set with her greatest hit “Doo Wop (That Thing),” the once-restless crowd experiences a tone that cleanses, the capitol of South Carolina bids goodbye and good riddance to the bullet wounds and torrential rains of 2015, and her deep, melodic voice welcomes the birth of a new year.

Photographs by Hannah Sommer. Check her siteInstagram, or Facebook for more.

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Hannah Sommer Photography

 

 

 

Photographs by Hannah Sommer. Check her siteInstagram, or Facebook for more.