Student leaders held national voter registration pep rally

Staff Report

On Monday, Sept. 21, Alabama State University participated in a virtual national HBCU voting initiative, HBCUs Forward Virtual Voter Registration, sponsored by The Hustlers Guild and UNITE Inc. in partnership with Opportunity Youth United.

#MyASU kicked off the HBCU Voter Registration Pep Rally with presenters Miss ASU Yasmine Whitehurst and alumni Yasmin Salina, executive director and co-founder of Hustler’s Guild, and Dr. Travis Smith, executive director at UNITE Inc.

The event featured special guest Matt Barnes, retired NBA champion and entrepreneur.

“Tonight, we hope to inform, empower and mobilize HBCU students to participate in the November election,” Salina said.

Monday’s event was a student question- and-answer session with Barnes, who has joined the frontline in promoting social awareness and voter education.

“It’s an honor to get down with you guys. It’s a very important time in our history. I think for the first time in 400 years, we are being heard. So, we must be strategic in our movement, come up with a plan to get out the vote and hopefully change this world,” Barnes said, who was wearing a designer Bama State jersey.
Barnes, who didn’t attend an HBCU, was asked why he was so passionate about pushing voter registration for HBCUs.

“I think it’s important. There’s a void that is not utilized. We have that 18 to 22 age group; there’s a gap there. So, anything I can do to encourage people and help get them information; I want to be a part of that along with my brother Chris Paul, my former teammate with the Clippers. He’s really on this HBCU movement right now,” Barnes explained.

Barnes is encouraging top athletes to start visiting HBCUs.

“Athletes have a big platform, and they can use that to help get out the vote. We are trying to shift the dynamics right now, and it starts with voting,” Barnes said.

Another participant asked Barnes why voting mattered to him.

“I vote because I think that’s the only way to make a difference. The world woke up about the racial problems in our nation with the George Floyd situation. Now, they are listening for the first time. The next step is to get people registered and turn out the vote. Not just for the presidential election, but for the down-ballot candidates as well because most laws are made at the state and local levels,” Barnes explained.

Knowing how important it is to vote is one thing, Barnes pointed out, but getting engaged in the process is an entirely different thing altogether; however, events such as this, he said, can make a major impact in our community and country by engaging and energizing people of color relative to getting involved in social issues and politics.

“I hope my two children see and reap the benefits of everything we are doing now in 2020. We are going to be a part of history.  The year 2020 will be talked about for a long time. This is the most important election of our lifetime, and we really need to get out there and make a difference,” Barnes added.

Other questions included how to preregister to vote as an out-of-state student, what should first-time voters look for in making a decision, how can people get involved and would he consider coaching at an HBCU.

“Having a platform of this nature gives students the necessary resources to make informed decisions,” Whitehurst said.

Some event highlights were inviting Barnes to ASU’s Homecoming, asking him to be a part of an ASU lecture series and his announcement of an HBCU Tour.

“I went to UCLA, and they didn’t have black fraternities. I went there to play basketball and get to the next step. So, I missed out on that HBCU experience—the Battle of the Bands, Homecoming, everything. I’m working with my Podcast team, All The Smoke, to do an HBCU tour once we come back to some type of normalcy. I hope to do live shows where we travel.”

Barnes donated $500 to the evening’s cash giveaways. Viewers had to tweet several hashtags (#ImThe Vote, #WhenWeAllVote

#HBCUFest, #HBCUsVote, #HBCUsWontBackDown, #WeVote) five times in order to earn the award. The goal was to bring awareness to voter registration.


Student leaders from other HBCUs such as Fort Valley University, North Carolina Central University and Texas Southern University attended the virtual event and shared what they were doing on their campuses to shore up student engagement.


“Voter suppression is real, so we really have to advocate for our HBCUs to continue to be polling sites,” said Smith.

Whitehurst encouraged those on the chat to stay updated on when their elections are held.  “We have to get involved and stay involved,” she said.

To register to vote go to www.WEALL.VOTE/IMTHEVOTE

 HBCUs Participating

ASU was one of 35 HBCUs across the country to become voter registration champions to maximizing HBCU voting in the 2020 general election.  The HBCUs are Alabama State,  Alabama A&M, Albany State, Bethune-Cookman, Central State, Clark Atlanta, Dillard, Edward Waters, Florida A&M, Fort Valley, Grambling, Hampton, Harris-Stowe State, Howard, Jackson State, Miles, Mississippi Valley State, Delaware State, Virginia Union, Winston Salem State, Xavier, Talladega College, Tennessee State, Texas Southern, Lincoln University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, North Carolina Central, Prairie View A&M, Rust College, Southern University and A&M College, Stillman College, Morgan State, Norfolk State, North Carolina A&T State, and Virginia State.