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For Immediate Release:  
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April 6, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General


Tracy Munford
Jody L. Miller
Ellen Zoe Golden
Gina Schulman
JLM PR, Inc.


New Jersey Launches Nation's Largest Youth Vote Initiative
1,000 Perth Amboy High School Students and 800,000 Students Statewide Launch New Jersey's "BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" Youth Vote Initiative

Spoken Word Statewide Competition
2005 Voter Education Campaign Kick-Off Event Archived Streaming Video
The Power of the Vote
Spoken Word Competition
Home Page
Last Year's 2004 Hip-Hop Summit
(information and event video)
PERTH AMBOY, N.J. -APRIL 5, 2005 -Hip-hop activists, state officials, mayors and elected officials, hip-hop stars, school administrators and educators, radio personalities and professional sports figures joined with high school and college students statewide today to launch the nation's largest youth vote initiative -"BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" -at a pep rally in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. More than 1,000) Perth Amboy High School Students were joined by more than 800,000) New Jersey public school and college students (via web streaming) for a pep rally that launched the state's first spoken word competition for voting called "Power Of The Vote." With the "Be Powerful, Be Heard" youth voter initiative, New Jersey became the first state to utilize hip-hop culture through the public school system to motivate young people about the importance of voting. New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey; Russell Simmons, Chairman and Dr. Ben Chavis, President/CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN); Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education Dr. William L Librera; Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas, Superintendent of Schools John Roedecker, and Chairman of the Board of Education Austin Gumbs and Middlesex County Superintendent of Elections Jim Vokral joined with Philadelphia Eagles' Jeremiah Trotter, HOT 97 radio personality Angie Martinez, hip-hop artists Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and Jha Jha of the Diplomats and Tamara "Nokio" Ruffin to reach out to New Jersey's youth.

Perth Amboy was chosen as the site for the kickoff of the 2005 "BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" initiative in part because of its historical significance to voting. The first African American to vote is the United States, following the passage of the 15th Ammendment in 1870, was Thomas Mundy Peterson, who resided and cast that first vote in Perth Amboy. As part of today's kickoff, the Middlesex County Board of Elections displayed voting machines in the high school lobby and registered students and others to vote.

While the 2004 "BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" initiative was marked by the Trenton Hip-Hop Summit, this year's program has three components; today's kickoff, followed by the POWER OF THE VOTE Spoken Word Competition" auditions on May 14 and culminating with the 2005 HiP-Hop Summit in Trenton on September 30,2005. Students will be eligible to participate in the "Power Of The Vote" spoken word competition by creating a spoken word poem about the importance of voting and will be judged via statewide competitions on May 14. The winner will be announced at a New Jersey Hip-Hop Summit in Trenton on September 30, 2005, and will appear on the BET show "Rap City," as well as receive the opportunity to audition for Russell Simmons' HBO series "Def Poetry Jam." In addition, the winner will participate in a Public Service Announcement about the importance of voting which will air across New Jersey for the month of October preceding the New Jersey gubernatorial elections.

"In 2004, we took bold steps to incorporate young people in the voting process," said Attorney General Harvey. "We raised the bar with a goal to register an unprecedented number of voters. We surpassed our goal and our collective efforts, in partnership with HSAN and others resulted in a record five million voters for the presidential election in New Jersey. This year, by partnering with our colleagues in the Department of Education, we are expanding our outreach to provide information and resources for high school students, college students and others, to become a part of the future of this country."

"Hip-hop is about being powerful and being heard. The state of New Jersey should be commended for being the first state to mobilize young people to understand the importance of voting utilizing the power of hip-hop culture," declared Russell Simmons.

One of the most important components of today's event and the Summit in September is use of web technology. According to Dr. Chavis of HSAN, "New Jersey has created a national model for youth voter education and registration. By using the technology of web streaming we are able to reach an unprecedented number of students, in fact, making this the largest youth voting initiative of its kind in the United States."

Educating young people about the power of voting is essential. "It is critical that educational agencies collaborate with other organizations to impress upon young people the importance of voting. Our best chance to improve our society is to vote and become involved in our communities to bring about change for all people," emphasized Dr. William L. Librera, NJ Commissioner of Education.

The 2004 "BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" initiative targeted youth voters and resulted in a record number of young people voting in New Jersey. The 2004 Hip-Hop Summit at the Trenton War Memorial drew 1,000 high school seniors and college students, with Reverend Run of Run- DMC; Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella Enterprises and hip-hop artists Jim Jones, Remy Martin and others participating.

Appearing again at this year's event, Jim Jones member and CEO of the Diplomats affirmed, "In our music, we spit truth to help raise the consciousness of young people allover the world. Here in New Jersey, there is a strong hip-hop vibe and the Diplomats represent the pulse of the people in the streets who want a better way of life."

Beginning today, posters and flyers are being posted in high schools and on college campuses I cross New Jersey. The competition will be held in Newark, Trenton and Camden and is open to students between the ages of 16 and 21 years of age. You must be a New Jersey resident, attending high school, college or is home-schooled and be of amateur status in order to participate.

Perth Amboy is honored and proud to host the kickoff of the 2005 "BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" initiative, added Mayor Joseph Vas. "Perth Amboy provides the historical context for today's event combined with motivated students, administrators and dedicated residents who are II committed to continuing the legacy of voting in our city."

About the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
The HAVA Act of 2002 is a federal law providing for federal monies to assist states in upgrading voting equipment, election procedures and education and outreach.

About Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
HSAN is a non-profit, non-partisan national coalition of artists, entertainment industry leaders, education advocates, civil rights proponents and youth leaders united in the belief that the "hip-hop" phenomena is an enormously influential agent for social change which must be responsibly and pro-actively utilized to fight the war on poverty and injustice.

In closing, Attorney General Harvey said, "What we are teaching here today is one of the most important lessons students and young people will learn during their lifetime. We are building a culture of vote-conscious, civic-minded young people who will become a part of the voting process and exercise their unalienable right to vote."

For more information about the "POWER OF THE VOTE" Spoken Word Competition or the “BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" initiative, visit on-line at

>> 2005 Voter Education Campaign Kick-Off Event Archived Streaming Video
>> The Power of the Vote Spoken Word Competition Home Page
>> Last Year's 2004 Hip-Hop Summit (information and event video)

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