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Poet.She x SEEN: Be the Change That You Want to See

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Published on Apr 17, 2012

North Carolina HBCUs partner with NC Spoken Word artists to rally early voting

DURHAM, N.C. -- 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 19th -- 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 NCCU/UNC professor and emcee, Pierce Freelon (@durhamite) and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala (@KidEthnic) the videos will be published on youtube April 19th.

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 North Carolina Central University, SEEN hopes to build a statewide network of students dedicated to voter empowerment in the 2012 election and beyond. In collaboration with North Carolina's rich Spoken Word community, Dr. Jarvis Hall (director for the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change) hopes to connect with younger audience.

"The group we are targeting, 18- to 20-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 catalyze 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, North Carolina A&T University, Winston-Salem University, Fayetteville University, Johnson C. Smith University and Elizabeth City University 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 Hall at 919-530-7256 or jhall@nccu.edu.

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