Lift Every Vote Social Media Campaign Brings Artists Together For Civic Engagement and Music As Protest

Sound and Vision
Isaac Kaplan-Woolner
Russel Hall // photo courtesy of the artist's Facebook page

The push to get out the vote has been immense this year, with a historic presidential election on the line. Amidst the dual backdrop of global racial justice protests, and the ongoing pandemic, one group is using the power of art and music to encourage voter participation.

The Lift Every Vote social media campaign encourages artists to post a video of themselves performing along with the #LiftEveryVote hashtag. They then nominate other artists to participate.

KEXP spoke with bassist Russell Hall and tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman about the campaign, its origins, and how music can bring people together to (hopefully) change the world.

Hall said the Lift Every Vote hashtag has taken off, “there have been, I think, over three million impressions since its inception. We have about seventeen hundred plus followers and it's affected about 20 plus states.”

Lerman pointed out that the organic get out the vote campaign has come together in a remarkably short amount of time, “the really cool thing about all of this is that, you know, we have basically done this in a month. You know, we have gathered this much support in just about a month of our inception.”

And the stakes could not be higher, Hall added, “this election is going to affect a lot of people. And this is probably the most important election in probably this country's inception. Definitely in our lifetime.”

The campaign originally grew out of grief and rage following the murder of George Floyd. A group of New York musicians and curators created a group called We Are The Blacksmiths. They ended up injecting Black Lives Matter protests with the power of music.

“So we got involved all summer in all these incredible protests and marches all throughout the city,” said Lerman, “And we were involved in so many different types of events and protests. And what we found when we marched and were using the music as a form of protest and as a form of exercising our joy and our right to freedom in such a chaotic time really helped to pacify the environment that we were in. […] And we were able to kind of unite under something that was, you know, much deeper, much bigger than ourselves, which is the music.”

Seeing the power of music in protest, Lerman said the next logical step was to turn attention towards the election. “It's just like just the effect music has on an environment was so profound,” she said, “So rolling with that, why wouldn't we use it to help get the vote out? You know, so then all this movement started happening towards this lift every vote campaign. So we were really able to channel that energy directly into this.”

Hall added that Lift Every Vote is all about trying to enact change on a personal level: “We’re trying to enact change through our own personal voices. And something that is the most personal to many of us is our music. You know, music is the fulcrum of humanity is where we all meet in the middle. Doesn't matter if you're a billionaire or not a billionaire. We’re all [trying to] find that middle ground when we bring music into the world. And, you know, a part of what we're doing is making actions outside, making actions indoors, trying to spread this word. And one of the events that we're doing is called Joy To The Polls. And it's something that is happening in Harlem where we're going to drive on a flatbed truck to a different polling stations through Harlem and try and get people revved up to vote.”

But the effort doesn’t stop once the poll close, Hall said, “You know, whether the outcome is favorable or not, we still have to live and eat and feed our families and take care of our community. And it doesn't stop come November 3rd, we still have to keep pushing. We still have to get justice for Breonna Taylor. We still have to get justice for our fallen brothers and sisters.

"It's incumbent upon us now more than any time in history to not even vote for November 3rd, but to vote in order to make the change, regardless of the outcome, change the world, regardless of what's happening in Washington. The change happens at home, the change happens in the communities. Change happens on the district level, and then it spirals out from there. So I think what we're trying to encourage people to do is to continue to lift every vote beyond November 3rd and to continue to lift every voice.”

Check out the Lift Every Vote videos on their Instagram page. And if you haven’t dropped your ballot off at a ballot dropbox, you have until 8 pm today to do so.

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