Hip-hop stars endorse Barack Obama
Jay-Z, Sean Combs, Mary J. Blige lend voices to causeMIAMI -- With two days remaining until Election Day, Jay-Z and Sean "Diddy" Combs told voters in South Florida not to be scared away from the polls by long lines.
"It's bigger than us," Combs said. "We have to do it for our children, we have to do it for the people that died for us to have the right to vote."
Combs and Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, appeared before a crowd of about 800 at the Chester Robinson Athletic Center at Florida Memorial University for a "Last Chance for Change" rally Sunday afternoon.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, music executive Kevin Liles and fellow recording artist Mary J. Blige also joined them at the get-out-the-vote effort for Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
"We stood in line to get the new Lil' Wayne CD," Liles said. "We stood in line to get a new pair of Jordans. We stood in line to get in here. So we ain't afraid of no lines."
The event was more of a campaign rally than hip-hop extravaganza. None of the artists actually performed onstage, instead using their time to stump for the Democratic nominee. A DJ played as the crowd waited for the group to arrive, and a gospel choir and college step teams also performed.
"We have been doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result," Blige said. "Please do something different. Barack Obama is a true example of something different. He's a true example of something our children can have in the future, what they can look at and say: 'Wow, we can really, really do something. We can really, really be something.'"
When an announcer asked if anyone in the crowd had already voted, several attendees threw their hands in the air, waved blue campaign signs and screamed.
More than 2 million of Florida's 11.2 million registered voters had already cast their ballots by Sunday morning, according to the state Division of Elections Web site. As of Saturday in Miami-Dade County, more than 300,000 had gone to the polls, according to county statistics. Early voting in the state ended Sunday.
Combs, who bounced on stage wearing an Obama T-shirt and sunglasses, has long worked to increase young voter turnout. Four years ago, he was part of the "Vote or Die" campaign and launched the nonpartisan group Citizen Change.
"I think we just really reinforced what they already knew," Jay-Z said after the event. "It energized them."
One attendee, 36-year-old Rebecca Vaughns, said Election Day would be especially sweet for her. The Miami resident, who was wearing a black Obama T-shirt and had a likeness of the nominee shaved in the back of her head, said she had been saving a giant chocolate "O" in her freezer for months, waiting for Nov. 4.
"It's not about black or white," Vaughn's said, "It's about the fact that this country is in a hole."
Fort Lauderdale resident Joyce Downing, 53, sat in the back of the stuffy arena before the rally started, wearing a red Obama T-shirt. Downing said she waited five hours a week ago to vote in an election she called an "awakening."
"Although I've voted as long as I've been eligible, this is the most exciting election I've been able to participate in," she said.