CLEVELAND — Tonight at 7:30 p.m, WKYC Studios streamed a unique voter awareness event – a performance from Cleveland’s historic Karamu House theater, plus a panel discussion about young voters and their potential impact on the November election.
It featureed a videotaped excerpt from a Karamu theatrical production called “Freedom After Juneteenth,” in which a young black actor says cynically that he won’t bother to vote because it won’t make a difference.
In response, his ancestors step out of the shadows to let him know how they marched and struggled to gain the right to vote. “Remember how we got here,” they sing solemnly to him.
It’s a performance with a message – meant to remind viewers that the right to vote is precious and exercising that right “is the most powerful tool we have in a democratic society,” says Tony Sias, president and CEO of Cleveland’s 105-year-old theater, Karamu House.
“As America’s oldest producing black theater, it is part of our responsibility to both entertain and inform and now activate viewers like you to be part of a more just and equitable society,” Sias explains during the video. “An artistic response to the issues of the day are vital for conversations and dialogue and action to take place.”
The video then segues into a youth-oriented panel discussion emceed by 3News’ Romney Smith that focuses on emerging voter suppression issues and how to mobilize young voters. The panelists were:
-Jade Davis, vice president of external affairs for Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority
-Stefanie Brown James, co-founder of The Collective PAC
-Ricardo Leon, executive director of Metro West Community Development Organization
-Danielle Sydnor, president of NAACP Cleveland
It’s the second panel organized by Women V.O.T.E. (Visionaries Organized To Educate). The group has a website dedicated to helping Northeast Ohio residents get critical information about safely and effectively casting their votes during the pandemic. As the media partner, WKYC streamed both discussions.
The video opens with an introduction from Jeneen Marziani, Ohio state president for Bank of America, which sponsored Karamu’s “Freedom After Juneteenth” presentation and panel series. The effort is a creative partnership that really drives home the point that every vote matters, Marziani says. “Voting gives us an opportunity to let our voice be heard.”
Watch the entire event again in the player below: