Lead Story West Edition

Black celebrities help register new voters

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Fall election campaigns are starting to hit fever pitch with candidates walking precincts and enlisting supporters to help with phone banks and other volunteer efforts.

It also means that efforts to get people registered to vote and then get to the polls in November are in full swing.

For Andre Farr of Andre Farr International, that simply means hitting up vulnerable communities such as South Los Angeles to encourage more participation in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Farr and his cohorts of celebrity friends went out on a voter registration blitz Sept. 1 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Producing Woke Up, a celebrity voter registration drive, Farr and his friends had a pretty good day, far exceeding the numbers they hoped to get, he said.

“We did better than what we thought we were going to do,” Farr said. “It’s been really, really amazing, and I’m really fired up about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

“We’re going to continue to register this community because people need to know that power is in voting. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to make it happen. We wanted to make sure that people understood about the importance of their vote and to make it fun.”

Some of the celebrities in attendance for the voter registration drive included “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews and his wife Rebecca Crews, LisaRaye (“Ballers”), Aldis Hodge (“Underground,” “Straight Outta Compton”), basketball hall of famer Mitch Richmond, Keith David (“Greenleaf”), and director Anthony Hemingway (“Underground”).

Actor Terry Crews of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ talks to a woman while he signs her up to vote during Woke Up, a celebrity voter registration event sponsored by Andre Farr International, which took place at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall Sept. 1. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

“They’re all friends of mine,” said Farr, who is the CEO and chairman of Black Sports Agents Association. “I have a lot of celebrity friends. It’s only going to get better. We’re excited. … We were hoping for four to five hundred, and we did a lot more than that.”

The excitement of meeting and speaking to celebrities may have been the motivating factor for many of those who turned out for the voter registration drive during the Bay In LA event, which was sponsored by Carnival Corporation. That’s fine with Farr. Whatever works, works. The most important thing is getting people registered to vote, he said.

“The thing is that [celebrities] really care,” Farr said. “We’re going to get the celebrities that will get them out. Whatever we need to do to get people to understand how important it is to vote, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Richmond, who went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, said being out in the community helping people understand the power to vote was a lot more important than any kind of barbeque plans he may had for the Labor Day weekend.

“This is why we’re here,” Richmond said. “This is more important than that barbecue. We all want to be comfortable when we’re at a barbecue. We sit around and talk about politics, people telling us to stay in our lane, and our lane is understanding what is going on in the world.”

For Hodge, the event is not about party affiliation, but more about exercising a fundamental right for all American citizens.

“I think it’s important to be here,” Hodge said. “First of all, we’re getting people registered to vote so they understand the importance of registering. This is nonpartisan. This is not about pushing an agenda. This is not about a political party allegiance.

“It doesn’t matter who you vote for or how, for me, I think we have a responsibility in terms of our future, establishing our choice, the choice to vote, something we didn’t have back in the day, not even a hundred years ago. … It’s preservation of our future.”