Actress encourages youth vote
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 10:09
Actress and political activist Rosario Dawson said she loved to share stories.
And though her flight into Tampa arrived late and her makeup had to be done in the car ride to the Marshall Student Center (MSC), Dawson captivated the attention of all 370 attendees in the MSC Ballroom on Wednesday night as the first speaker in the University Lecture Series.
“I love being a story teller,” she said. “I’ve worked with a lot of people that have deserved to be in front of a microphone and be on a platform more than me.”
From the start of the conversation when Dawson introduced herself as “the real slim shady,” the night was light and humorous while the star spoke on topics as trivial as going to school to heavier topics including voter registration.
Dawson began telling her story from how she was conceived on Avenue X in Brooklyn and then moved to a “slumlord apartment” in the lower eastside of Manhattan where she hoped to gain more opportunities.
“At the time there were no cops that would come to that neighborhood,” she said. “There was one working street lamp. It was very heavy laden with drugs. I was so mad at my parents for not buying the crackhouse across the street.”
Dawson was later discovered as a star on a stoop of the street, and then to rose to travel the world from New Orleans to Congo with influential stars like the singer Prince and Muhammad Ali.
But when Dawson became interested in more issues as the political landscape of the U.S. began to change.
“This is the reason why in 2004, I co-founded Voto Latino,” she said. “In March 2003, the Latino minority became the largest in the country. It’s not because I have a Latino background, but because this is a real issue.”
According to the last Census, the Hispanic population in Florida is no longer primarily Cuban, but according to Dawson, 29 percent Puerto Rican and 32 percent Cuban.
“These are people not just numbers,” Dawson said. “These are people who are voting for their parents, for their family, for their community, for people who are here and can’t vote for themselves.”
Her involvement in Voto Latino over the past years has peaked, as her efforts have created National Vote Registration Day on Sept. 25.
While advertising the future event, she asked for a count in the audience of who was eligible to vote and already registered. As the overwhelming number of hands were raised, Dawson’s expression of awe and approval was well-received by the audience.
Though she forgot to mention the program in her lecture, in an interview with the Oracle, Dawson said she hoped to get students more involved in voting through “Rep Ur Letters,” a nonpartisan branch of Voto Latino geared toward college fraternities and sororities.
Besides Voto Latino, Dawson spoke of other social and political organizations including One Billion Rising, a group dedicated to raising awareness to violence against women. .
“I heard recently that at a Justin Bieber concert, a group of girls were actually registered on the Richter Scale,” she said.
Her hope, she said during the round of laughter from the audience, was that this would also be true for One Billion Rising events.
“You may ask yourself ‘Why are you going through this?,’” she said about the troubles of every day struggles as well as ongoing obstacles of voter ID laws.” You vote to make it better. It is for you, for your future.”