#BarackTalk2012: Young Voters Respond to SOTU

January 31, 2012

On Jan. I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual #BarackTalk2012 at Busboys and Poets, a local hotspot in Washington, DC. The event, sponsored by The League of Young Voters Education FundAllHipHop.com and Rock the Vote, engaged young peple via an interactive viewing party and panel discussions.

More than 33,000 people tuned in to the livestream to watch the panelists discuss the State of the Union, and interact with audience members through Twitter and Ustream.

I was on the panel along with rapper Dee-1, rapper RhymeFest, model Sabrina Hunter, activist/artist JasiriX, AllHipHop.com founder Chuck Creekmur, Michael Skolnik who's the Co-President of GlobalGrind.com, and Shaheem Reid, editor at XXL. We discussed the states of our union from both personal and professional viewpoints.

Through the simultaneous social media streams, young people shared their opinions and talked about tangible solutions to issues that affect them and their communities -- everything from education to the war.

Missed it? Watch the video!

Some of the top solutions proposed were: passing the DreamAct, providing green job training for teens, expanding the discussion on the "prison industrial complex."  Here are a few of the comments we received on Twitter:

  • Will the President address the millions living below the poverty line, including a record no. of children? #Baracktalk
  • #Baracktalk: "fight past the boredom", get educated on SOPA/ACTA & ALEC too!! These issues affect us too!!
  • #Baracktalk Ready for actions to take place and we as a nation need to make that happen

Youth violence and our nation's response to it (federally and locally) came up a few times. One Twitter participant had this question for HipHop artist RhymeFest:

Q: RhymeFest, every summer Chicago experience uptake in youth violence. What can President Obama do during his campaign to help tackle youth violence in Chicago?

RhymeFest’s response:

A: I think that is where we as voters need to become more sophisticated, in how political and community activist work; Obama can’t do anything about violence in Chicago. Its going to take the community and local activist to do something about violence in Chicago…”

I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this answer, because while I think there need to be local efforts to curb violence in communities, I also think the President can and must address the fundamental problems that lie at the root of violence -- including poverty, disconnectedness, lack of hope. Young people are being killed at an alarming rate (my family  knows this first hand). If the President and Congress think it's important to devote federal money to fight the war on terror, shouldn't we also allocate money for the "war" some of us face right here in America?

Beyond SOTU

Perhaps my biggest take-away from the night, is that we can only ask for so much from our government. We have to also be willing to do the work ourselves -- and in the process to hold our elected official accountable.

Voting is one way to hold elected officials accountable, and an important place to start. We can’t vote effectively if we are not informed on the issues and engaged with the work that is being done.

#BarackTalk helped to start a conversation that I don't want to see end -- I'd like to keep it going in our neighborhoods, in the media and in places like SparkAction.

If you missed #BarackTalk, please check out the videos below for the recap.

AllHipHop.com's Video Coverage:



Ustream Recording:



Jamira Burley is a student at Temple University in Pennsylvania and a youth blogger for SparkAction. You can follow her on twitter @jamiraburley or read her personal blog at www.jamiraburley.com.


Jamira Burley





Very well written as always.