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Open Letter to the Hip-Hop Community: What do you think of the #NewRules to Voting Rights?

President Obama: “I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today” and that the gutting of the Voting Rights Act “upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.”

Marvin BingThe Voting Rights Act, first signed into law in 1965, was a keystone victory of the civil rights movement. African-American citizens withstood beatings, fire hoses and dogs to see the law passed. Some even gave their lives.

And for decades since, the law has protected the right to vote for millions of America’s citizens — regardless of faith, color or creed.

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court strikes down the power to enforce this important law. This is more than a disappointment—it’s an injustice.

The Hip-Hop community has an obligation to respond to this. Hip-hop was born out of the struggle against inequality, poverty, violence and discrimination. It is a genre that reflects those inequalities in order to overcome them and change them.

Millions of young people listen and act based off what artists, DJs, bloggers and On-Air personalities say. You have the power to help them retain their rights to vote and to fight for the millions of people who will lose the right to vote.

Last year, right-wing law-makers made a dramatic effort to limit voting access. They tried passing restrictive voter ID laws, cutting back early-voting hours, and eliminating same-day voter registration. Citizens with every right to vote were turned away from the polls after waiting hours in line to vote.

The Voting Rights Act was invoked to stop these attacks on the right of the people to vote in 2012. Without it, everything would be different today.

Our nation should be expanding voting access, not restricting it. The decision handed down by the Supreme Court today means that it is now up to us, the people, the hip-hop community, to protect our right to vote.

Tell your audience you’re pissed off about this decision. Talk about how important voting is and how the threat of voter discrimination is very real. Send email blasts, make a PSA, light up social media, and make on-air announcements.

You can start by getting people to Washington, DC for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1965, Dr. King and civil rights leaders led 300,000 to March on Washington, and this historic event is part of the reason the Voting Rights Acts passed 50 years ago. On Saturday, August 24, 2013, the NAACP and other civil rights groups can recreate the momentum with your help.

And we need more than marches. We need to be in our communities educating, registering, engaging, and building our people up with the tools and knowledge they need.

Where’s your hustle, are you up for the challenge? The time is always right to do what’s right. Our young people look to you for leadership beyond lyrics.

Marvin Bing is the Northeast Regional Director of the National NAACP. You can follow him on twitter and Instagram @MarvinBing

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