Imagine having this conversation in a packed, sweaty club:
“We’ve never met. What’s your name?”
“I’m Tiffany. And you?”
“I’m Ken. Tiffany — nice dress. Gigi Hunter? Can I ask you a question? Are you registered to vote and, if not, would you like to register tonight?”
We know. This sounds like the worst-coded language in the world. But if you patronize clubs and festivals in the Detroit area this summer, you might find yourself having a similar conversation.
If, that is, a member of Voting is Power (VIP) — a 12-member group of young adults that has taken to the city’s social scene seeking to register voters — is on the other end of the talk.
VIP’s purpose, says group chair Kizzi Montgomery, 24, is to frequent places where the likelihood of finding unregistered voters in high numbers is stronger. That meant setting up at the Detroit Festival of the Arts this past weekend and at Summer Jamz, a free hip-hop concert taking place this Saturday at Hart Plaza.
Employees of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s office created VIP. Ajene Evans, 23, a constituent relations representative, and Kamal Cheeks, 24, who works for the city Housing Commission, started hitting the clubs in 2002.
Safe to say, many of these clubgoers would take rum over Rumsfeld any day.
The idea blossomed, and the group grew to 12 people. More than half of them work for the city. The rest work in the private sector.
Noble as voter registration is, the mayoral connection led us to wonder whether the city is paying the mayor’s staff to go to parties? “No,” says Evans. “We’re nonpartisan, and we do this on our time. We just go to the places that our age group goes.”
So what kind of response do you get when broaching the subject of voting over a sex-on-the-beach and R. Kelly?
“Generally good,” says Evans, “because our approach is very aggressive. You may talk to a girl about how good she looks, or with a guy about the basketball game the night before. Our approach has been received well, cause we’re able to relate it to their everyday life. Actually, we’ve registered more people in clubs than at Hart Plaza.”
Meagan Pitts, 24, another member of the group, says V.I.P. had registered 550 people heading into this past weekend’s Praisefest at Hart Plaza. The goal is to register 5,000 by the November election.
The deadline to register for the August primary is July 6. Deadline for the November general election is Oct. 4. People can register at any municipal or county clerk’s office, or at any branch office of the secretary of state.Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com