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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
October 14, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General


Tracy Munford
609-341-3235 or 609-571-5101


AG Harvey, Student Who Won Spoken Word Contest, to Record “Be Powerful,
Be Heard”

View HAVA Celebrity PSA Streams

AG Peter C. Harvey and Spoken Word Competition Winner James Prendergrast
AG presents award plaque to James Prendergrast, winner of the "Be Powerful, Be Heard" Statewide Spoken Word Competition
TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey will visit the East Brunswick Vocational-Technical School in Middlesex County on Monday, October 17, to record a pro-voting Public Service Announcement (PSA) with East Brunswick Vocational student James Prendergast, winner of the Attorney General’s statewide “Be Powerful, Be Heard” spoken word competition. When completed and edited, the new video PSA will also feature hip-hop music impresario Russell Simmons, whose portion will be recorded separately.

According to Harvey, James Prendergast was among 15 finalists who competed for the opportunity to star in the new “Be Powerful, Be Heard” PSA by reciting original, spoken word creations focused on the significance of voting. The competition took place during the Attorney General’s Hip-Hop Summit II in Trenton on September 30.

Approximately 5,500 high school and college students from throughout New Jersey attended Hip Hop Summit II, which took place at the Sovereign Bank Arena. The event brought together voting age and soon-to-be-voting-age young people with representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, popular hip-hop recording artists and other celebrities for a candid presentation about democracy, governance, and the significance of every individual's voting voice.

Paid for with federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds, Hip-Hop Summit II cost less than $100,000 overall to stage. Included in the cost was the rental and insurance for Sovereign Bank Arena, food for the thousands of student attendees, bus transportation for students, and live video “streaming” of the event via the Internet. Participating celebrities donated their time.

According to Harvey, the average cost-per-student for Hip-Hop Summit II amounted to between $17 and $18, an investment he called “a good investment in youth by encouraging personal responsibility and participation in government through voter registration.” The Attorney General noted that, by law, HAVA funding is to be used by states not only to acquire new election-related equipment and create a statewide voter data base, but also to promote public awareness and increased voter participation.

“There is clearly an ongoing need to generate awareness of, and enthusiasm for, the act of voting and remaining a vital participant in our democracy – especially among young people,” said Harvey. “Events like Hip-Hop Summit II are an important part of that process. It would be short-sighted and foolish to invest millions of dollars in what is essentially the infrastructure of democracy – state-of-the-art electronic voting equipment, new data management systems, etc., – and then ignore the human component.”

“Through events like Hip-Hop Summit II, and the 2004 Hip Hop Summit held at the Trenton War Memorial, thousands of young adults are becoming engaged in a discussion about government, and the importance of voting – perhaps for the first time in their lives,” added Harvey. “In addition, they have been given important food for thought concerning such critical issues as self-expression, individual responsibility in a free society, and the ability of one person to make a difference by channeling his or her energy in a positive way.”

Among the celebrities who attended Hip Hop Summit II were: Doug E. Fresh, Jim Jones, Freeway, Jha Jha of the Diplomats, The Game, Jaheim, Miss New Jersey Julie Robenhymer, America’s Top Model Tocarra Jones and Def poets Lemon, Black Ice. The celebrities, along with 15 high school and college finalists from the Attorney General’s “Be Powerful, Be Heard” spoken word competition, participated in a panel about voting, democracy and governance. Also on hand for the discussion were Attorney General Harvey, Def Jam Records founder Simmons, and Dr. Benjamin Chavis of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

As was the case throughout last year’s Hip-Hop Summit, discussion during Hip-Hop Summit II focused principally on the importance of voting and other issues related to civic responsibility.

"BE POWERFUL, BE HEARD" is the public outreach component, and slogan, of New Jersey’s voter education initiative. A campaign of PSAs, college bus tours, public events and other voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts, the “Be Powerful, Be Heard” initiative was launched in April 2004 at the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts in Newark.

Among those who attended that kick-off event were Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries Chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, and former New Jersey Secretary of State.

“Most people believe the (HAVA) money is to be used for voting equipment, and that is true,” Soaries told those attending the “Be Powerful, Be Heard” kick-off. “But it does not matter if the machines work and the votes all count if people don’t vote. And it doesn’t matter if people want to vote, if they’re not registered. A little known fact about the Help America Vote Act is that what we are charged to do is not only related to (voting) machines. These funds should also be used to educate, and to motivate voters.

In 2004, the “Be Powerful, Be Heard” initiative contributed to a record number of new voter registrations -- more than 460,000 in time for the November 2004 Presidential Election. The total number of registered voters in New Jersey topped five million for the first time in state history in 2004, and voter turnout for the November election was the highest it had been in 12 years.


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