West Philadelphia High School served as a staging area for a Hillary for America voter registration drive where the canvassers got their marching orders from Philly-based hip-hop artist Freeway and Hillary Clinton herself.
By Denise Clay
As pairings between hip-hop artists and powerful White matrons go, the duo of Philadelphia-based hip-hop artist Freeway and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may not be as interesting as, say rapper Snoop Dogg and lifestyle maven Martha Stewart.
But the Freeway/Clinton meet up held Tuesday at West Philadelphia High School had a much more important purpose: registering voters and getting them to the polls.
Some of that motivation comes from watching people try to make ends meet on a minimum wage that doesn’t come close to covering your living expenses, Freeway said.
“We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said. “Right now, the minimum wage is at $7.25. If you have two people that make that amount, you only have $30,000. You can’t do anything with that. But if you raise the minimum wage to $15, and you have two people, that’s $60,000. You can start saving money and you can put aside some money to take a vacation with your family.”
But some of it is also personal. Freeway has been battling kidney failure, something that leads to his having to go through four hours of dialysis three days a week to stay alive. Because of this, he’s realized the importance of affordable health care and a living wage.
“Because I’m successful, I could afford my health care,” Freeway said. “But not everyone can. People aren’t going to the doctor because they can’t afford it. Each and every American needs their own healthcare. That’s why I’m going to hit the streets and get it popping for Hillary.”
Freeway was among the people who came out get voter registration forms and canvass the neighborhood to make sure everyone eligible to vote in the November elections is registered to do so. This is part of the Clinton campaign’s effort to get 3 million Pennsylvanians registered to vote.
To lead that effort, Clinton and a group of her Philadelphia-based allies came to the auditorium at West Philadelphia High School to rally the voter registration troops and to announce the opening of a new campaign office in Southwest Philadelphia.
One of those allies, Mayor Jim Kenney, took the audience through a journey of voting rights in America that started with Octavius Catto, a Philadelphia-based civil rights leader who was shot in the back trying to register Black voters, to the Civil Rights Movement and the dogs, water cannons and police officers that stood between Blacks and the polls.
While the task ahead, which is keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, isn’t nearly that arduous, Kenney said, it’s no less important.
“We’re not asking anyone to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge,” he said. “We’re not asking that of you. We’re asking you to register. Get off your couch. Go to the schools. Go the rec centers and register people and vote because if you don’t, you disrespect the memory of those who made those sacrifices. We can be the difference in this election if we do what we’re supposed to do, which is register and vote.”
Clinton made the same plea when she took to the stage. For her to make history by becoming the nation’s first woman in the White House, Pennsylvania, and by extension Philadelphia, has to make sure its voice is heard, she said.
“We have places to register because we don’t want you on the sidelines come November,” Clinton said. “This is the most consequential election. The stakes could not be higher. And we want everybody in Philadelphia, everybody across Pennsylvania, to be part of a great victory in November and then the future that we’re going to build together.”
Clinton went on to talk about her vision of an America that includes infrastructure investment, jobs in clean energy, and investments in education from pre-school to adult education. It’s a vision that she hopes to pay for by going where the money is.
“I’ll tell you how we’re going to pay for it,” she said. “We’re going after the super wealthy. We’re going after the corporations. We’re going after Wall Street so they pay their fair share.”
She also castigated Trump’s tax plan, a plan that would cut tax rates for the wealthy in half and do nothing for Pennsylvanians, Clinton said.
“I was so surprised when Donald Trump came out and talked about the economy because, actually, he would give trillions of dollars in more tax breaks to the wealthy,” she said. “He wants a new tax loophole that we call the Trump loophole that would actually help him and everybody else who is really wealthy to cut their tax rate in half on a lot of their income. He wants to eliminate the estate tax, which does nothing for 99.8 percent of all Americans, but if Trump is as wealthy as he claims to be, it would save his family $4 billion.”
“Now, I’ve got to tell you,” Clinton continued, “I could find a much better use for that $4 billion; early childhood, helping our veterans, helping our law enforcement do what they need to do, helping more people get the jobs training and the skills training. In fact, we could hire 95,000 public school teachers for $4 billion. We could actually double health care for our veterans for $4 billion. And we could invest in more infrastructure, affordable housing, and small businesses for $4 billion right here in Pennsylvania.”
To be eligible to vote in the November general elections, the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 11.