ATLANTA—NFL football legend Takeo Spikes is partnering with Morehouse College as its ambassador for the Adopt-An-HBCU Good Trouble Voter Drive, a new campaign that is being sponsored by a coalition of professional athletes and entertainers who are using their celebrity platforms to remind college students to go to the polls on Nov. 3.
The HBCU Good Trouble Voter Drive is being organized by HBCU Heroes, a nonprofit founded by NBA veteran George Lynch, entrepreneur Tracey Pennywell, and cable news political commentator Kwame Jackson in partnership with WNBA star and activist Renee Montgomery, founder of Remember the 3rd of November.
Spikes will work with Morehouse professor David Wall Rice and the Identity, Art, and Democracy Lab at the College to encourage students to exercise their voting rights and support them as they research issues of importance to the Black community in upcoming state, local, and national races.
Spikes said that he was inspired to get involved in the national voter awareness campaign after meeting a civil rights hero that he has long admired.
“I had an opportunity to accompany Rep. John Lewis in Selma, Alabama. I asked him what recommendation he could give me to make sure my generation doesn't drop the ball. He shared these words: ‘Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime—and each one of us in every generation must do our part,’" said Spikes, a former NFL linebacker and author of Behind the Mask. “It was a pivotal moment for me. I accepted the responsibility of using my platform to bring awareness to the issues we face, learn from our deep history, and create a better future. I’m committed to partnering with Morehouse on such an important initiative.”
The six-week campaign launched last Friday. Spikes joins a host of athletes and actors who have “adopted” HBCUs for the voter registration drive, including NBA players Rob Covington (Rockets) and Kyle O’Quinn (Sixers), DL Hughley, Kym Whitley, Bill Bellamy, Erika Alexander, and sports analyst Chris Broussard, as well as Akbar Gbajabiamila, co-host of American Ninja Warrior.
Organizers say the effort is needed because college undergraduate students are likely to be first-time voters. HBCUs had the single largest decline in voter participation in the 2016 presidential election, according to a Tufts University study on voter participation. Turnout declined by more than 10 points at HBCUs, dropping from 50.5 to 39.9 percent. During that same timeframe, however, voter participation increased among white, Hispanic, and Asian students at other institutions of higher learning.
“Linking with HBCU Heroes through Takeo Spikes in the tradition of freedom work still to be done is a brilliant testament to John Lewis and the charge he’s given us to be a better and fuller democracy,” said Dr. Rice, a Morehouse psychology professor who serves as principal investigator of the Identity, Art, and Democracy Lab. “Takeo is Morehouse family. We are pleased that the Identity, Art and Democracy Lab is in concert with voting efforts across the College at such a pivotal point in the articulation of our democracy.”
Spikes has also participated in two national workshops at Morehouse that Rice organized to help professional athletes learn how to launch effective social impact campaigns. More than 60 athletes attended the Leadership and Sports Advocacy Workshops, which were held in 2018 and 2019. A third session is being planned for 2021. The workshops are presented in partnership with Rice’s Lab and the National Football League.
HBCU Heroes co-founder Pennywell coordinated a consortium of organizations and media partners to lend support to the HBCU Good Trouble Voter Drive and participating institutions. Those organizations include LeBron James’ More Than A Vote, Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, Rock the Vote, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Magnolia Films, Participant Media, Color Farm Media, Wasserman, InnOcean, HBCUGoTV, Revolt TV and more. Other pro and veteran athletes supporting the effort include Shannon Sharpe, Michael Vick, Etan Thomas, Alge Crumpler, Everson Walls, Tyrone Poole, Hugh Douglas, and Tarik Cohen. `
Celebrity partnerships are beneficial to help engage young voters said Dr. M. Adrienne Jones, assistant political science professor at Morehouse. She added that she hopes the focus on civic engagement will continue beyond Nov. 3 so that Black and brown people will let their views be heard locally and nationally on issues that impact their lives and livelihoods.
“John Lewis lived his life based on the idea that if we see something wrong you have to do something, … to make a difference,” said Jones, who also serves as director of the Pre-Law Program at Morehouse. “I think that today we need to be thinking about engaging in the same kind of action; we need to be outside protesting, and we need to vote. But we can’t just vote, we need to get involved in the electoral process and in the party machines where lack people have not really been welcome in the past and where we are not very welcome today.”
As the epicenter for thought leadership on civil rights, Morehouse is committed to helping the nation to address the inequities caused by institutional racism, which have created disparities in income, employment, health, housing, and educational opportunities for people of African descent.
Morehouse is one of several HBCUs that have been adopted by celebrity ambassadors in the campaign. Other participating institutions include Clark Atlanta University, Hampton University, and Savannah State University, among others.
"I’m committed to partnering with Morehouse on such an important initiative.”Takeo Spikes