Trees Grow In Cleveland, One New Voter At A Time

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 10/07/2008 - 01:45.

LeBron James with Voter Registration at Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

October 4th was the last Saturday to register to vote in the historic 2008 presidential election, so there were Obama voter registration events all over Northeast Ohio, from East Cleveland to Willard Park. At these events, I saw in the eyes of 100s of diverse people the real meaning of this movement for CHANGE... including in LeBron James' eyes.

LeBron "headlined" The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally, where we learned LeBron has been changed because of Obama. LeBron told the very grass-roots crowd if we want change, we must register to vote, and vote. To make this point perfectly clear, LeBron held up a voter registration form for all to see. More than that, he showed his connection with very important people who want change in America, at very personal levels... all in about two minutes.

LeBron James arriving at Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

Like for the Olympics, LeBron entered this global court for change with intensity.

LeBron has clearly learned to focus in on what is important in his life, and brilliantly handles intense responsibilities, in crazy times, with maturity, dignity and class. In person and performance, LeBron presents an engaging and sincere character that is inspiring. All that comes through clearly seeing LeBron off-court, among sports and entertainment celebrities and fellow folk of Northeast Ohio.

LeBron was not at the Russell Simmons Rally to promote the Cavaliers or himself but to help make the world a better place. He wasn't out to have fun, socialize, or show-off. He was direct and to the point.... he had a message to deliver to the people... a message of social responsibility to register and participate in the political process, rather than complain.

LeBron James greeting Russell Simmons at Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

Welcomed by Russell Simmons, who USA Today has called one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 20 Years,” LeBron's greeting showed they are friends and teammates, and this is not just a local game but a world-championship - a global revolution - and this Revolution Is Not Being Televised. This revolution is happening in the streets of Cleveland, and around the world, inspired by a new generation of creative, free-thinking intellectuals... and LeBron James is among the world leaders.

LeBron James leaving Russell Simmons at Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

LeBron seemed more comfortable embracing one of the world's other most powerful men than standing before adoring fans, to whom he was brief and to the point. As reported in the Plain Dealer: "I think all of us want to see a change, and in order for us to see a change we have to get out and vote," he said. "We have to. We can't sit around and say we want a change and don't do anything about it."

Also reported in the PD, LeBron just recently registered to vote, himself... the first time, for this 23 year old.

That is inspirational, and we may all thank Obama for inspiring LeBron to reach this new height.

LeBron James at Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

By the end of this moment in history, LeBron had warmd up considerably, and concluded the Rally saying "Thank you Cleveland. Of course, you all know I love you, of course. I love Ohio, and I ain't going nowhere. I'll be there".

I took that to mean more than just LeBron will remain a Cavalier, or live in the region, but that he will remain one of our inspiring leaders for change, here in NEO and around the world. At 23, with the friends he's made, LeBron is one of this region's best hopes to jumpstart a new eonomy here, off-the-court, as he further explores his philanthropic, activist and entrepreneurial roles in the global economy and greater society.

He's made a great start, speaking out for change at this rally and supporting many movements for change in his good name and with his financial support. From, LeBron is "actively involved in a wide range of philanthropic endeavors, and established the LeBron James Family Foundation, which sponsors activities and programs to help children and families in need."

LeBron James leaving Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

Providing Lebron an introduction was legendary cultural change leader Russell Simmons, described by Wikipedia as "the most influential mogul in hip hop," with a net worth of $340 million. Launching DefJam and groundbreaking music forces like Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, and Tupac was only the beginning, for Simmons. From Wikipedia, "In addition to launching Def Jam, Simmons helped bring hip-hop culture to the mainstream with such ground breaking ventures as Phat Farm, Argyle Culture, Atman clothing lines and HBO's Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam."

It is hard to overstate Simmons influence on how Americans see themselves, each other, and how "we" are seen throughout the world, today. I believe Simmons is very proud of his role defining that... and rightly so. If there is one element of current American culture that is universally embraced and appreciated by billions, inside and outside America, it is hip-hop... because it is authentic, and real America today. And, being real is why so much about hip-hop and urban culture is misunderstood in segments of America, by millions of Americans.

The audience at the The Russell Simmons Super Jam understood the importance of hip-hop, and Russell Simmons, and had eyes and ears wide open to learn more about the importance of driving for change in America, registering to vote and voting, and specifically voting for Obama.

Russell Simmons speaking at the Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

Simmons' world view started forming on some very mean streets, and his talent and intelligence have taken him above and beyond Wall Street, by redefining main street. Now on top of the world, Simmons does not like what he sees of Wall Street - or Washington D.C. - or what he knows the world sees in Americans as a result of poor leadership in both fallen capitals of America.

He confided that he is a wealthy man, yet he pays lower taxes than his employees - the Republican administration has been very good to the rich, including himself. But Simmons believes this is crazy.

This is not Simmons' America. Simmons said he just returned from a trip to Europe and he is very disturbed by how poorly people around the world see America today... he remembered how different it was ten years ago.

Simmons knows about perceptions of Americans, and meaning in American culture, as the hip-hop music and culture he helped define have challenged and changed world-views and realities of life for literally billions of people around the world, for decades.

For over three decades.

Russell Simmons speaking at the Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally for Obama, Cleveland Ohio

Now, lessons learned, we all know it wasn't hip-hop that brought America or the world to its knees.

The moral and economic bankruptcy of America has been entirely the work of old-economy industrial and political failures who refused to learn and change with America's social needs.

In contrast, from wikipedia, "Simmons has been an active philanthropist. Among his community activism and charitable organizations are the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, the Rush Philanthropic organization and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding."

It was refreshing to hear some straight talk from a mega-millionaire who would rather be less rich, speaking about changing America at a rally on a mall in Cleveland, far from home, on his birthday. Simmons said it wasn't his first rally of the day, and he couldn't spend his birthday any better way than helping to get people registered to vote, and championing change in America, and championing Obama.

Simmons said the importance about Obama - the need for change - is not about race, but about changing our social realities for all Americans, and changing our status and role throughout the world, all for the better.

Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl Linebacker Willie McGinest at Russell Simmons Get Out The Vote Rally, Cleveland Ohio

Coming before Simmons, from a different field and coast, but remarkably similar and interconnected to LeBron and Simmons in achievement and influence, Cleveland Browns pro-bowl linebacker Willie McGinest kicked off the "superstar" portion of this rally by shocking the audience. The wildly popular Cleveland and global sports, cultural, business and social leader confessed he had just registered to vote for the first time.

This showed the courage of a true leader.

He said he had never been inspired to vote, before Obama, and that spoke for many other Americans already changed by Obama, like LeBron James. That James and McGinest changed in such fundamental ways changes everything for 1,000,000s of people who look to them for leadership. In these men, people have found good leaders to trust, and they know that.

Like LeBron and Simmons, McGinest's eyes have seen and see more in life than most others may imagine, and day-to-day he influences more people in more positive ways than most politicians may in a lifetime.

Besides charging opponents on the playing field, McGinest has attacked poverty, helplessness and hopelessness in Cleveland and Boston, where he has played pro football, and in his home town of Long Beach. According to Wikipedia:

When it comes to donating time and money to charitable organizations, McGinest has a solid reputation as being one of the most generous givers in all of sports. He remains dedicated to his native Long Beach, where he established the Willie McGinest Freedom School, a program which aims to provide social and cultural enrichment for neighborhood youth. On May 3, 2005, the city council of Long Beach declared that every year, May 3 will be recognized as Willie McGinest Day in recognition of his longstanding charitable efforts and civic involvement. During the 2004 holiday season, McGinest sponsored "Shop with a Jock," an event that gave 50 Boston-area children the opportunity to go on a $100 shopping spree with him and his teammates. He has since sponsored a similar event in the Cleveland area with Browns teammates.

And, regarding his astounding cultural and economic influence, consider McGinest went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School with Snoop Dogg, and they are founders and co-owners of Icon Sports + Entertainment, a company geared toward helping athletes realize their potential in the entertainment industry. Consider who they know, and represent, and influence, who are world leaders defining American and global culture, and core to the global economy.

Obama is inspiring such huge powerhouses to descend from their courts, fields and boardrooms to participate in the American Dream at the most fundamental level... to vote. And they, in return, are taking that enlightenment back to their followers, and sharing fundamental anthems for change that are heartfelt, personal and sincere. In the process, leaders like Simmons, James and McGinest have become more important and valuable to society, driving change in ways a President of the United States may not. The future of all life is, after all, in each of our individual hands.

Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl Linebacker Willie McGinest at Russell Simmons Get Out The Vote Rally, Cleveland Ohio

The many people who came to the Russell Simmons Rally seeking leadership were certainly treated to the real deal.

In addition to presenting the real, personal beliefs of three of America's current creative-class icons, from their hearts, The Russell Simmons Rally offered sincere perspectives on Obama and the movement for change from regional political leaders who chose to inspire their citizens by participating. They all set local politics aside and focused their attention on one task at hand, which is driving change at the White House by electing Barack Obama.

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones greeting Browns Pro Bowl Linebacker Willie McGinest at Russell Simmons Vote Rally

Preceding Willie McGinest, and introducing him, was Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, himself battling a Palinesque-pig-in-lipstick Republican running for his office. But today, Lawson Jones was all about Obama, from head to toe.

Lawson Jones stood tall before his constituents, with his children at his side, saying yes we need change in America... and our time for change is now.

Well respected as a champion of families and family values, it was surely no accident he was joined by his family - he clearly loves his children and is loved by them.

Sort of like Obama.

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones at the Russell Simmons Rally

Like Obama, Lawson Jones is an old-fashioned "normal" guy... a smarter than average, but generally ideal American. He is an intellectual who has lived a clean, healthy, accomplished life without screwing it up, or screwing up the lives of those around him. As basic as that sounds, that is the perfect role model for America today... the perfect role model for the 100s of Americans at this hip-hop jam, like myself.

In speaking to the crowd, Lawson Jones the intellectual reflected on great moments in history that came before us... before we could make a personal difference in the world... and then the leader in Lawson Jones concluded this is our time to make a difference... an historic moment unlike any time before or ahead. That message of hope has been core to building the movement for change that became the foundation of the Obama campaign, and the need for such hope is real for Americans, who largely find life difficult and becoming more so daily.

Before and away from the crowd, Lawson Jones was at ease and in his element among his community of change agents. This is a leader for the new economy, working well among diverse other leaders, young and old, big and small.

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones with Friends and Family at the Russell Simmons Rally

Behind the scenes, at this rally, all the politicians, their supporters and the celebrities were clearly aligned for a common goal, and it became clear that local and global politics must not be about conflict, and hate, and competition, but about collaboration, compassion and progress. At this Rally, politics took wonderful form, very different from common perception.

Cleveland Mayor Jackson at Russell Simmons Rally

Preceding Lawson Jones, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson acknowledging to the audience this is a hard time for the people of this city, and nation... a time when change is surely needed. Mayor Jackson knows this need all too well, it being his day-to-day job to make positive change happen at the local level now, as mayor, and for many years before, as Cleveland city councilman.

I'm used to seeing a stressed and heartbroken Mayor Jackson on local news, responding to local crises, so it was nice to see him appear at peace, and happy. He seemed energized and uplifted seeing citizens coming together for a good, common cause, and being great citizens. As he watched his city in action, from the sidelines, he was visibly proud.

Jackson came into office in the middle of our Katrina, when Cleveland was at its worst, in an America at its worst, from decades of mistakes by others. Still, he has well represented the interests of an expanding stakeholder community while driven fundamental progress in the streets... and stood for steady strength of character in the face of adversity. While he may be criticized in the media and by some in the public for not being in front of every problem in the region, and camera, it seems, from observing him in his real public life, among the people he represents, he is usually where he must be. He is available, friendly, and open to all, without being domineering.... a critical part of solutions, without trying to take credit. I saw that subtle sharing-leadership style in good form when Jackson spoke at the recent Lead Awareness Week Press Conference, and I saw it in him again today, and I like that quality in our city leader.

Cleveland Mayor Jackson at Russell Simmons Rally - behind the scenes

The MC on the political stage of the rally was the affable and upbeat councilman of Cleveland's 9th Ward, Kevin Conwell - an active organizer for Obama since before the primary - who had an important responsibility at the rally: educating the audience about how to vote.

Exactly how to vote.

Considering the problems with voting equipment in Ohio, in the past... which is likely to be a problem again, this election... and considering the constant changing of voter rights and requirements in Ohio, these days, a degree in voting is a necessity, here! Take Fannie Lewis' well documented word for that.

Cleveland 9th Ward City Councilman Kevin Conwell, at The Russell Simmons Rally

Conwell read to the audience the official guidelines on how to vote, where to vote, and what identification to bring with you, and asked everyone to help educate their friends and family. He made clear, this election is too important to risk losing one vote for Obama, because a vote is not counted.

Throughout the rally, one of the major themes was Vote Now! For your education:

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections (corner of Euclid and East 30th) will be open for in person
absentee voting at the board office during the absentee voting period
(September 30 - November 3) as follows:

All Mondays through Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All Sundays: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Cleveland 9th Ward City Councilman Kevin Conwell, friends and family, at The Russell Simmons Rally

Conwell clearly enjoyed the moment, shared with many generations of political leaders for change for Northeast Ohio. Seeing all these leaders together - families and friends - world leaders of all sorts - all saying there is hope for the future... change may happen... that these are the best of times, despite the worst of times... history was being made, right here in downtown Cleveland. That was a revolutionary cultural experience representing change in and of itself, for each of us who are receptive.

Clevelanders at the Russell Simmons Rally

Clevelanders at the Russell Simmons Rally 2

While Russell Simmons is a music industry icon, he did not use The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally to promote "his" music, or any of his business interests.

This rally promoted local music talent, to warm up the crowd for the main attractions. A fine selection of excellent local musicians were showcased before Cleveland's Free Stamp, which must have been an exhilarating experience for the performers... especially in association with the founder of DefJam! Everyone performed their hearts out, culminating with a gospel performance that swept over the audience like a prayer during service.

Gospel Performers at The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally

Before the gospel uplifted the crowd, Deep 3 brought the house down. A tight, stylish, bright hip-hop trio with great moves and magnetism... I wasn't the only one who appreciated that...

Deep 3 at The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally

Deep 3 at The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally 2

Deep 3 at The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally 3

The New Millionaires had a strong rap - a bit of Bone Thugs - a bit of thug - but stayed within the clean theme of the day.

The New Millionaires at The Russell Simmons Super Jam Get Out The Vote Rally

The New Millionaires at The Russell Simmons Rally, Cleveland Ohio 2

The New Millionaires at The Russell Simmons Rally, Cleveland Ohio 3

Warming-up the day with a sweet, tight set was exceptional young singer Tammy Trotter

Tammy Trotter at The Russell Simmons Rally, Cleveland Ohio

Tammy Trotter at The Russell Simmons Rally, Cleveland Ohio

They all want you to vote for change.

Vote for Obama.


LeBronRegister650.JPG268.08 KB
LeBronArriving650.JPG187.62 KB
LeBronRegisterCrop650.JPG177.49 KB
LeBronGreetingSimons650.JPG127.81 KB
LeBronLeavingSimmons650.jpg199.54 KB
LeBronWithRegistration650.JPG184.39 KB
LeBronStandingTall650.JPG420.19 KB
LeBronLeaving650.JPG159.73 KB
MediaFilmingSimmons650.JPG218.44 KB
SimmonsSpeaking650.jpg184.44 KB
McGinestThree650.JPG201.68 KB
McGinestRegistered650.JPG271.38 KB

Voting ordeal

Heed the warning, get out and vote early, vote absentee and help any one you know with vision problems or language difficulties to fill out the ballot.  I got mine yesterday and it's a @$(*%#)(.

Two pages of small print and do's and don'ts that will disqualify your vote. Voting at the polls will be harrowing on November 4th, because it takes a LONG time to read the ballot.  Please do the right thing and vote early.

(Great pictures Norm!)

Excellent video from the rally!

Definitely watch this on you tube from the Russell Simmons Rally...

Disrupt IT