While the Apollo Theater is known for showcasing music and entertainment on its stage, an upcoming event is focusing on what the community is talking about.
Partnering with BET Networks and the Amsterdam News, the Apollo is presenting "Vote Like Your Life Depends On It," a free community town hall forum to be held at the theater on Monday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Moderated by journalist T.J. Holmes, panelists will include the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Keli Goff, James Braxton Peterson and AmNews Publisher and Editor in Chief Elinor Tatum.
The discussion will focus on issues affecting the presidential election, from Supreme Court nominations and health care to voter suppression tactics and access to education. The event is also the kickoff to the Apollo Theater's "Uptown Hall" series, which will feature innovative activities linking performing arts and events that respond to critical global issues of relevance to the Harlem community.
"A lot of what we do here at the Apollo is community-shaped," said Apollo Theater Community Affairs Coordinator Ade Williams. "Any time something big happens in the Black community, whether it happens in Harlem are not, news crews are usually out interviewing people outside of the Apollo Theater. People in Harlem will let you know how they feel about anything. The community has dictated what we do on more than one occasion."
Williams also said that over the years, the Apollo has been a home for community conversation and a place where people witness historic events. During the last presidential election, the theater opened its doors for people to come see the debates between Barack Obama and John McCain and Obama's inauguration. On his last visit to Harlem, Obama gave a speech at the Apollo.
A voter registration drive will take place at the event, and the discussion will be taped for a future broadcast on BET.com.
"Since its inception, the Apollo Theater has served as a town hall for local residents as well as people from all across New York City," said Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the theater. "This has been demonstrated by the huge turnout and response to planned events such as the Bradley-Gore presidential debate and viewing events during President Obama's election campaign."
The panel discussion is also part of BET's Vote 2012 campaign, which provides multi-phase political coverage for the 2012 elections, focused on voter suppression, voter rights and rallying the community around the important policies that directly affect them with issues-based content and comprehensive political analysis.
"Now more than ever, issues that affect our community and our votes will impact the political outcomes of several states on Election Day," said Debra L. Lee, CEO of BET Networks. "BET will be the source to provide a comprehensive voting-information experience on air and online from an African-American perspective. Our votes are going to make a real difference in this election."