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Uptown Hall brings community together

CYRIL JOSH BARKER AmNews Staff | 9/21/2012, 11:49 a.m.
Second Esperanza Spalding show added at the Apollo

A discussion on voting rights and politics took center stage this past Monday night as the Apollo Theater kicked off its "Uptown Hall" series. Amsterdam News Editor-in-Chief Elinor Tatum, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Keli Goff and columnist Jonathan Hicks also discussed issues within the Black community.

The Apollo Theater is usually packed for performances, and the same can be said of Monday's event. Titled "Vote Like Your Life Depends on It," the event, moderated by BET host TJ Holmes and presented by the Amsterdam News and BET Networks, highlighted the various tactics and controversies surrounding the issue of voter suppression. Voting laws in some states, particularly swing states like Pennsylvania, have new requirements such as showing ID. Critics say the new laws are an effort to disenfranchise the Black vote because many Blacks don't have valid ID.

"In 2008, it was historic, but in 2012, it's personal," said Sharpton. "We have to establish order and values in our community."

The panel also included Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project. Dianis has been a champion in fighting voting rights laws and informing voters about their rights.

"This is a changing demographic and people are scared. This country is getting Browner and Blacker," she said.

Holmes read questions submitted by people online and took questions from the audience. BET taped the panel discussion and it will be available on BET.com.

The Apollo Theater's "Uptown Hall" series will feature innovative activities linking performing arts, presentations, activities and events that respond to critical global issues that are relevant to the Harlem community and speak to a broader audience. The series will continue with an event in early October.