Some of the most influential names in the entertainment world, including Kim Kardashian, Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, and Hilary Swank, are uniting for a new short-form social series titled “Be Woke”, to educate and activate millennial and Generation Z voters, particularly young Americans of color.
“Be Woke” is a campaign unto itself, with a format that features celebrities sitting down with hosts Van Jones, Roland Martin and Tameka ‘Tiny’ Harris in down-to-earth, one-on-one segments to discuss political, social and societal landscapes, and implore activism. It’s a rally for activism and a platform to encourage voter engagement and participation.
Additional participants include Shameik Moore, Laz Alonso, Haha Davis, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Bresha Webb, Ali Siddiq, Chuck D, Jussie Smollett and Sybrina Fulton, with more coming on board.
The purpose of “Be Woke” is to push the needle forward by getting more young voters of color interested in politics and participating in the voting process. “Be Woke” was conceptualized by movie director Deon Taylor, producer Roxanne Avent and prominent philanthropist and investor Robert F. Smith, who are all partners in Hidden Empire Film Group. They are bringing the series to life with Taylor co-directing the episodes with Omar Joseph, and Avent and Smith producing alongside Heather Kritzer.
“There is a serious problem in our country surrounding our youngest generations and involvement in the political process,” said Taylor. “The statistics are so unsettling to us. We just felt compelled to take action and do something about it. So we did. And we quickly found that many celebrities care just as much and share the desire to evoke change. Roxanne, Robert and myself are grateful that so many of our friends in the entertainment world, who are so busy, took the time to participate, and didn’t think twice about doing so. We hope this movement is contagious and a broader national voice is heard during future elections.”
Said Avent, “Voting is essential to the future of our children and communities. Without the votes, we have no voice, and we surrender our power. This is the driving message we want to amplify as loudly as possible in our ‘Be Woke’ campaign.”
The episodes are 5-10 minutes in duration and feature a celebrity guest that speaks to a community, specific group, or sub-group.
Beginning this week, segments will be available to viewers via digital and social media platforms including:
Segments and bonus content will be released regularly up through the elections next month. The homepage for the series and all additional content is https://bewoke.vote/
Black voter turnout fell seven percentage points in the last election, plummeting from 66.6% in 2012 to 59.6% in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Many analysts say a natural drop-off was expected in the post-Barack Obama era. But the 2016 voter turnout for African-Americans was not just lower than the Obama years, it was even slightly lower than the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry.
While the growth in the number of millennials who are eligible to vote underscores the potential electoral clout of today’s young adults, millennials remain far from the largest generational block of actual voters. It is one thing to be eligible to vote and another thing to actually cast a ballot.
Systematic factors like voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement work to ensure that communities of color do not have a voice in the political process. Voter apathy among those who do have access to the polls doesn’t help. According to the Pew Research Center, the voter turnout rate in the black community declined for the first time in 20 years during the 2016 Presidential election. Other statistics point to the promise of an empowered voter base from communities of color.
Deon Taylor, Roxanne Avent and Robert F. Smith are partners in Hidden Empire Film Group, a 100% black owned, financed and operated movie and television studio, and one of the most prolific companies in Hollywood.
The partners are currently filming the feature film “Fatale” – a noir thriller starring Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Geoffrey Owens, Damaris Lewis and Tyrin Turner. The story is centered on a married man (Ealy) who is tricked into a murder scheme by a seductive female police detective (Swank).
The next Hidden Empire film to hit theaters will be the psychological thriller “The Intruder” (Sony Screen Gems) starring Dennis Quaid, Meghan Good, Michael Ealy and Joseph Sikora. The movie is about a young married couple who buy a beautiful home only to find that the man they bought it from refuses to let go of the property, and he slowly terrorizes them. Dennis Quaid plays the seller and his slow descent into madness — and Good and Ealy play the couple who discover that the motivated seller has no intention of vacating the premises.
Prior to “The Intruder,” Deon Taylor produced, with Jamie Foxx, the comedy feature “All-Star Weekend,” starring Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Gerard Butler, Eva Longoria, Jeremy Piven, Jessica Szohr – directed by Jamie Foxx.
The Hidden Empire team also wrapped, under their new Dark Circus banner, the “Meet the Blacks” sequel “The House Next Door” starring Mike Epps, Katt Williams, Rick Ross, Danny Trejo, Bresha Webb, Zulay Henao, Andrew Bachelor (aka ‘King Batch’), and comedians Lil Duval, Michael Blackson and Tyrin Turner.
Hidden Empire’s latest film “Traffik”, the intense sex trafficking thriller starring Paula Patton, Omar Epps, William Fichtner and Roselyn Sanchez, debuted in the top ten at the boxoffice this past spring (Lionsgate / Codeblack).
Hidden Empire projects are financed by longtime business partner and lead investor, Robert F. Smith. Robert Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000 and is the firm’s Managing Principal. Vista has consistently ranked as one of the top Private Equity Firms in the world over the past 10 years with over $30 billion in capital under management.