Vic Mensa Vows To Make Change In The Booth…The Voting Booth (Video)

“I’m Vic Mensa. I’m 22 and affecting change in the hood is why I vote.” That’s the closing statement in a video produced by Vevo’s Why I Vote Campaign featuring the celebrated MC. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois Vic Mensa is a young man whose outspoken lyrics and involvement in sociopolitical affairs have made him one of the most vocal artists of his generation, and now he’s lending his voice to promoting the power of the vote, not just in the upcoming general election but also in local elections, which is where he says “you can most directly make some type of change.”

Mensa says a confluence of experiences growing up in the Southside of Chicago inspired him from a young age to become politically involved, some of which include tempestuous interactions with the cops. “All of my earliest memories with police officers were like ‘get your fucking hands out that hoodie before I punch you in your fuckin’ face,'” he says. “You live with that enough and there’s not really any turning back.” As his hometown continues to suffer rates of homicide which far surpass those in other major American cities, Vic Mensa says that living in such an environment can easily make the young and ignored feel hopeless. As he explains, “Southside of Chicago has more killings per year than American soldiers dying in Iraq. You get to a point when you’ve grown up in a system of violence created by perpetuated violence that you feel no other option.”

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And while civilian to civilian homicide rates in Chicago have been the subject of headlines for years, Mensa says one particularly galvanizing experience involving violence at the hands of police is what led him to bring more visibility to the system of violence engulfing the Chi. Laquan McDonald was a Chicago teenager shot 16 times by a police officer, footage of which was withheld by State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for many months. Once released, the video of the incident depicted what many called a cold-blooded homicide. McDonald, Mensa says, was the “little homie” of one of his best friends, so his murder “was real close to home.”  “All he had was a knife,” he says of McDonald, adding the cops “executed this kid.”

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“As soon as that footage came out, my man called me and said ‘you know what we’re gonna do? We’re just gonna pull up and stand there,'” says Mensa. As Heads may recall, Mensa took part in protests calling for justice, not just in McDonald’s case but for Black Americans in general. At times, he found himself embroiled with police officers, and was at one point physically altercating with them. “I was the first one that got grabbed up by the cops that day,” he recounts. He says the police had blocked off access to Lakeshore Drive, one of the main thoroughfares of Downtown Chicago, preventing protesters from taking their march into the area. A protester decided, he recalls, to say “fuck it” and “just started running” through the police barricade, and that’s when things really got heated. “We hadn’t broken any laws. We were just organizing on the street, as is our right as Americans,” says Mensa. “It’s hard to not feel like you’re a Laquan McDonald or you are Trayvon Martin or you are Mike Brown, just waitin’ for the shit to explode.”

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But protesting is just one way in which Mensa involves himself in politics. Another is voting, which he says was instilled in him as an important part of social life as a child of two deeply involved parents. Citing the frequent debates in his household about those running for public office in Chicago as some of his earliest political memories, Mensa says “When I turned 18, I was like ‘this is dope, I’m old enough to do this. I can go vote.'” Echoing the localized focus that McDonald’s death inspired, Mensa says “the main reason I went out in the primary was to vote for this woman, Kim Foxx, against the State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez. I just made sure I was there to vote against her. That’s just an example of how empowering it can be to vote for your local positions.”

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Today (September 27) is National Voter Registration Day. Heads can learn more about registering to vote here.

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