Chicago Votes launches Give a Shit Weekend to get young people in Chicago excited about election season | Bleader

Friday, September 28, 2018

Chicago Votes launches Give a Shit Weekend to get young people in Chicago excited about election season

Posted By on 09.28.18 at 04:10 PM

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click to enlarge The voter registration table at last night's event
  • The voter registration table at last night's event
Chicago Votes is a nonprofit organization that works toward mobilizing young people to vote. This weekend it's hosting a "Give a Shit Weekend" that includes art shows and installations of various kinds. Last night at Hubbard Inn voter registration and volunteer training was available before, during, and after a fashion show put together by local streetwear brand Runako.

"Our whole premise as an organization is to get more young people involved in politics, but the culture of politics traditionally is pretty boring, pretty old, and pretty white," says Stevie Valles, the executive director of Chicago Votes. "We couldn't take ourselves seriously trying to recruit people from the communities that we're trying to recruit people from." The Give a Shit Weekend is Chicago Votes' way of meeting young people in Chicago halfway.

At last night's event, the room was filled with young creatives, who were registering to vote at the door, and signing up to volunteer before moving onto the bar or the dance floor, where there was a DJ. I saw a couple of baby boomers walk in, their expressions resembling that of Dorothy's when she woke up in Oz. To my surprise, they actually stayed for the duration of the event, which was pretty cool.

click to enlarge The runway, which doubled as a dance floor after the show.
  • The runway, which doubled as a dance floor after the show.
Elijah Runako Boyd, the creator and founder of Runako, draws his inspiration from Chicago. "I'm based [on] the south side of Chicago, and I would say Runako is a direct representation of me and where I come from and my background." He thought getting involved in the Give a Shit Weekend would be an amazing opportunity to get young Chicagoans excited about voting. "Any chance that we get to make a difference [or] a step towards progression is always something that Runako wants to tackle and be a part of." The fashion show reflected Runako's megalocal, community-oriented philosophy with a laid-back energy and friendly models who interacted with the supportive, cheering crowd. They smiled, waved, and sometimes even danced down the runway in bright, shiny mini skirts, crop tops, animal prints, and bold black-and-white patterns.

click to enlarge Elijah Runako and three of his models after the show
  • Elijah Runako and three of his models after the show
This is the first year that Chicago Votes has hosted a Give a Shit Weekend. "This year we're kind of getting a feeler for what we want it to be in the future," says Valles. The event originally started out as an eight-day fashion week but was chiseled down to four days that focus on many different things. "We're doing a fashion show tonight, then an afterparty, then we're doing an art installation tomorrow followed by an afterparty. We're having a Give a Shit happy hour Saturday night in Avondale that's focused on mental health awareness, and then we're having a big party on Sunday night too, that we're not even hosting. We're just showing up to a club and doing voter registration at it. That's what happens when you start trying to blend the worlds. Things just start to happen organically."

Something else that's happening organically is that more well-known artists are being drawn to the initiative as well. "Mick Jenkins is upstairs, I think I saw Taylor Bennett walk in," says Valles. "These things are just kind of happening on their own, we didn't even invite them directly, and that's pretty cool because they have more power than a lot of politicians, and I don't think they really know it." Taylor Bennett later closed out the fashion show, to the surprise of the crowd.

The Give a Shit initiative doesn't stop after this weekend, though. At tonight's event, Chicago Votes is launching the Give a Shit Collective. "It's essentially our creative network," Valles explains. "We're bringing [creatives] into this network that is focused on advancing politics to a younger audience, to their individual audiences, audiences that typically wouldn't engage in politics and we're giving them free-reign to figure out what that would look like. . . . We have a dude that's putting together an album that's centered around politics, we have somebody who's putting together art exhibits." The creatives that make up the Give a Shit Collective range from visual artists and designers to musicians and poets and even the creator of a line of beauty products.

click to enlarge Volunteer sign-up table
  • Volunteer sign-up table
Voter registration is available and encouraged at every event. "Every night we're asking people to register to vote as they sign in and fill out one of our pledge-to-vote cards." By the time I left the event last night, 35 people had registered to vote, including me.

"This is the first night. Tonight seems to be going really well, and it makes sense to hit repeat on things that are going good," Valles says. "Next year, I think there's gonna be more people interested in being a part of it because they've seen it actually happen already."

Give a Shit Weekend Through 9/30: various times and places; see Twitter, @chicagovotes, free, $25 VIP.

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