Patti Smith, Questlove, and Obama Join Joy to the Polls for Election Celebrations
Selena Gomez, Swizz Beatz, Pete Souza, and many others have also contributed playlists to the initiative, designed to bring more happiness and hope to the voting process.
The election may be freaking you out, bumming you out, or just reinforcing what you already felt about America—but Joy to the Polls is trying to change that.
Too often, voting is a solemn, dread-filled experience. Long lines, high tensions, suppression, and the looming threat of COVID-19 have all made it uniquely difficult for people to get out to the vote in 2020.
But Joy to the Polls is based on the idea that it doesn't have to be this way—in fact, it shouldn't be this way. People have fought and died for our right to vote, and voting is our opportunity to create new beginnings in our nation. The process should be a celebration, not a nightmare.
"We have rampant voter suppression in the US," says Nelini Stamp, campaign director with Election Defenders and performer and organizer with Joy to the Polls. "We wanted to figure out a way so while people are outside of the polling station, we can bring them a feeling of safety and a feeling of joy."
Using the power of music and community, Joy to the Polls is an effort to rally and inspire as many people as possible on November 3rd. The group first gained notoriety when they sent artists to greet people voting early in Philadelphia, and a video of dancers doing the cha-cha outside a middle school garnered praise from Wanda Sykes and Ava DuVernay.
Since then, Joy to the Polls has launched a number of online and real-life efforts to make voting more joyful and musical. In NYC, punk rock legend Patti Smith was seen singing "People Have the Power" to a group of lucky early voters.
Their Spotify is also star-studded, complete with a number of playlists curated by high-profile musicians. So far, contributors have included America Ferrara, Billie Joe Armstrong, Busy Philipps, Hank Willis Thomas, Katie Couric, Kimbra, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Maggie Rogers, Marisa Tomei, My Morning Jacket, Questlove, Selena Gomez, and Swizz Beatz. Former president Barack Obama also contributed a list of throwback jams in honor of the cause. View the full list of contributors here.
Joy to the Polls is trying to reach as many people as possible across the country, and they're urging artists, performers, and community members to sign up to bring Joy to the Polls in their own way. Here's their national toolkit.
Joy to the Polls' number one focus (in addition to getting out the vote) is on making sure the election is fair and democratic. To that end, they're partners with Election Defenders, a movement dedicated to rallying leaders in local areas and defending the integrity of the 2020 election.
These movements were born out of urgency, in response to Trump's insinuations that he might not accept the election results, as well as ongoing voter suppression, ballot issues, and other problems that threaten democracy. Election Defenders has promised to organize peaceful mass mobilizations and strikes–if the election is not run fairly.
But none of that will be necessary if the election is run fairly. Joy to the Polls is trying to actually get people out to the polls to make sure this happens. Hopelessness is a major issue in America, and millions of people feel like their voices don't count or their fates are out of their control.
Every voice does count, and we all have the power to help elect local champions and create grassroots change. Short of that, it's still possible to dance and sing even in the most difficult of times. In fact, music tends to show up right when it's needed most—when things look most dismal, or when democracy is most frayed and revolution is most needed. In that respect, Joy to the Polls is operating in the revolutionary tradition of past radical creative traditions.
"It's understandable why people feel a lack of hope, or a lack of agency right now," said organizer Nelini Stamp. "But we are just trying to say, you know what? If we can make people feel good for 30 minutes in a two, three, or four-hour line, if we can help people show face and motivate more people to go out and vote? That is all worth it at the end of the day."
Check out Popdust's Joy to the Polls playlist here!