Rocking the Village Vote
Fundraiser engages youth in activism and politics
By Tom G. Kernaghan
“Pierced, Pissed off and Political!” reads the rallying cry on Rockthevote.ca.
For this Village-grown nationwide fundraising organization, launching and connecting campaigns to create awareness about local and international issues is its main reason for being.
More specifically, its aim is to engage the hearts and minds of young people, and call them to social and political action.
“A lot of cultural changes will be happening,” says 10-year Village resident Zeke Zavier, who co-founded Rock the Vote with his son Adrian, and Lubomyr Tomchuk. “I’m waiting for more protest songs. We haven’t really hit our stride. It’s a very exciting time to be young.”
This past summer was an exciting time to part of Rock the Vote, as the group supported Live 8 by offering T-shirts for donations, and an online petition for those wishing to participate.
While the organization also works with local community-building initiatives like Toronto Dollar, and 2 for 1 Dinner, Zavier wants to shift the group’s focus to events more directly relevant to young people.
“We’re morphing into music,” says Zavier, who believes music has the power to rock complacency by inspiring youth on a large scale. “We want to get the music to speak for itself. It can have a huge impact.”
His own sons, Adrian and Max, are involved, and students from Ursula Franklin Academy and Humberside Collegiate Institute designed and maintain the website. Rock the Vote is also looking for young reporters to cover stories. While he welcomes volunteers of all ages, Zavier is seeking increased cooperation between young people around the globe.
“Young people are the same all over the world,” says Zavier, who was first exposed to activism while he was an Ontario College of Art student in the late 1960s.
“Activism was experiencing a renaissance back then. It stayed with me.”
Since then, he has been involved in marketing, advertising, and real estate, but a few years ago decided to take an unpaid leave from business, and devote his time and attention to the causes close to his own heart.
And one of these may result in a tattoo somewhere on Bono’s body. Rock the Vote has signed a deal with TadAD, a company that brokers logo tattoo deals between companies and people. Together they are planning an online auction in which companies will bid for a logo tattoo spot on Bono, with the proceeds going to the Irish rocker’s Make Poverty History project.
Concerned also with national issues and perspectives, Zavier is hoping to have Canadian musicians record and submit one-minute videos in which they urge young people to get politically active. And to further heighten the group’s Canadian profile, Zavier invited Sophie Grégoire, eTalk Daily correspondent and wife of Justin Trudeau, to join its board of directors.
Many have heard of Rock the Vote in the United States. Though the two organizations focus on different issues, they do cooperate as much as possible, as Zavier believes in working with our southern neighbours.
“Pro-Canadian doesn’t mean anti-American,” stresses Zavier.
This October 18, Rock the Vote will support President Bill Clinton’s launch of Professeurs pour la liberté (professors for freedom), a project by The Canadian College of Business & Computers, which aims to bring free computers and online education to African children and students. Supported by Jean Crétien, and a host of Canadian politicians, the event will take place at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
“This will be a massive transfer of knowledge and technology,” says Zavier, “It’s a phenomenal project.”
What also seems phenomenal is the traffic on Rock the Vote’s website.
“Rock the Vote is the number one youth-oriented political website,” says Zavier. “It can get as many as two million hits a month during political campaigns.”
Though impressed by the number of youths committed to action and change, he understands young people have other social priorities as well.
“We want to make Rock the Vote more interactive,” explains Zavier, referring to an online dating and meeting service he is considering for politically minded young people. “It would be an interesting dynamic. It would make for a different kind of political party.”
For me information, please see www.rockthevote.ca
(Gleaner News, Toronto)