Celebrities hit airwaves to help candidates court the black vote

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Spike Lee and other celebrities took to the Chicago airwaves to help candidates court the black vote. | Rob Hart/Northwestern University

Hollywood director Spike Lee, in an ad for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, warns black radio listeners not to fall for “the okie-doke.”

“Scandal” actress Kerry Washington, on the same stations, stresses, “We need a president that will fight for us,” in an ad for rival candidate Hillary Clinton.

And John Legend jumped into the Cook County state’s attorney race on Sunday. “It is imperative we support and vote for prosecutors that enhance integrity and fairness,” he said in social media endorsements of Kim Foxx.

Appeals in the voices of celebs not typically heard in the political cacophony — like Washington, Legend and Morgan Freeman — filled black radio and black newspapers in the week ahead of the Illinois primary election Tuesday.

Other voices, like Lee’s, remained consistent. His radio ad for fellow Brooklyn native Sanders followed his trashing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a March 2 screening and discussion of his controversial movie “Chi-Raq” at Northwestern University.

Lee called it ironic that Emanuel had criticized his movie as giving Chicago a bad name, yet months later, Chicago exploded over the Laquan McDonald police shooting and the number of homicides has soared this year.

Sanders bashed Emanuel, a Clinton backer and fundraiser, over school closures and a “disastrous record” during a Chicago campaign stop Saturday. Emanuel later shrugged off Sanders’ comments as politics.

In the 60-second radio ad, “Wake Up,” pitched at Chicago-area voters, Lee riffs on his 1989 movie, “Do The Right Thing.”

“You know that I know that you know that the system is rigged! For too long we’ve given our votes to corporate puppets. Sold the okie-doke,” Lee says. “Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada! And when Bernie gets in the White House, he will do the right thing.”

Another Sanders supporter, actor Danny Glover, who campaigned for him in North Carolina, arrived here Friday for the candidate’s final weekend of campaigning, headlining the DuSable Museum of African American History’s “Hollywood Comes to the Du” event.

In the Clinton ads also running on black radio, both Freeman and Washington trumpet their candidate’s fight for jobs and racial justice, over snippets from the “Breaking Every Barrier” speech Clinton gave in Harlem last month.

“The Washington, D.C., you see on television can be pretty different from the real one,” Washington says in the ad, “Fight for Us.” “She’ll raise incomes, reform our justice system, and build on President Obama’s progress, but she can’t do it without you.”

The two actors’ radio support of Clinton follows their TV support. Freeman narrates a TV commercial titled “Breaking Barriers” airing since March 5. In a TV commercial titled “Real Life,” Washington is joined by hit series maker Shonda Rhimes and stars of her two other series: Viola Davis of “How to Get Away With Murder” and Ellen Pompeo of “Grey’s Anatomy.” In it, Washington proclaims, “Our characters are on television. The real world has Hillary Clinton.”

On a more local front, Legend hit Facebook and Twitter on Sunday to endorse Foxx, who is running against State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Donna More.

“The national debate over police shootings has led policymakers and the public to begin thinking critically about the role of prosecutors,” Legend wrote. “As cases from Michael Brown to Laquan McDonald put front and center the people our justice system fails everyday, we must support candidates who recognize that our system is in desperate need of transformation that addresses the vast systemic racial and ethnic disparities.”


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