Katy Perry and Black Eyed Peas Set to Headline Rock the Vote's Democracy Summer Concert: Exclusive

Katy Perry
Liza Voloshin

Katy Perry

In an election year like no other, Rock the Vote is kick-starting its Democracy Summer campaign Thursday (June 18) with a two-hour virtual concert co-headlined by Katy Perry and Black Eyed Peas.

Co-hosted by actors Logan Browning and Rosario Dawson with Chuck D and Eve, the event will stream live beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on democracysummer.org, and Democracy Summer's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Ne-Yo, Big Freedia, Lucy Hale, Amara La Negra, Saweetie, Sklyar Astin, Max, Leslie Grace, Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Rich Brian and Michael K. Williams are among those slated to appear remotely. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro will make appearances.

"I'm excited to be a part of this kickoff to Democracy Summer 2020 with so many amazing talents, activists and speakers," says Perry. "The young people of America are speaking loud and clear on the streets and online, and come November, it will be more important than ever to fight for justice and equality, and against systemic racism, with our ballots."

"The young people are engaged. Their voices are loud and getting louder. The world is watching. And we need to vote," agrees Chuck D, an early and consistent supporter of Rock the Vote, which was founded in 1990 by Virgin Records America co-chairman Jeff Ayeroff primarily to increase voter turnout among young adults.

The Public Enemy front man was honored by the organization at its 10th anniversary awards ceremony in 2003.

"We are seeing the urgency for change in America happening in real time. This is the moment for us to use the most important tool on the planet to fight for that change...our right to vote,” says Ne-Yo. “Our democracy needs our voices. Voting is the moment to be the voice for injustice and for equality. But most importantly, to be the voice for humanity. We cannot let each other down in the local elections or on Nov. 3."

Produced by BWG Live and in partnership with Voto Latino Foundation, When We All Vote and March For Our Lives, the concert marks not only the first live-streamed event for the Rock the Vote, but also its first large-scale summer activation. In previous years the organization amped up in the fall before a Presidential election and typically staged a live event. Both pivots are a direct result of Covid-19.

“One of the realities is coronavirus derailed the momentum that is required in a major election cycle,” Rock the Vote president Carolyn DeWitt tells Billboard. “A few months ago we began seeing how the restrictions were affecting young people in particular, by moving them off college campuses and disrupting graduations and proms,” she says. “Our effort is really about building that momentum back up.”

With some 4 million young people turning 18 this year and innumerable issues at stake, the goal of Democracy Summer is to bring 200,000 new voters to the polls in November when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden challenges Donald Trump, as well as myriad primary and local elections throughout the summer and fall. Those interested in the event are encouraged to register at the Democracy Summer web site to get the latest details and lineup updates, although preregistration isn't required to tune in. Viewers can go to Rock the Vote's website to register to vote.

The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the swell of support around the Black Lives Matter movement also has catalyzed Thursday’s event. As protesters around the country have taken to the streets, Rock the Vote registered 107,000 new voters through its platforms and gained more than 25,000 new Instagram followers during the week of June 1, DeWitt says—numbers that dwarf those of a typical week.

“With what we’ve seen over the last couple weeks, the effort around Democracy Summer has become even more important. It’s not just the virus, it’s bigger than the economy standing still. The world feels like it’s on the brink of chaos and yet this moment around Black Lives Matter is bigger than that,” DeWitt says. “Frankly speaking, a big part of that is people are exercising their rights in a democracy. Young people are looking for things they can do and actions they can take in order to create change. We want to make sure we’re continuing to sustain that fire and passion into November, and make sure young people know the power of their votes and create the change they want to see.”

The live stream will include opportunities for viewers to donate to black-led and -focused organizations including the Community Justice Action Fund and National Action Network.

“Now, more than ever, voting is key for long-term change,” Black Eyed Peas said in a statement. “The youth vote is going to decide the future of America. It’s not just our duty but our honor to spread the word in an election year.”

“The diversity of America is what makes it great, and it is also what makes it our country,” says La Negra. “I am Dominican proudly, yet I am a black woman always. I matter. You matter. And together, we will always matter!”

Media and promotional partners include Facebook, YouTube, Tixr Play, Epic Records, iHeartMedia, FaZe Clan, Influential, the Krim Group and Participant, which will air an exclusive clip from its new documentary, John Lewis: Good Trouble, about the civil rights activist and longtime the Georgia congressman.

“The need for young people to get out and vote has never been more important,” says Participant CEO David Linde. “We are proud to be working with Rock the Vote in making that need a reality and by using the inspiring, powerful message of Rep. John Lewis to make good trouble.”

Rock the Vote is planning additional Democracy Summer activations throughout the summer including on the Fourth of July and on Aug. 6, the anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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