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Lyft, Social Change Fund and HBCU Heroes partner to get students to polls on Election Day

On Nov. 3, students can get discounted rides to go vote

As the presidential election approaches on Nov. 3, the Social Change Fund has partnered with Lyft and HBCU Heroes to provide historically Black college and university (HBCU) students discounted rides to polling sites on Election Day. Some of the 25 schools included in this partnership are Winston-Salem State, Florida A&M, Morehouse College, Hampton University and Prairie View A&M.

“HBCU students are the future leaders of our country. It is our honor to partner with HBCU Heroes and the Social Change Fund to ensure that these young voters can get to the polls with access to affordable transportation,” said Anthony Foxx, Lyft’s chief policy officer and former U.S. secretary of transportation under President Barack Obama.

The partnership is part of Lyft’s LyftUp initiatives, which aims to provide transportation to voters who cannot get to the polls. Students will need a 2020VOTE promo code that is valid on Nov. 3 for rides from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone interested needs to register before Election Day. The discounted ride-share codes will be distributed by colleges to their students.

HBCU Heroes is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for HBCU sports programs and was co-founded by NBA veteran and former Clark Atlanta University men’s basketball coach George Lynch, entrepreneur Tracey Pennywell and Kwame Jackson, a leadership and brand strategist.

“We started percolating on the idea and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did something where Lyft took HBCU students to go vote?’ ” said Jackson. “After those conversations started getting further redefined, we came up with the idea, this partnership, where we would basically offer discounted rides to HBCU students on Election Day through a code system that would get them to vote.”

With most HBCUs only conducting classes online this semester and students spread out across the country, they will still be able to use Lyft in whatever city or state they are in.

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Sirdiego Brazil (right) and Geden Mulan (left) wait to cast their votes on Oct. 19 in North Miami, Florida. For HBCU students who can’t get to the polls early, a partnership with Lyft can help assist them on Nov. 3. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

“No matter where they are, if there are students on campus or virtual distance learning right now, when the election comes up, the students will still get the codes via email from their HBCUs that we distribute as a partnership,” said Pennywell. “They will be able to utilize those across the country, no matter if they are in Pittsburgh or Syracuse, they will be able to still get to the polls and vote.”

The lack of transportation to get citizens to voting locations has been a consistent problem in the past. Lyft is helping change the narrative.

“Lyft shared an interesting statistic with all of us, which is that 15 million people did not vote in the 2016 election because of a lack of access to transportation,” said Jackson. “So their whole push is how do we remove the transportation barrier to voting? How do we empower people and how we can specifically do that in the HBCU community, which has such a big voice?”

While coaching at Clark Atlanta, Lynch challenged and engaged HBCU alumni to give back to their institutions. No matter how big or small the donation, giving back is a goal that Lynch pushes as he expands HBCU Heroes.

“We want to challenge alumni from HBCUs to give back. We can’t expect non-HBCU alums to always give back and do for our HBCUs,” said Lynch. “No matter how much that is, whether it’s $5, $10, $5 million or $10 million, that would help an HBCU tremendously.”

Student activism has played a pivotal role at HBCUs for decades, and students today are heavily involved in protests, marches and rallies, some they have helped organized. Former Clark Atlanta student government president Levon Campbell Jr., a senior political science major, uses his voice to enact change.

“Voting is extremely important, especially for African Americans, because inside the United States we have lived through periods where we did not have the right to vote,” said Campbell. “This is a time where American democracy is tested on an international level. The world is screaming Black lives matter. Right now it’s us and our duty to get out there and get our voices heard.”

The Social Change Fund was created by NBA superstars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and the recently-retired Dwyane Wade to support critical and timely issues affecting the Black and Indigenous communities.

The Social Change Fund has connections to the participating schools, whether they are in their home towns, where they are from or areas where they have played. The partnership didn’t release the names of all the schools that will participate, but the 25-plus schools will distribute the codes to their students.

“This upcoming election is a pivotal point in our country’s history. I’ve been blessed to have a platform to share my voice and lend my platform, which is why I decided to join the Social Change Fund,” said NBA All-Star Khris Middleton.

“My home state of South Carolina has a rich history of some of the finest HBCUs that have educated our community for generations. My grandparents, cousins, aunts and friends attended these colleges, and I’m excited to bring it full circle to help provide rides for students at South Carolina’s HBCUs to the polls this November,” said Middleton. “Being able to support my community so they can exercise the rights that so many before us fought for us to have is an awesome feeling.” October 21, 2020.

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