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#901Choice2014 – in a word, innovative!

INNOVATIVE is the word to describe the social media-infused event sponsored by The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) and Social Change with a Twist (SCWT) at Visible Music College last Thursday (July 10th).
The downtown college’s swanky and modern infrastructure was all abuzz with political candidates of myriad ages, races and political backgrounds. An open-air atrium functioned as a social center for the event. Guests were able to eat, drink, listen to music and meet with various office holders and seekers.
The public forum portion of the event was hosted in a very modern auditorium that was lined with impressive flat screens, giving all those in attendance a clear view of the social media action taking place online.
Putting the evening’s objective in context, an onstage host said, “Only 17 percent of registered voters participated in the May primary election. Of that 17 percent, only 4 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 35. As a result, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) and Social Change with a Twist (SCWT) decided to collaborate to produce a unique platform for voter engagement using social media.”
Attendees made use of social media to reach and engage people all over the country using the hashtag #901Choice2014. Potential voters – both at the forum and those engaged via Twitter – were allowed to ask each speaker questions or to tweet out in support of the speaker. At one point, candidate attire became the center of the social media focus, with a fashion discussion about the very fashionable sitting Judge Phyliss Gardener.  
Although some questions where indicative of the informal nature of social media, other questions posed by the social media audience were more serious and called for candidates to think and act quickly. 
One tweeter posed this question to Congressional hopeful, Ricky Wilkins”
 “As a new Congressman how can you bring back the federal funds for community development issues in Memphis?”
Wilkins responded by giving the audience a brief history lesson on “congressional novists” and how successful novists such as Harold Ford and Harold Ford Jr. were in the past. He promised to be willing to work on behalf of the people every day, if elected. 
The social media response was so overwhelming that the hastag #901choice2014 was a “trending” topic on Twitter. (Trending on Twitter refers to a hashtag-driven topic that is immediately popular at a particular time.) And at the forum, dozens of interested young adults sat attentively, listening carefully to each candidate on stage. 
“I came out because I saw the forum on Instagram.” Said Mykila Cobb, a young professional starting her career at ALSAC/St. Jude. 
“I wanted to be more knowledgeable about the candidates. Not being from Memphis you only hear negative things about politics. I want to be an effective citizen and voting is the only way to be effective”.
Social Media is very important to engaging the next generation of voters, said London Lamar, the chair of the newly-revived Young Democrats Organization.
“We must use the tools that the younger generation use to engage them and that includes social media,” said London. “This is a great event. There is a great turnout, it was creative and innovative and modern to use social media.”

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