“Elections have consequences. Transgender lives are on the line,” Laverne Cox said in a speech at the We Vote Next Summit, held at the TOMS Headquarters in Los Angeles on Saturday.
“Go and vote, and make it something that’s consequential,” the “Orange Is the New Black” star told Variety. “And I understand all the folks on the left who are just like, ‘These people don’t represent me or this person’s problematic around these issues or those issues,’” Cox said, pausing to shake her head. “But girl. Girl! It’s like, come on…It’s actually already happening. Jeff Sessions is getting his life right now. He’s getting his life. Because we’re all distracted by all this other stuff and he’s just rolling s— back. Just vote. Your vote matters. It counts,” Cox said.
The summit was organized by 18-year-old “Grown-ish” actress Yara Shahidi, who founded the Eighteen x 18 initiative nearly a year ago with the goal of getting first time voters to the polls. More than 120 teenagers from around the country were flown in to be delegates at the summit, representing all 50 states as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Joining what the organization calls “the voting class of 2018,” the delegates listened intently to speeches given by Shahidi, Cox, Dawson, and activist Janaye “Future” Khan among others.
During her opening remarks, Shahidi spoke passionately about the importance of exercising the right to vote. “When we talk about policies, we’re talking about people’s lives,” the “Smallfoot” star said to the room of delegates.
“It’s really important that we make our voices heard in this election, because we have so much power,” Shahidi told Variety. “When you look at the fact that all [these] seats are up for reelection, it’s a big deal, because it’s a time in which we can push up against the institution.”
Actress Rosario Dawson, who co-founded of her own voting initiative, “Voto Latino,” in 2004, also spoke passionately about the cause.
“If you are 18 years old, you have a voice,” Dawson told Variety. “You’re here, you are a citizen, you can vote. Your message matters. I think that’s just really powerful to get that message at a young age…your time, your energy, is something that we all need.”
“We have to use the one major tool that we have, which is all of us. Cause there are a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them, and by ‘them,’ I mean the folks that are in power right now that clearly do not represent us,” Dawson said.