Youth, environment and immigrant groups host Orlando FreedomFest concert to enlist voters

by: Kate Santich | originally published in the Orlando Sentinel

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Can Puerto Rican music producer DJ Blass, reggaeton artist Jory Boy and poet Aja Monet help persuade Puerto Ricans in Central Florida to vote?

Van Jones hopes so. The CNN commentator and host of The Van Jones Show is joining the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Love Army at Saturday’s FreedomFest: We Are All America — an Orlando concert and call to action targeting Puerto Ricans displaced by last September’s Hurricane Maria.

DJ Blass, Jory Boy and Aja Monet headline the entertainment portion of the event. But the focus is voter registration and turnout.

Can Puerto Rican music producer DJ Blass, reggaeton artist Jory Boy and poet Aja Monet help persuade Puerto Ricans in Central Florida to vote?

Van Jones hopes so. The CNN commentator and host of The Van Jones Show is joining the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Love Army at Saturday’s FreedomFest: We Are All America — an Orlando concert and call to action targeting Puerto Ricans displaced by last September’s Hurricane Maria.

DJ Blass, Jory Boy and Aja Monet headline the entertainment portion of the event. But the focus is voter registration and turnout.

Jones, founder of the environmental advocacy group Green for All, said the “climate refugees,” as he calls them, have more power than they may realize.

“Obviously, the devastation that happened in Puerto Rico and the botched recovery effort have made displaced Puerto Ricans critical to the election,” he said in an interview this week. “They need to send a message to both political parties that Puerto Rican issues and climate issues need to be taken seriously.”

More than 20 national and local organizations — representing college students, labor unions, the LGBTQ population, Hispanics, environmentalists and social-justice advocates — have come together to organize the event. Jones said the immediate goal is to get 1,000 more people registered to vote immediately and to have 15,000 more in Florida by November.

And for that, he said, he’ll need to show the connection between politics and the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico one year ago next week.

“You can never say that one particular hurricane is stronger or weaker because of climate disruption,” he said. “But what you can say is that, statistically, these storms shouldn’t be getting bigger, worse and more frequent, but that’s what we’re seeing. And so here we have U.S. citizens who have lost everything because the weather patterns are changing so dramatically.”

ksantich@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5503, @katesantich. Please consider supporting local journalism by purchasing a digital subscription to the Orlando Sentinel.

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