A line full of young voters is wrapped around Black Market USA on Election Day in anticipation of free merchandise from R&B singer Frank Ocean. It's Ocean's incentive for people to go out and vote during the midterm elections.
Ocean released a surprise episode Tuesday morning on his Beats 1 radio show, Blonded RADIO, and shortly after the episode, Ocean posted on his Tumblr a flier calling on the 42 percent of non-voters to vote. He listed four cities where voters could receive free merch: Houston, Atlanta, Miami and Dallas.
Ocean wrote that those locations were chosen to support specific candidates, like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, who if elected would be America’s first black governor, Andrew Gillum in Florida, who was trying to become the state’s first black governor, and Beto O’Rourke, who was aiming to be the first Democratic senator in Texas in 24 years.
Richard Norte, Black Market USA manager, heard about this collaboration with Ocean through the owners of Black Market USA last Friday.
“Dallas is one of those key states, where it really, really matters,” Norte says. “People have generated talk around the country, not just Texas itself.”
Norte says it was an exciting thing to witness, especially the number of young voters who showed up and made a difference.
“It’s bigger than just a T-shirt. It’s cool that [young voters] really went out to vote," he says. "It means a lot."
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Natasha Freire, one of the volunteers working the free handout, says she first heard about the giveaway last Friday from a friend who lives in Houston. That friend had direct contact with a radio person who works closely with Ocean.
Freire said this was an encouraging way to get people out to vote and believes voters gravitated to Ocean’s idea.
“People say millennials don’t vote — don’t put their foot in the door, but this is showing that we are voting and we’re putting our opinions,” she says.
Despite a mix-up causing some shirts to be shipped out to the wrong location, Freire was still appreciative of those who stood in line for as many as five hours.
One of those who stood in line was Efrem Abara, a first-time voter.
“In the presidential election I did not vote, it was just a matter of laziness," Abara says. "I honestly didn’t think what happened was going to happen."
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As a minority and person of color, Abara says a lot of what the president has said since he took office has affected the people he loved and cared about.
“I have friends that are minorities and immigrants and people of color," he says. "So, it didn’t just affect my family, not just my particular race but other races that were so close to me I could visibly see the effects."
Abara says the message was clear as he witnessed the line wrap around the building that this midterm election was important to many young voters.
“They didn’t have to come and get this shirt; they could have bought this shirt off some resale store like eBay, but no, there was an interest and ‘Hey, my vote is going somewhere. This is a good thing and I get a free shirt,’” he says.