USF community contributes to music video for voting

The video calls for an end to gun violence and for young people to vote

Lucia Verzola

Staff Writer

A week before election day, “We Are the Ones (Vote)” was released on Youtube by Byron Au Yong, an assistant music professor in the PASJ department at USF. Au Yong composed the music for the video. Aaron Jafferis, a hip-hop poet and playwright, wrote the lyrics, and Stephanie Tubiolo, assistant director of choirs at Princeton University, was in charge of music direction and audio and video editing. 

The music video stemmed from “The Ones,” a former project that Au Yong and Jafferis began after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. It drew inspiration from quotes, signs, and chants taken from students and adults in various locations of March for Our Lives, the student-led movement supporting legislation to prevent gun violence in the United States. Lyrics were also inspired by Emma Gonzalez’s Feb. 17, 2018 speech in Ft. Lauderdale and June Jordan’s “Poem for South African Women,” as stated in the Youtube video’s description. 

Au Yong and Jafferis hoped to draw the connection between our ability to vote and also prevent gun violence. Au Yong said, “It is so uncertain what’s going to happen after Nov. 3 as different kinds of ad hoc militias are being created, and there seems to be a lot of hatred in this country right now. People are taking up arms and promoting violence, and hatred isn’t a way forward. Many young people can’t vote yet and there are also people who do not have citizenship or who are denied the right to vote for whatever reason.” He saw the video as an opportunity “to share a multitude of different voices coming together so those who do have the privilege of voting will take action.”

The video is set to the beatboxing of Anton Kot, an undergraduate student at NYU, which mimics a heartbeat and lays a base for the acapella song. It involves a mix of choral singing and rapping, featuring both solo voices and group work. 

The creative process behind the music video involved many other members of the USF community. Laynee Daniels, a third-year Performing Arts and Social Justice major with a music concentration, is a featured vocal soloist in the video; she is also the assistant musical director of ASUSF Voices. Daniels was grateful for being able to collaborate with artists from Miami Dade College, MDC Live Arts, Virginia Tech, and New Haven CT, with all institutions sharing an interest in producing projects on coming of age in an time of widespread gun violence. They were able to rehearse together via Zoom. “I think there’s this really neat component that we have access to by being able to collaborate virtually,” Daniels said. “By the final video, it really feels like everyone’s together, even if you don’t know everyone’s names.”

Daniels hopes the video will hold more power than messages and infographics seen on Instagram, which viewers can simply skip through. “Viewers should understand why they’re voting rather than just viewing it as a task, which is how I feel a lot of these ads have been targeted. I think understanding why you’re doing something makes the experience much more gratifying. [This] is one that really causes you to sit down and listen and understand from first person experiences and perspectives,” she said.

Au Yong looks forward to hearing the reception from viewers and hopes they will recognize the passion in each individual voice that came together to create the finished work. “I feel like there’s such opportunity, and in tribute to being a child of immigrants, there is so much promise in the United States,” he said. “So I hold that going forth in my music making. Even in this time of disconnect, that we can come together as a choir and as a nation.”

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