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Trenton Children's Chorus Alums Raise Their Voices to Get Out the Vote

Melissa Simmons          Taylor Pickett-Stokes


TRENTON, N.J. – Several weeks ago, Trenton Children's Chorus and the community and board which supports it, made a forceful statement on their website in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.


And the alums of TCC went a step further.   TCC former students decided to respond together in a way that would continue their commitment to change.  Patty Thel, the former artistic director and advisor to the group, put it this way "Trenton Children's Chorus alums are scattered over the country, each alum contributing to their community, states and the country in ways that we are amazed to witness.  This particular group of young women is awesome.  Their faith and their passion for helping others is obvious.  What a privilege it is to know them!" 


Zoom meetings with the alums resulted in a commitment to get out the vote and work for voter registration.   Two prominent African American women who have worked in the political field joined in to give their best advice.  Katina Washington, who is based in North Carolina, worked on the Obama campaign and won the prize nationally for the most voter registrations in 2012.  Raissa Walker is the chair of the Democratic committee in Trenton.  Both were consultants on the zoom calls. The collective agreement was to encourage peers to engage in the political process.  


All of the alums on the call were college graduates.  Mrs. Thel adds, "and needless to say, they are all fabulous singers!"


Two of them, Melissa Simmons and Taylor Pickett-Stokes are each involved in public service.  Melissa is a recent graduate of the New School in Florida and will be a first year teacher in high school chemistry in Florida in the fall.  Taylor graduated from Montclair State University with a bachelors in Theatre Studies and Sociology and is currently in pursuit of a Dual Masters Degree in Public Policy at Rutgers University.  Taylor has been working at the Rescue Mission in Trenton. 


Although the zoom calls have ended, the alums are independently moving out to do voter registration and encourage their friends to vote through social media and personal contact.  Taylor and Melissa are actively encouraging peers and colleagues throughout her communities to vote.  Taylor has even encouraged this topic of discussion throughout the Homeless Shelter (Rescue Mission of Trenton) so that the homeless population is not deprived of voting.  Melissa will be looking into voter registration in Florida in nursing homes.


Melissa and Taylor shared how the impact of the movement and the meetings had influenced their perspectives:


Who inspires you in this current season of political and social change?

In particular, who inspires you in the BLM movement?


Taylor:  The people that inspire me during this BLM movement are my mother, my friends and my community as a whole. I've sat back and observed the response to this movement from "my people"- my community- and I must say I am very proud. Everything hasn't been done perfectly.   It's true that some individuals have responded solely out of their emotions and that led to some questionable decisions.   But ultimately, I feel the strength of my community more now than ever. It really feels like we are finally coming together.    Now is the time to move! Now is the time to act! And we have to be strategic. And above all we have to let GOD be our leader. 


Melissa: Honestly, my POC friends are my biggest inspiration. They are all doing something to raise awareness and educate themselves and others, and I felt like I couldn't let them do all the work. I had to do my part too.


Has anything in this movement changed the way you think about the political or social climate?


Taylor: My views of the political climate haven't shifted much. I've always felt our political systems were corrupt and that there has always been division in our society that was evident in our social climate.   However, my attention has been re-focused to these areas now more than ever. I believe that we've now gotten the attention needed for the change that needs to happen.


Melissa: The emphasis on voting I think has made me really think about who is running our country. I've always voted, but I never really pressed the issue with people that I knew that didn't vote. I just thought that it was their choice. Now, the political climate is so toxic that we can't afford for people to be apathetic. We need every vote and every voice. That wasn't something I thought about before.


What do you plan to do in the future to make change in the world?


Taylor:  Keep God first and pray. Just keep on walking.  You'll end up right where you need to end up. Doing what we know is right is not that hard. America as a whole needs to humble itself. It starts with me for myself and you for yours.   If we are going to truly change as a whole we need to start with the person we're looking at in the mirror.


Melissa: I'm going to be a teacher for this upcoming school year. What I plan to do is make sure I stress to my students the importance of not being apathetic. Sometimes it seems like there's nothing civilians can do to change what's going on, but there is so much we can change if we just care. If we care, we can change things. We just have to try.


About Trenton Children's Chorus

In a city with a 33% drop out rate, Trenton Children's Chorus (TCC) demonstrates that teaching children and youth to make music transfers the essential tools for success in academic, social and workplace endeavors. The most tangible impact of participation in TCC is the fact that 100% of choristers who stay with the program through high school, graduate and go on to college. From music education and performance opportunities, to academic support, leadership training, mentoring, summer camp placement, and college scholarships, TCC leverages the transformative power of music to help children reach their full potential. The mission of TCC is empowering the academic, social, and spiritual lives of children through artistry in music. To learn more:

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