Madison jazz club owner tries to register 100 voters in honor of a Tennessee man

The owner of Cafe Coda says that goal commemorates a century-long fight for the right to vote.
Published: Oct. 3, 2020 at 10:23 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Madison jazz club owner is making sure everyone in his community is getting involved this election by helping them register to vote. For him, this effort is especially meaningful.

Hanah John Taylor opened his jazz club Cafe Coda two years ago, as a space to celebrate jazz, welcome musicians and educate more people about where the music comes from.

“Before Cafe Coda, there was no place like this, or it had not been a place like this in the 25 years that I had been here,” Taylor explained.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to shut its doors, but Taylor is still working to serve the community.

“Normally on a Saturday, this place is pretty lively,” Taylor explained, but he continued, “I’ve always considered music to be more than entertainment.”

Every Saturday for almost two months, Taylor and other volunteers have hosted voter registration drives at the club.

“I see it as a privilege as well as a responsibility,” Taylor said.

Taylor wants to get at least 100 people registered to vote. For him, that goal is more than just a number.

It stems from a story out of Chattanooga, Tenn.. Taylor’s father spent time in Chattanooga and told his children this story as they grew up in Chicago.

“A man who was also named Taylor, who years before that, was actually hung for attempting to register his neighbors to vote,” Taylor remembered.

According to the story, this man was hung 100 years ago.

“This was during the Jim Crow period of America,” Taylor said.

That story planted a seed in Taylor’s mind.

“I was also shocked, but at the same time, incentivized by the notion that perhaps, one day, I would be able to do that from my own venue,” Taylor explained.

This year, Taylor is bringing that idea to life, in memory of the man who—a century ago—was not allowed to do the same.

“We thought that it would be symbolic to register 100 individuals who did not have the opportunity perhaps, to register 100 years ago,” he said.

Taylor said he and the volunteers plan to keep helping register voters as long as possible. The deadline to register is Oct. 21, and voters can also register at the polls on Nov. 3, but Taylor said he is less concerned about the deadline than getting more people registered to vote, even if it is not in time for this year’s election.

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