About 2,500 people, including students at Winston-Salem State University and city residents, walked Tuesday with NBA star Chris Paul to an early-voting site on campus.
The WSSU Student Government Association sponsored the event, "March to the Polls Part 2" to encourage students and city residents to vote early in the elections.
Paul, a WSSU student and Winston-Salem native, spent about 2½ hours on campus, speaking with students and meeting with SGA leaders. Paul then walked with a large group of students to the Clock Tower in the middle of the WSSU campus.
"Y'all see the power of having all of you together," Paul said to nearly 600 students gathered around him. "Y'all can really make a difference."
After Paul spoke, a group of 10 WSSU cheerleaders performed. After the clock chimed at 5 p.m., more than 1,500 people walked to the Anderson Center, one of 17 sites in Forsyth County where early voting is taking place.
The WSSU Marching Band walked with the participants in what seemed like a pep rally before a WSSU home football game.
Before the march to the Anderson Center, Paul spoke to reporters in front of the Reaves Student Activity Center on the WSSU campus.
Paul felt a responsibility to encourage his fellow WSSU students to vote "given the magnitude of the election and everything that is going on right now," he said.
"For me, it's always good to be home — to see my family," Paul said.
Paul voted Monday in Los Angeles, he said. His wife took a photograph of Paul casting his vote.
"It's one of those things that never gets old," Paul said of voting. "It makes you feel like an adult."
Paul, 35, played basketball at West Forsyth High School and Wake Forest University. After his sophomore season, Paul left Wake Forest for the NBA. He now plays point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and takes two communications classes at WSSU.
Voting "is something bigger than me," Paul said to the reporters.
Paul said that his commitment to voting shows college students how important their votes are.
Paul considers himself a resident of Winston-Salem, and he welcomed the opportunity to interact with WSSU students, he said.
"Even though I've seen a lot of stuff, and I travel and you've seen me on TV, at the end of the day, my foundation will be always rooted here in Winston-Salem," Paul said. "The biggest thing for me is for people to see me, touch me and talk to me."
Paul said that social-media users stress the importance of voting in this year's presidential election and local elections in the country.
During the march to the Anderson Center, WSSU police blocked traffic on Reynolds Park Road and at the intersection and Reynolds Park Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Hundreds of city residents, including candidates running for public office in Nov. 3 election and some of their representatives, joined the WSSU students who gathered in front of the Anderson Center.
The WSSU band then performed for about 30 minutes as students lined up inside and outside the Anderson Center to cast their ballots. Large numbers of students stood in line in front of food trucks for free food.
Davon Nixon, a WSSU freshman from Charlotte, said he has already voted — the first time he cast a ballot in an election.
WSSU faculty members stress the importance of voting to their students, Nixon said.
Alasia Gibbs, a WSSU sophomore who is also from Charlotte, said she participated in Tuesday's event even though she has already voted as well.
"I just wanted to make sure that everyone votes, and encourage all of my friends who didn't to vote," Gibbs said.
Nixon, Gibbs and Je'den Clark of Fayetteville, WSSU's SGA president, said that Paul's participation in the event helped attract the large crowd to campus.
"College students think about making inroads," said Clark, a senior. "Voting is important. We are instructed since our freshman years to use our voices."