hip hop music

August 9, 2003

Can We Trust Russell Simmons?

For a while now we've been expressing misgivings about Russell Simmons' efforts to position himself as a leader and political power broker for the black community and the Hip-Hop nation. His assumption of prominent role in the movement to repeal/reform the Rockefeller drug laws has aroused similar concerns for many in the activist community, and Amadi Ajamu's piece at allhiphop.com does the best job yet of summing up why:

Russell Simmons: Def Sham?

The emergence of Hip Hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons as an establishment-endorsed political leader of the new generation of Blacks gives me pause. Being a member of this new generation, I think this should be put on the table for discussion.

Why have mainstream media's political pundits given Russell Simmons an open mic? He's a guest on Charlie Rose; he's become a constant feature in the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine and many other newspapers and magazine across the country. Hailed as among the one hundred most influential African Americans by Crain Magazine, can helicopter to Albany for private meetings with New York Governor George Pataki on the Rockefeller drug laws. He has organized fundraisers for senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, works closely with former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, teams up with democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton to register new voters, and dines with Shimon Peres, Israel's former Prime Minister discussing a possible Middle East youth summit.

Either the king makers have peeped Simmons' ability to use his influence over urban youth as leverage in his business and political ventures and they want to control him, or the severity of the US economic recession deems it time to send in the clowns...

I thought this bit was particularly interesting:

...Simmons also launched a special "reparations" sneaker brand in his clothing line. Advertisements for it have proclaimed that a percentage of the proceeds from the sneakers would be donated to the reparations efforts. When a youth organization working on reparations issues contacted sales executives at Phat Farm about donations, they were told that a larger percentage of the proceeds were applied to advertising the sneakers so that the idea of reparations is being exposed. This maneuver is the extent of company's contribution to the struggle for slavery reparations...

Posted by jsmooth995 at August 9, 2003 11:53 PM

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