hip hop music

June 8, 2004

Including Activists in Your Activism

The inexplicably still blogless Ta-Nehisi Coates (didn't you get the memo? all music writers must blog!) on the upcoming National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Damn is this next week already? The thoughts below mesh nicely with what I was saying here a while ago.

A Nation of Millions
Hip-Hop Convention seeks answer to what's holding young America back

James Bernard is determined that his latest foray into political activism not end like his first. In 1984, a young Bernard volunteered for Jesse Jackson's first presidential run. Though Jackson had little chance of winning, he created a tremendous buzz among the progressive youth. But after volunteering for Jackson again in '88, Bernard was disappointed by the unfulfilled potential. "The problem with both campaigns was a lack of follow-up," says Bernard. "In '84, we had a computer record of all the donors of the Jackson campaign on tape." After that election, "the only copy was sitting on a friend of mine's desk collecting dust."

In the interest of kicking up dust instead of collecting it, Bernard and dozens of activists from around the country are coming to Newark this month for the first National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Representatives of a variety of progressive groups, including the ACLU, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, will participate in the four-day conference. The events, which begin June 16, include a concert, a film festival, and workshops like "Taking My Life to the Next Level..."

...The convention organizers appreciate any effort that strengthens the hand of young voters. But they are not sold on the idea of artists as the vanguard of a political movement. Bakari Kitwana, co-founder of the convention, says he was inspired to hold the gathering, in part, after Simmons invited him and several other activists to participate in an HSAN rally at Reverend Al Sharpton's headquarters. "I told him it doesn't make any sense to do anything if you aren't going to get activists involved," says Kitwana. "So he did, and we got together a good group of people who showed up at Sharpton's headquarters. What ended up happening is what HSAN does now. It ended up being a rally where the hip-hop artists were allowed to speak, and we were in the audience. A lot of people left angry."

What came out of that anger was the convention's own philosophy of the hip-hop generation—that its agenda should be shaped and driven not so much by big names but by ordinary people of the same age group with similar concerns. Kitwana says the two approaches should ultimately complement each other...

Posted by jsmooth995 at June 8, 2004 7:05 PM

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