Hip Hop Luminaries Descend on Washington DC to Address Social Justice Issues

June 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Found At Other Sites | Leave a comment

Davey D: Hip-hop luminaries show commitment to social issues
By Davey D
Special to Mercury News

http://www.mercurynews.com/eyeheadlines/ci_6192492?nclick_check=1

Earlier this week, a standing-room-only crowd descended upon the bar/spoken word venue called Bar Nun on U street in Washington, D.C., to listen to a hip-hop panel discussion called, “There’s No Problem We Can’t Fix.”

The event was put together to complement the “Take Back America 2007” conference – put on by the progressive Democratic group Campaign for America’s Future – several blocks away. That conference has drawn thousands of people, including presidential candidates and local politicians, to talk about the future of this country.

A large number of hip-hop artists, journalists and activists made their way to Washington and Bar Nun to weigh in on the discussions. Some notables: San Jose’s Shamako Noble, who heads up Hip Hop Congress; the Source magazine editor/activist Biko Baker; and popular artists such as M-1 of dead prez, Umi of the RBG Family, Grammy-nominated rapper Mystic and Mississippi artist Kamikaze.

Hip-hop organizations ranging from the Universal Zulu Nation to Hip Hop Caucus to the League of Hip Hop Voters to the National Hip Hop Political Convention (NHHPC) were also in the building.

Many in attendance at both the “Take Back America” conference and the Bar Nun discussion realize hip-hop has matured and has a sizable power base and resources. Though a lot of the fallout from the Don Imus controversy focused on hip-hop, the movement is alive and well and is determined to be a factor in the 2008 presidential election. If you don’t believe me, then ask some of those presidential candidates whose aides were taking notes at Bar Nun.

During the panel discussion, former Bay Area resident Troy Nkrumah, who chairs NHHPC, said it was important that we in hip-hop be on the ground, engaging the community to make sure we are all on the same page. Many people, he said, irresponsibly speak on behalf of the hip-hop community and make foregone conclusions that are way off base. For example, last year he and his organization conducted a survey in Oakland to determine the biggest issue affecting the hip-hop community. He, along with others, assumed that issues like police brutality and street violence would be at the top of the list. They were surprised to learn the No. 1 issue cited by young adults was health care.

Nkrumah noted they also discovered many of the people surveyed were taking care of sick parents or grandparents, or siblings who had chronic illnesses such as asthma. The caretakers, he said, had insufficient or shabby health care and rarely had enough money to buy medicine.

Dr. Roger Mitchell, who heads the board of the D.C.-based Hip Hop Caucus, supported Nkrumah’s observations and added that many from inner-city communities are suffering from mental stress and other afflictions often overlooked or downplayed. Problems associated with poverty and inner-city living, he said, take a toll on physical and mental well-being.

Nkrumah also noted that none of the presidential candidates, despite their lofty rhetoric about universal health care, has really addressed specific concerns of this generation, nor have any of them outlined a game plan. Those issues will be front and center at the 2008 National Hip Hop Political Convention, which will be held in Las Vegas, and Nkrumah hopes to weigh in on them.

Others in attendance spoke out about the war in Iraq and related issues – including torture and slavery, which they argue takes place in places not only in Guanta`namo Bay and Darfur, but right here at home in our prisons.

Another highlight has been talking with nationally known mix-tape DJs like J Period and DJ Chela, who organized the Bar Nun discussion. During the last election, Period – who works with several activists organizations – played a key role in helping register close to a million people to vote.

DJ Chela spoke about organizing with fellow female DJs and artists to form a collective called New Girl Order. She said it was important that women have prime seats at the table, and that they create a space to develop themselves as leaders.

If that wasn’t enough, a sold out concert with lines stretching down the block at the 9:30 Club was the place where all the above mentioned artists including dead prez, Mystic and Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers who headlined and a host of others from around the country and in the DC area came together to address the issue of Torture and demand the US shut down Guantanamo Bay and restore Habeas Corpus. It was a beautiful thing to see so many people come out in force along with Amnesty International the ACLU and and hear each artist hammer home the key talking points about this important issue.

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Davey D’s hip-hop column is published biweekly in Eye. Contact him at mrdaveyd@aol.com.

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