Hip-Hop Nation

| August 5, 2002

Hip-Hop Nation

The recent gathering of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, in which musicians like Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs, Alicia Keys and LL Cool J protested New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's impending $358 million cut in education funding, was a victory on many fronts. After the demonstration, Mayor Bloomberg shelved his original plan and reinstated almost $300 million to his budget proposal. Just as important, the protest showcased hip-hop's power as both a political and cultural movement. However, as Bakari Kitwana tells Suzy Hansen in Salon, this is no time for hip-hop activists to rest satisfied.

Kitwana, author of 'The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture,' says that hip-hop can go beyond what the civil rights movement accomplished through a national organization that 'taps into the vast economic power of the hip-hop industry and focuses on education, employment and incarceration.'

For hip-hop to create change, Kitwana adds, it must also lose its celebrity focus and concentrate on the activists that make up the movement: 'We are immersed in a celebrity culture and when the celebrities show up, it eclipses the importance of the work of the activists,' he says.

Kitwana also cautions against premature celebration. The protest may have done much to reverse one policy, he says, but the work isn't done: 'If they think they can show up one day to bring about social change, then they are sadly mistaken. One rally does not a revolution make.'
--Julie Madsen
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