Sending a Message

Young activists put their doubtsand dreams into words


| September / October 2006


Written correspondence is often lamented as a lost art, but the book Letters from Young Activists (Nation Books, 2005) cuts against that conventional wisdom. The compendium includes dozens of incisive missives to addressees who range from real people ('Dear Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice') to symbolic ones ('Dear Doubter') to entire movements ('Dear Punk Rock Activism'). The letters reveal a younger generation of socially conscious, culturally aware people reflecting on the past and speculating on what the future holds for their movements, and themselves. These are a few of our favorites.
-The Editors


Dearest Hip Hop,

What's up? It's been a minute since we had a sit-down together. I mean, I still see you at shows, we give each other a pound, and sometimes we even kick it at my spot and listen to records. But it ain't like it used to be. You've changed, and I didn't want to admit it. I been thinking about it a lot lately. I see you everywhere I go, and you all up in folks' mouths that don't have no right to call you by your true name, 'cause they don't know even half the game. Sometimes it feels like you forgot where you came from, or someone's trying real hard to make you forget who you were, and that you coulda been more than a contenda, back in the day.

Oftentimes, I wonder if you even remember the times when we would hang out at the cement city schoolyards in the south, South Bronx, plug into a lamppost, scratch scavenged sides simmering with stolen sounds and spit street science and inner-shitty subversion all night, and say 'fuck you' to the popo as they rolled by, afraid to disturb our anti-governmental groove, un-regimented rhymes, and anti-authoritarian azz shaking.

You were born a bad azz bastard b-boy/girl, a historical hybrid full of as many counter_cultural contradictions as the project physicians that brought you into creation, built from bad breaks and basuras, cross colors and Krylon. You were salvaged from garbage cans and demolition dumps, boosted in bulky parkas, and borrowed from our mom's 45 collection, scrawled on the stank subway 6 train, and plastered on piss-filled platforms and sacred playgrounds.

You were our 10-point program, our list of demands, a declaration of existence, our statement of resistance, a shout (out) from those whose tongues had been previously tied by the shitstem, a voice for those who were not supposed to be seen or heard. Because you existed, we persisted. And you were as rebellious as a riot, as insubordinate as us, a borrowed black-brown-Boricua bible tribal tone poem pieced together from the Samo shit talk and sabotage Spanglish, a ghetto griot's god-guided tour of every gutter and all-borough bombing. You were just as hard as Harlem, as bad as the Boogie Down and Brooknam, and as stunning as Strong Island, St. Albans, and Shaolin.