Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trials Of A Hip Hop Educator: My Reflections On The 2008 National Hip Hop Political Convention...

By Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail. com

It was indeed an honor and pleasure having the opportunity to take part in the 2008 National Hip Hop Political Convention, which holistically took place on July 30th to August 3rd at the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although the conference drew fewer numbers than in the previous two years (2004 and 2006), many of those in attendance agreed that the workshops were of high quality, the voices of conscience present were exceptionally pro-active, the structure very naturally intimate and the spiritual vibes higher than the blazing hot Las Vegas dessert temperatures … if you can believe that! In fact, it was difficult to walk a few steps in the hallways of UNLV in between workshops without being fully engaged in constructive dialogue within a cipher bursting with gleaming smiles.

The topics of discussion ranged well beyond the concept of merely encouraging the youth to register to vote or participating in the electoral process.

While it was inclusive of a genre that is exceedingly enthusiastic about the concept of "Rock the Vote," it was home to activists such as the New Orleans based CR10 who work diligently to expose the abuses that the wealthy and powerful inflict on the poor and powerless on a daily basis; it was home to Hip Hop educational leaders such as Asheru, Tehuti, Jadiem Wilson and Martha Diaz who have learned how to use the system to inspire critical cultural change, literacy and intelligence among young people; it was home to artists and DJs such as Kuttin Kandi, Theory and NY Oil who in their efforts to spark cultural and political change honorably refuse to compromise their talents and principles for the sake of commercial success; it was home to independent film makers such as Jeff Carroll and Byron Hurt who seek to challenge the predominant super-masculine type of thinking within the culture that prompts self-destruction and misogyny; it was home to independent journalists such as Davey D who continue to inspire us to challenge the media by being the media ourselves.

With all of the heated discussions that took place, there were two that resulted in intense emotional outbursts from the crowd stemming from the all too popular question "Okay, now what?" These were at the Black and Brown Unity Luncheon hosted by Rosa Clemente and a panel on challenging stereotypical notions of gender featuring Byron Hurt.

It was clear that a "Make the difference yourself" solution was not merely enough for our Brothers and Sisters from such places on the West Coast like Los Angeles, which is riddled with bloody gang-driven Latino-Black violence day in and day out. Likewise in the case of our Sisters who are looked upon by men less as an integral part of the culture and more as just play things, ready to be exploited and abused no matter where they go. While specific strategies to counter these problems were not developed, and perhaps the forum was not designed to develop specific guidelines for all to follow, it was obvious that those that expressed concern desperately want change. As Convention participants continued to network, a simple yet strong message was emphasized: The work begins when you go back home.

While I reflect on my experiences at the Convention I find myself preparing for yet another school year. I'm going in thinking that this will be a school year unlike any other I have experienced before. I'm going in striving for improvement in order to better prepare my students for the challenges they are yet to face in this ever changing world.

However, I teach them that if they are planning to survive they must strive to learn how to work cooperatively and, as Nelson Mandela put it, become the change that they want to see. To believe that there is a drastic need for CHANGE and be on the mere receiving end of CHANGE accounts for nothing, especially in the midst of a rotting economy, a dumbed down educational system and an ever-degeneration of morals. Likewise should be the approach of those of us who were present at the Convention as well as the many other conscientious folks nation-wide who were not so present at the Convention. How well we stay in contact, organize (for various causes), work together (regardless of the difficulties) and continue to validate one another's accomplishments in the process will be a strong measure of the Convention's success.

For now, may we recognize that as a people we are at a crossroads in our mission. Indeed the Hip Hop generation is the Cornerstone of the New World Order. Because we presently have the attention of the whole world, musically as well as culturally, we are in the Best position to inspire critical thought, and hence critical change on all levels. If we choose we can serve our peoples just as Moses, Jesus and Muhammad did in their times.

As Pop Master Fabel indicated at the Sunday Liberation Theology Panel at the Convention, if we choose, we can be at the forefront of a movement that does away with the religious divisions that we superimpose on ourselves presently as human beings, just as Afrika Bambaataa has shown us with his open door policy in Universal Zulu Nation.

If we choose, we can redirect our attention more towards bonding with one another based on the universality that our faiths teach. If we choose, we can teach the world how to do this. If we choose, we can show the world how to do away with other cancers plaguing us, such as racism, sexism, classism, and the self-hatred that comes as a result.

But as the Hon. Min.
Louis Farrakhan
has shown us, we are currently taking up a position similar to Jonah (as described in the Bible), wandering around in the belly of the beast trying to get away from our mission. Ultimately, Jonah fulfilled his mission and warned Nineveh of the great destruction that would befall it if it did not change its wicked ways. As a result, Nineveh became the only nation saved that is warned in the Bible. Is the United States of America a modern day Nineveh? Mere belief alone counts for nothing unless put into practice. For over 20 years, we have sat back and watched many of our gate keepers sell our music and culture very cheaply to the corporations that are driven to make a profit from us at the expense of our physical, moral and economic well being.

Our culture has been sold cheaply just for a little success, just as our people were sold off in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago in exchange for power (which proved to be limited and ultimately self-destructive); just as the Indigenous people initially sold off land to the European without having a true conception of what the power of "land ownership" was all about.

Today we must reclaim our birthright, no matter how much the enemy has twisted and remolded it to serve his needs and made to look culturally foreign to us. Hip Hop is ours and we can do with it what we please … feed our families, spark intelligence, determine political elections and ultimately save the world. Oh yes, we can do all of these things … if we choose to. May we continue to work to become the agents of change that we are destined to be.


Special Note: Much love respect to Troy Nkrumah, Heather Sanchez, Zidonia Wong, Wilonda Quinn, Mel Moore, Jacquelyn A.
, Justin Ponkow and the rest of the organizers of the 2008 National Hip Hop Political Convention. Your hard work and dedication will not go unrewarded.

See Also...

A Message To The Hip Hop Grassroots From Former Political Prisoner & Black Panther Dhoruba Bin Wahad:

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