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Hip-Hop Fridays: Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Tupac and The Atlanta Journal Constitution

There has never been a more controversial figure in Hip-Hop than the late, great Tupac Shakur. And that controversy continues to spread and grow as more individuals interpret the life and death of the Hip-Hop icon.

A hero to so many in Hip-Hop and a villain to others, Tupac's life and death continues to polarize. That legacy continues today and took an interesting turn when Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.)found herself at the center of controversy in Atlanta for her position and stance in regards to Tupac.

Here is a communication that we received from Rep. McKinney's office last week that details the issue:

On September 4, 2001 Robin McDowell wrote a commentary in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution criticising Congresswoman Cynthia McKiiney for attending an event marking the groundbreaking ceremony of an arts center being built by Tupac Shakur's mother Afeni Shakur to honor the life and work of her son. The commentary was accompanied by a poll, which is still open for votes, so readers of the McDowell piece could vote to support McDowell's position.

Here's what Congresswoman McKinney's son, Coy, had to say about the McDowell piece and Tupac. Following his piece is the original McDowell piece as it appeared in Congresswoman McKinney's local newspaper.

Dear Editor:

This is a letter in response to what Robin McDowell wrote regarding Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tupac Shakur Foundation building on Memorial Drive. Obviously, Robin McDowell does not know and has not bothered to get to know the many sides of the late Tupac Shakur. I could understand anger if McKinney attended the opening of a building for a rapper like Jay-Z or Mystikal because all they talk about is getting money and bling-blinging and nothing about what it's like to live in the ghetto, but Tupac is different. I bet most Tupac critics haven't listened to a single Tupac song or purchased a Tupac CD, because if they had they wouldn't be making such statements. They probably would have been at the opening of the building themselves.

Tupac was much different than the rappers that are around now. He had a conscience and was aware of the world that surrounded him. The anger and the language that he uses in his songs is how he tries to relate the feeling of growing up in the ghetto without a father; how it feels if the only way to make money is to sell drugs. In one of Tupac's songs called "Changes" he lays it all down. Life in the ghetto: something most Americans don't know about because Americans like to hide their problems rather than deal with them. In the song, "Dear Mr. President" Tupac is writing a letter to President Clinton reminding him of all his broken campaign promises and how the ghetto is still the same and that nothing has changed. There are so many songs that are about the way Tupac feels about life and the world. In his song "Dear Mama" Tupac says all the things that happened to him while he was growing up, but at the same time thanks his mom for loving and caring for him even though she was a drug addict while they were living in the ghetto.

Robin McDowell and all the people who voted with Robin should be embarrassed to be angry at Congresswoman McKinney for attending the opening of the Tupac Shakur Foundation building. The building will be a place for young people to express and develop themselves. It will house a center for the arts, a theater, and a recording studio. So, it's a great building for a great man who impacted millions of lives, including my own.

Coy McKinney, 16 years old

* * * * * * * *

September 4, 2001

McKinney glorifies thugs by honoring Shakur

Was it inappropriate for McKinney to attend a dedication for an arts center named for Tupac Shakur?

Yes. She should have stayed away

71% 2785
No. It's not a big deal.

29% 1123

Total Votes   3908


U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) recently attended the dedication for a new arts center in DeKalb County to be named for the late rap artist Tupac Shakur. In doing so, she is politically legitimizing an art form that glamorizes a subculture that kills hundreds of African-Americans every year.

Shakur, himself a victim of gang violence, was an icon of the "gangsta" culture and its music. Although he sometimes urged young blacks to escape the inner city, or identified with their sense of entrapment, he mostly glamorized "gangsta" life with his lyrics and persona. Anyone who does not believe that "gangsta rap" and its performers glamorize and legitimize gangs is fooling themselves. McKinney, and many other blacks, are silent on this.

Switch now to Bremen in west Georgia where the Hammerfest 2000 drew thousands of skinheads and other racists last October to hear "white power music." New York Times columnist Bob Herbert describes songs like "Six Million More" and "Third Reich" being performed to an enthusiastic audience. He quotes Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as saying that the music is extremely effective at recruiting young whites into the various neo-Nazi movements.

So, if white power music fuels racial hatred, which almost no one would deny, how can anyone rationally say that gangsta rap does not fuel, or at least condone, gang violence? How, then, is Shakur worthy of an arts center in his name?

McKinney was right to be angry and indignant when Rep. Bob Barr and other Republicans spoke to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a thinly disguised white supremacist group. But can you imagine her fury if they wanted to build a Nathan Bedford Forrest arts center in her district?

Clearly she does not see the hypocrisy of politically legitimizing Tupac Shakur and his violent subculture while criticizing the C of CC. While she panders, the gang killings will go on, and McKinney will lionize a man who had his perverse idea of black manhood tattooed on his chest: "Thug Life."

Robin McDowell is a geologist living in Atlanta.

Friday, October 5, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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