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Hip-Hop Fridays: E-Letter To and Lee Hubbard Re: A Hip-Hop Peace Movement?

I really appreciated your recent piece on the prospects of a Hip-Hop peace movement and some of the dynamics that make such a movement possible or ill advised. It is an important article that I think everyone in the community should read as they ponder Hip-Hop's role, and even responsibility, juxtaposed to the "war on terrorism".

I for one am skeptical about the Hip-Hop community's ability to form an influential peace movement at this stage.

As you know, I have written, in the past, that while I agree with most of what the Hip-Hop activist community identifies as problematic in society, I am troubled by their inability to move beyond a romantic attachment to the 1960s. This may become an especially fatal flaw of the community in light of the war effort currently underway.

I for one, am not convinced that the Hip-Hop community truly understands what happened in the 1960s and as a result of that belief I am concerned that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes made in that era if we operate under an incomplete understanding of what truly motivated the leaders and movements of the 1960s and the fate that they met. In addition, I have serious reservations about the real comprehension in the Hip-Hop community of what strategy and tactics were used to destroy the movements of the 1960s and 70s that are so revered today. In just about every conversation that I have had with members of the Hip-Hop activist community, I have been struck by how little is known of what the CIA and FBI actually did in an effort to destroy the Civil Rights Movement, The Black Nationalist/Pan Africanist Movement, and the socialist and anti-war movements. And maybe even more unsettling, I have noticed how little today's Hip-Hop activists know of the work of the National Security Agency and the Mossad - the Israeli intelligence agency. One of the greatest deceptions in play today inside of the Black community, and by default the Hip-Hop community, is that the FBI and CIA are leading the war against revolutionary struggles at home and abroad. They are little more than the frontmen for other organizations that are much more technologically advanced and international in scope. Mossad, NSA, and BSS (British Secret Service) are the real leaders in today's counter-intelligence efforts. Too heavy of a focus on the FBI and CIA like I notice exists among most of the Hip-Hop activist community today, will lead to some serious mistakes that could cost sincere but ignorant people their lives.

Another reason for my doubts about the formation of a viable Hip-Hop peace movement is the general lack of influence that the Hip-Hop activists have with Hip-Hop artists. While I think that artists should share some of the blame for this situation, I hold the activists more responsible due to the manner in which they often approach artists. Many act as if the artist(s) owe the activist something. Quite often the activist has a legitimate cause that deserves support but because of the arrogance that some have and the self-centered nature of their approach, they are unable to make a connection that would further their cause.

I can't tell you how many activists I have spoken to about this. I remember the manner in which many would approach Wu-Tang Clan when I managed them. Almost invariably they came looking for money or an on-stage appearance at a rally they were having. They made their case but they did nothing to form a relationship with us beyond their special event. And none of them took the time to inquire about what community-oriented projects Wu-Tang already had in motion. And when they did become aware of such projects, few offered to support the efforts or work on creative forms of synergy between what they were doing and what we were doing. While there is a tragic amount of ignorance, arrogance and apathy that exists on the part of the artists I have noticed a greater or equal amount of self-righteousness, vanity and selfishness on the part of individuals who claim to represent the community. And I also have detected a great amount of resentment on the part of many activists and academics who work in Hip-Hop who seem to think that every Hip-Hop artists should be beating down his or her door seeking their counsel and guidance. Again, I certainly think that many of these academics and activists are qualified to advise artists but not if they refuse to take the basic steps required to form a meaningful relationship with them. Prior to telling an artist what to do, an activist should prove their basic respect for the artist as a person and then demonstrate their relevancy to the artist's career.

I consistently encourage activists to help artists take control of their economic reality. If the Hip-Hop activist community would help artists become more aware of the financial ramifications of their contracts and would help them unite with one another and leverage artist unity to earn more for their creative works, they (the activists) would have demonstrated their commitment and relevancy to the artists and in the process would have earned a loyalty that would spill over into the realm of community activism and politics.

The bottom line is that without the artists, any Hip-Hop peace movement will become a limited and largely intellectual exercise among those perceived by the people as elites. As much as some of us may be distressed by the lyrical content and the preoccupation that most platinum-selling artists have with ice, thongs and guns, these "youth leaders" are necessary to the creation of regional and national movements centered around important issues like the war in Afghanistan; globalization and HIV/AIDS. Without the artists you have a strong argument and leadership but no followers. There must be a protocol in creating and organizing a Hip-Hop peace movement and the artists must be front and center in that effort in order for the important ideas and arguments to be spread far and wide and eventually evolve into law and custom. Once the artists and the youth that follow them are on board, everybody else will follow. As Minister Farrakhan has put it, "Get the masses and you will get the classes". The activist community in my opinion, often spends more time trying to convert the classes than they do with those who truly move the masses.

{Of course not all of the activists I know are like this. Many who work on the prison-industrial complex-related issues have done a fine job of showing how this can be done.}

Your article helps us take one of the first steps in the process by getting many of the issues and various viewpoints of the Hip-Hop community onto the table of discussion. From there we can identify shared principles and values and a self and collectively enlightened interest which can serve as the rallying point for action.

I do hope that what you have written is only a "Part one".


Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, November 2, 2001

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