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The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Declares Victory On Education Issue - Utilizing Hip-Hop Stars To Create Political And Social Reform

NEW YORK, N.Y. - JUNE 24, 2002 - In the two weeks since the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network joined with the United Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Quality Education to mobilize 100,000 voices for New York schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has settled the 18-month standoff with the teachers union with an accepted offer of a 16 per cent raise, and then restored $298 million to the education budget proposal he presented to the New York City Council. With these actions, the HSAN has demonstrated its ability to empower its constituency of artists, executives, civil rights leaders, parents, and most importantly, kids, to make positive change in the political landscape.

"This is a victory for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network because we helped prevent the Mayor from deepening the crisis put into play by Mayor Giuliani," affirms Russell Simmons, co-founder of the HSAN, and the man Entertainment Weekly credits with the ability to "mobilize an army of stars in an unprecedented show of political will that may signal a new era of hip-hop activism."

Those stars, which included LL Cool Jay, Jay Z, Foxy Brown, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy and more, brought out New York City students who know too well the difficulties of getting a good education with a lack of materials, classrooms and programs. "For most of these kids, this was their first experience protesting, and it was our goal to empower them," explains the HSAN's Minister Benjamin Muhammad. "The reinstatement of the $298 million into the budget, not to mention the settlement of the teachers' contracts, empowered them in a big way."

Sollie Rose, a 17-year-old recent graduate of Andrew Jackson High School in Queens, went to the rally at the behest of the rappers who called out to her via radio PSAs. She had already felt the budgetary restrictions in school where she had to share textbooks in crowded classrooms, and couldn't figure out how students could continue if any more money was cut from education. To that end, she showed up at City Hall and heard Chuck D say: "You've got a Mayor who's a billionaire who wants to take the opportunity away from you to become the same kind of person."

"I heard that," Rose recalls. "The important thing is that we got the Mayor to change his mind. I went down there, got lost in the crowd--I didn't expect it to be 100,000 people. Then after it was over, it took me 3 hours to get home. When the Mayor changed his mind, I got a warm feeling in my heart and thought, 'I would do this all again.' To be young, helping people my own age is very exciting."

Parent Tyrone Gray sees his participation in the rally as a triumph on a personal level. "Because of the way programs were in my son's school, he lost interest and dropped out," Gray says. "That was one of the catalysts that drew me to the rally." Gray hisself is a product of New York City Public Schools and programs like Executive Internships, where by maintaining his grade point average, he would intern at a radio station that eventually became his place of employment and the launch of his career. At the rally, Gray was "pleased to see some of the rappers speak out about schools. They had sincerity of their hearts. Hip-hop is a very powerful thing; remember, those same kids will go back to the voting public-their parents-who will make the decision about re-electing Mayor Bloomberg. And its going to get even more political, because those same students who came to the rally will, in 5 years from now, be voters themselves."

Prior to the Mobilization for Education, the HSAN had been meeting with the Federal Trade Commission about the hip-hop industry's increase in the use of a parental advisory label for recorded music, talked with Federal Communication Commission chairman Michael K. Powell about unjust fines imposed on a radio station that played the Eminem song "The Real Slim Shady" (since repealed) and another that played the hip-hop poem "Your Revolution" by the spoken-word artist Sarah Jones (Jones is suing the FCC with the HSAN support).

The New York Times has been keeping track of all the movement by the HSAN. In a recent article, they reported: "The network is a year-old federation that brings together rap stars, record company executives, civil rights stalwarts and newer grass-roots groups with a sprawling agenda from ending racism to lobbying on behalf of industry concerns about restrictions on hip-hop music. Largely because of Mr. Simmons's visibility, it is the first organization to receive national attention for exploring the nexus between hip-hop and politics."

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

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