The Hip-Hop Revolution


LL Cool JBy Manning Marable

I know this is going to sound corny, but [hip-hop music is] about black love and esteem…[it’s] about the resilience of the spirit to move forward. I’m proud to be who I am my history and heritage are rich. My ancestors were incredibly formidable people who survived things in history that killed others…. It’s because of them that we can be here saying things like “blacker than the nighttime sky/of Bed-Stuy in July.”  Mos Def, 1998

At first impression, it appeared to be an unlikely alliance: hundreds of public school 
teachers, mostly white, middle class, and many Jewish; tens of thousands of 
African-American, Caribbean, and Latino teenagers; representatives of black nationalist and radical political organizations, from the Nation of Islam to the Communist Party USA; celebrities from the entertainment industry, such as Cynthia Nixon, costar of the popular television show “Sex and the City;” and many of hip-hop music’s elite performance artists. In May 2002, New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that due to the economic devastation in the city in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, as much as $1 billion had to be cut from the city’s public-school budget.

Responding to the crisis of public school funding, hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons took the lead to put together an ad-hoc coalition for staging a nonviolent protest at City Hall. Representatives from the United Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Quality Education cosponsored the rally. The protest demonstration, which was named “Mobilization for Education,” was planned and coordinated by Simmons’s chief political adviser and key figure in the year-old Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, Minister Benjamin Muhammad, formerly Benjamin Chavis.

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