This past weekend author, journalist and political commentator Bakari Kitwana swung through the Bay Area and gave a keynote speech at the Hip Hop 4 Change conference held at Mills College in Oakland. His speech was insightful as he explained to the capacity crowd that a lot rests on their shoulders and that they will have to step their game up and be keenly aware that they are under the gun by politicians and other outside forces who feel they are fair game to taken advantage of and be politically exploited. Bakari laid out a clear road map for people who identify with Hip Hop to follow.
We broke the 40 minute speech into 4 parts. Here in pt1 Bakari centers his remarks around premise that Hip Hop played a key role in getting President Obama elected but have not mastered the ways to hold him accountable. He noted that many have become discouraged and checked out of politics without fully considering that getting people to stay away and not be political engaged is a desired goal by those holding power. Here Bakari talks about the sudden emergence of the Tea Party. He explains that while there maybe folks showing up at these rallies who are legitimately concerned and angry at the government, we should realize its a media created phenomenon. Bakari goes in as he speaks on the topic of racism, media manipulation and thought control. He also goes in on the topic of how and why we must hold President Obama accountable. He feels that many of us have not mastered this task and sadly many have not spent anytime figuring out what angles to take to push a President he feels is the consummate politician and can be pushed.. He concludes by talking about the biggest threat facing our generation which is incarceration. He explains that this is not an individual scenario but one that needs to be looked at with the understanding that its systematic for a number of reasons deeply rooted in social, political and economic agendas by many in power. He breaks this down.. The Hip Hop Generation and its role in Electoral Politics, The Tea Party, Racism ,Media Manipulation and Thought control, How to Hold President Obama Accountable..Stopping the Incarceration Tide.
You can hear that part of the speech by clicking the link below..
In pt 2 Bakari lays out a lot of detail about the economy. This is one of his areas of expertise and the current topic being addressed by his Rap Sessions Town halls. He goes in on this topic and explains how the flow of wealth has changed directions and talks about the new economic centers springing up around the world in Asia, Russia and India. He notes that this generation will have to think globally if they choose to be entrepreneurs and increasingly so if they even wish to find decent employment and we must familiarize ourselves with what is going on in these places. Many traditional jobs have left the country and will not be returning.
Bakari talks about some of the issues that comedian/social critic Bill Crosby brought up during his recent tour about personal responsibility and why much of what he said was overly simplified. He notes that while personal responsibility is indeed something we all must fully embraced, part of what that entails is fully understanding today’s social-political landscape. Bakari spends some time laying out some unique challenges ranging from the increasing divide between the Have and Have Nots that started with colonialism, was perfected with neo-colonialism and now in full swing with globalization. Bakari parallels some of this with the birth and evolution of Hip Hop music and culture.
He talks about the onslaught of new laws designed to contain people and the militarization of police departments which first emerged in cities like LA under former police chief Daryl Gates to suppress organizations like the Black Panthers. Those militarized police forces stayed around and grew after the Panthers were destroyed to wreak havoc in our communities and continued to grow and be a suppressing force in our communities as they fought the war on gangs, the war on drugs and now the war on terror. Bakari stresses that these and a host of other problems are challenges that must be tackled by today’s post civil rights and Hip Hop generation…
Pt3 of Bakari’s remarks are perhaps the most eye-opening and humbling. Here he talks ver specifically about the emergence and roles played by Hip Hop activists and Hip Hop political organizations. He talks about the beginnings of groups like the Bay Area’s Third Eye Movement stepping up to Fight prop 21 ( The 10th anniversary of that movement is being celebrated this week ) to the formation of the Hip Hop Political Convention. He talks about the emergence of groups like League of Young Voters, Hip Hop Congress and various other youth movements around the country as well as Russell Simmons Hip Hop Summit Action Network. Bakari goes in and explains how much of the work people were doing around the country was fragmented but through Hip Hop and new technology we were able to connect and become aware of each others work, triumphs and tribulations in detail the work many of these groups did to politicize and excite the Hip Hop generation and how that laid the ground work for Barack Obama’s historic presidential campaign which many leaders within those organizations played key roles.
Bakari contends that there was a movement and momentum that was sidetracked and severely slowed down with Obama’s election because folks got caught up in his agenda which was to win an election and not OUR collective agenda which was to be long-term fixtures designed to address critical issues facing our communities Bakari goes in on those points and leaves us with a lot to think about..
Here in pt 4 Bakari concludes his talk by laying out ten concrete steps the Hip Hop generations needs to take to solves some of the unique challenges facing us as well as the steps we need to take to be better equipped and aware when engaging today’s politic climate. Bakari lays out some important solutions..