D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I Thought I Told You That We Won't Stop: Puff Daddy Making Politics Sexy?

In a recent article published by the Associated Press by way of the Tucson Citizen, there was an announcement of a new, nonpartisan alliance between Sean "P Diddy" Combs, James Carville and others to form the newly minted voting initiative project titled Citizen Change. Beyond the potential anti-Republican rallying cries this group could potentially express, they claim to want to invoke dialogue between both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates at their respective parties’ national conventions. Citizen Change will host events centered during both conventions and will present invitations to the candidates. We should applaud P Diddy for using his money and influence for the greater good. We should also note that the group will be working closely with other organizations and clothing companies such as the the Hip Hop Summit Action Network and Ecko Clothing . True enough the shock slogan of "Vote or Die" on the front of T-shirts and clothing items is quite ambitious yet we should still question the motives of those involved. Companies with far-reaching marketing appeal are still advertising items during these rallies and voter drives. While we shouldn’t knock these companies for attempting to cash in and expose their product to all those easily influenced eyeballs, the corporate specter looming overhead could prove to be bothersome. That isn’t pessimism; it’s reality.

I’m a firm believer in the theory of using whatever works to get people interested in productive things. I sincerely hope Puffy doesn’t make a mockery of himself and his position as a mogul for the sake of gaining favor in higher places. I don’t know the man’s motivation other than what he’s already stated. I want to trust him when he says he wants to make voting, in his words, "sexy", which I take to mean the he intends to craft this campaign into something the younger potential voters won’t mind participating in. I can’t imagine why the stakes became suddenly high when just a few years ago he wasn’t even registered to vote yet was urging others to do so at a voting rally held by close friend Russell Simmons out in the Hamptons. These actions, while noble, should still be under scrutiny. Not to downplay the significance of what P Diddy is doing but along with telling people they should vote, are they explaining the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Are they giving true history behind the power of voting and the hell people had to endure to gain those rights or are they just collecting bodies? Voter registrations without voter education hold little weight.

In comparison, why should Donna Brazile , the former campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 Presidential run, and her urgings to the Hip Hop community be taken any more seriously? Is it because her credentials are stronger? Is it because she has the backing of reputable and long-standing organizations? She speaks with the urgency and sincerity many politicos employ when looking to galvanize groups but that does not excuse her from caution. The challenge we of the so-called Hip Hop generation face should most ardently engage in is one of making sure these political figures, entertainers and others truly understand that we expect them to be true leaders. We're a nation of people hopeful and perhaps desperate for a reason to believe in the power of true democracy. Not every message to us needs to have the backdrop of a dope beat or fancy threads to get us interested. All we can hope for is that the messages and the messenger won't let us down when we do decide to step in unison with them.


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