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

Friday, August 27, 2004

RNC in NYC: Let's Just Wait And See What Happens

In 2000, I attended the RNC in Philadelphia as a reporter and I was promptly swept into a back of a police van with several MOVE members – most notably Mike Africa . My grandparents saw me being hurled into the back of the police vehicle on their local news channel; I’m sure at the time it did nothing for their sanity. It was the first time I’ve ever been in the middle of a protest and I can say that for a time, I was terrified. The noise, the ruckus and just the overall energy in Philadelphia was unlike anything I’ve ever been through. I told myself then that it’d be a cold day in hell before I’d go do something like that again.

And here I am preparing to travel to New York for this year’s RNC because a group of friends are headed up to join a anti-RNC protest. I’m not doing anything of that sort but I must admit that I’m eager to see if the energy level matches what I saw in Philly those four years ago. It seemed like every young and disenfranchised ethnic group was out there in full protest mode – there was not one group not represented in some fashion. The oddest moment of that evening wasn’t me being cast as a troublemaker by Philadelphia’s riot squad. That distinction belongs to when I happened across Malik B, then still a loosely-affiliated member of the Philadelphia-based Hip Hop band, The Roots . He was either intoxicated out of his mind or distracted by the din around us but he grabs my mini-recorder and recites this fiery, if poorly focused, freestyle about the surroundings and politics in general. Then he takes my recorder and begins to interview random people walking the block; probably scaring a few older folks in the process. I wish I could say it was all a twisted dream but I assure you, it all happened.

I attended part of the DNC in Los Angeles in 2000 – all without incident or protest. If there were any protests, they were snuffed well before any of the key events of that week. I didn’t even do much in the way of work. I was essentially a tourist with a press pass. In 2000, just as I do now, I was trying to discover a link between these conventions (and also all things political) and the young voters the candidates and political parties so openly coveted. I walked away in 2000 not feeling as if it ever connected with those on the fence and it’s more of the same this year; so many squandered opportunities to gain some new blood in their respective parties.
As corny as I find the term "hip-hop voting bloc", it’s effective in what’s trying to be achieved by the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and its organizers. Bakari Kitwana’s piece for illustrates why he thinks this new voting bloc would be better off not voting for the good senator. However, I loved the part where he detailed how Barack Obama and Jon Edwards were on that platform at this year's DNC doing what they’re supposed to do, and that while it was stirring it still begs to be scrutinized heavily. Do not follow anyone blindly, young voters. Even those of us that shine brightest have the capacity to short out at a moment’s notice.


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