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

Friday, November 26, 2004

Civic Participation: The Last Frontier

While many of us are still digesting the holiday meals of the week, I’ve been on a continued quest to detect the pulse of what I still think can be a mighty movement – yet many seem to think since the passing of the election that civic participation is dead. The one thing that gives me pause to not agree is the fact that young people such as Amanda Rothman are reporting from her demographic with honesty and maturity beyond her years. This is why catching young people up in the frenzied world of politics – whether it’s using music or cool slogans to attract them – early on establishes a strong root. We cannot dumb everything down because as Talib Kweli once said to me in an interview, the people aren’t stupid.

That said I truly believe that many of the larger efforts to attract the youth (and black) vote through music started far too late. The big names got involved beyond the critical time to really establish a true connection with the people. It became a corny representation of making a serious political action and right some sort of "coolness" ritual. That is the wrong approach and I hope everyone – including us at MfA – will have taken heed to the things that went wrong with the “it’s hip to be voting‿ angle. There has to be an allowance for educating the voters and make it much more inclusive. Too many times I felt this strong Left-leaning stance behind the words of the organizers and there is nothing wrong with investing in what you believe in. However, there has to be flexibility to bring those who are fence straddling into the fold. It can’t be too Hip Hop, too punk or too rock. It has to be, and pardon how corny this may sound, a melting pot philosophy of inclusion.

As far as keeping the youth and minority voters interested, who knows what the future may hold. I’ve milled about the thought of holding classes on civics in the inner city and abroad but I’m not qualified enough to lead a group of students as such. I’ll continue to ponder ideas and thoughts as to aid in making the message heard and the lessons learned. As I’ve learned in the last three weeks, there is much I do not know about how the conservatives and Republicans reached out to their flock. I’m going to dedicate myself in recognizing every trend of outreach available as to better my efforts for those I wish to reach. This is going to take a collective effort and has to encompass many angles. It is a somewhat lonely road trying to connect so many varying dots but it is a task I’m more than willing to undertake. I know I have peers who believe as I do but there exists selfishness in myself to unmask the complexity of this on my own. Until then, I’ll keep trying to both provide you and myself with the answers to the facts I can actually speak upon. We must remember it does not end here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

In The Shadow Of The Nation's Capitol

I’ve been in and around the Nation’s Capital nearly all my life and it never ceases to amaze me how much our lives are affected by the men and women on the avenues of Pennsylvania and Independence. In light of that, it angers me to know that many of the city’s poor residents don’t even care about that very thing. I try to limit my time at night in the Washington, D.C.’s more notorious neighborhoods, but I was returning from a meeting with some resident activists who have concerns about literacy, the reality that they may lose their homes to rising prices and the specter of gentrification. It wasn’t a large gathering nor was it anything that hasn’t been discussed many times over. There exists a portion of the population in urban areas that desire true and noticeable change in their environments. But none of these people ever take those congressmen and women to task – and it could be that they just aren’t acclimated to the crazy and jargon-filled world of politics.

Young people approaching true adulthood are now the MTV/BET/Videogame heads we used to be (and some of us still are in some cases). As I’m slowly moving into the “getting old" bracket, I’m a little more aware of using my stately old man status to command the attention of the kids who probably don’t think I know Chingy from a sound on a cash register. As I leave the meeting, I decided to take the long walk back to the subway train. I usually do this to free my mind for writing in my journals and for this blog. I don’t jump into conversations with young people in the hood because most times it sets off defenses unnecessarily with them. But I had to ask these two guys who were obviously just finishing up their drug selling runs for t he night if they ever voted or cared about politics. One of the kids was 17 and the other was 19. The older kid said what I thought he’d say:

“Voting ain’t changing sh*t out here in these streets for real. So I can’t say I ever will."

It was a long, tense pause after he said that but he finally seemed to lighten up. His friend, however, said that as soon as he's able that he will be in the polls. He said that drugs and weed should be legal so he wants to fight for that – “on the low," he said. That wasn’t the intent I had by speaking to him but if he thinks he can make a change in that arena by voting, I wish the young cat luck. This proved to me that you can reach them and I’m hoping that this sudden quiet hum from all of the rappers and entertainers is just a formality as we wait until the movement to educate people on the political process picks up steam. Take for instance 17-year old Aries Jordan who penned a wonderful editorial here. In a perfect world, all city-bred kids would adopt this stance and be this informed. Of course that may never be the case. The hope I maintain is that after the shock of the outcome of this past election and if the government continues to run from a conservative angle, that it will be an even louder wake up call than November 2nd was.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Still Political P Diddy and Other Things

The Vote or Die! campaign popularized by Sean “P Diddy" Combs is, in his words , “phase one." The venture with Citizen Change to motivate young voters in getting to the polls actually did what the exit polls seemed to not reflect – that there were more young voters in this election than in 2000. Mr. Combs speaks of building from this and encouraging empowerment through politics – and if you’ve been reading this blog you know how I’ve felt about these efforts to attract the so-called “Hip-Hop vote." I don’t question the mission; I merely question the sincerity of it all. We need to get away from that term and move beyond dangling slogans like carrots in front of eager young adults thirsting for a change. Combs and others like him have money, influence and media connections – use them to push the ideals you want. Getting folks to wear slogan shirts and shake their butts or what have you is just the start. What I feel, and perhaps a little smugly, is that we’ll go beyond the call of duty to make sure we educate our readers and volunteers on what it means to be a part of this democracy. Information is not only empowering, it is now necessary given that mainstream media will choose to continually misrepresent the progressive political progress.

Another thing we need to do is not mope. There were so many long faces the next day. After Kerry conceded (and I swallowed that bitter pill), I decided then to dedicate myself to this fight for political awareness amongst the apathetic even more. It’s about realizing a movement and sustaining it. We must continue to fortify these efforts with the same fervor we did to get folks to the polls – which is a strong point raised by a dynamic writer by the name of Raj Jayadev. It’s amazing when you surf the web trying to see if you’re the only one who feels strongly about moving on and beyond that you can actually find a piece out there written by a like-minded individual. That inspires me to continue this fight.

I can be honest with you all and say that I had no idea how aggressively the GOP went after voters and convinced them that the president should be re-elected. I’m not shocked by the news of it but I was so focused on the outreach I was trying to undertake. Davey D mentions this fact as one of the Bay Area media and personalities questioned in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle. The funny thing is that there is tension in the words from these apparently politically active people. It almost has a sense of cowardice in some ways and defeat in others.
That defeatist attitude cannot do. Nor do we resort to insults and berating those who don’t think as we do. In the meantime, let’s hope the other side continues to dismantle from within because a change has to come; it is now the necessary thing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election 2004: Nothing Like Before But Certainly Not Expected

I kept looking at the zombie-tron last night; making sure what I saw was reality. I don’t believe I went to sleep until 5am this morning. I know that I still feel accomplished for the work we and others have done to get out the vote and raise awareness like never before. That doesn’t stop from this point at all, at least not for me. I’m certain that many of my fellow Americans who realize how pivotal this moment is will continue to fight for issues that are fair and hold this administration accountable for anything that detracts from the improvement of this country. I have hope that all the groups like HSAN and Citizen Change do not fall silent because the results are not what were expected – we all did a necessary work. We should take pride in knowing that we empowered many young and uninformed people and armed them with knowledge that I hope sticks to their minds – especially after this.

In this article from Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle, there seems to be the feeling that while efforts to get the youth vote out was a good thing but failed to have the supposed impact on the election. Who knows what really happened as far as turnout is concerned. I know in my own voting district, I saw people of all ages out and motivated. I don’t know how it was nationwide but I just can’t believe that we didn’t get it done on our end. I wish I could trust the media’s assessment of what went wrong – or right, according to your choice. The pundits are licking their chops at our defeat no matter how diplomatic the post-election talks have been. I do agree with the administration’s aim to focus on getting this country back to order and leave partisan leanings aside – yet I only support this notion if those on the other side are truly concerned with working with those who don’t share their ideals.

The Religious Left – something that writer Max Blumenthal mentions in a piece featuring several AlterNet writers. I wonder if that is a true focus to undertake because I can say from my civic minded duties, the black church has certainly got more involved than any other time I can recall. In a voting drive I worked in Baltimore this year hosted by the popular Tom Joyner Morning Show, many of the fans in attendance were from church groups and such. But to engage a religious Left and use that influential muscle to rally a new regime change – I’m still not sure if that’s the answer. And while I refuse to feel a sense of sadness, I can’t help to want to brace myself for some form of impending doom. America, as a good friend said, validated Bush last night. That is a very scary thought indeed.