Ryan Chartrand

To start off the celebration of Black History Month, the documentary “Letter to the President” will be shown by the Multicultural Center and Student Life and Leadership Thursday at 3 p.m. in the University Union, room 219.

“The film is about how hip-hop helped shape black America following the civil rights movement and it’s from a completely black perspective,” said Brian McMullen, journalism major and president of the Students United by Hip-Hop Culture club. “It is one of the new parts of black history that isn’t getting a lot of attention in history classes and it’s really interesting to see.”

The 2005 film follows pressing political and social issues that have affected an often overlooked part of society: the young hip-hop community. Director Thomas Gibson utilizes emotion and shock to demonstrate the intertwining of U.S. politics and the black community, while looking at controversial issues such as cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods and the U.S. prison system.

“The attitude of the film is provocative and it’s from a strong liberal point of view. It’s definitely an eye-opener. It tells about the history of hip-hop and how it related to the black community’s struggle,” said Brenton Smith, civil engineering junior and Multicultural Center student assistant. “It focuses on the hip-hop community after President Reagan’s term in office and the effects of his policies. Hip-hop was used as a voice to speak out against it; it was the black community’s new voice.”

The video takes a strong stance on these issues, and its controversial nature calls for audiences with receptive consciences.

“You have to watch it with an open mind,” Smith said. “It might piss people off, but in my opinion, it’s good because it makes people think and have an opinion.”

Narrated by Snoop Dogg, “Letter to the President” features many big-name interviews from historians and celebrities including Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, Common and 50 Cent.

“People might be more willing to listen if it’s their favorite artist telling them rather than just some historian. You will also get the viewpoint of the historian and then you’ll be able to take what you want from it,” Smith said.

The 90-minute film takes a different approach to issues within the black community and uses a more personal point of view.

“It’s not like watching The History Channel on how the hip-hop community started. It is from the viewpoint of the people who were actually there when it started, and the people who wrote it,” Smith said. “It’s better than showing your average Martin Luther King Jr. video that everyone has seen a million times.”

The film is R-rated due to drug content and violent images, and has been referred to as a “hip-hop ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′” according to movie review Web site Rotten Tomatoes.

It is free and open to the public. Following the film will be an open forum for viewers to express their opinions about the movie and its issues.

The screening of this film is the first event to kick off the celebration of Black History Month. All throughout February, Cal Poly clubs and organizations will be hosting speakers, live music, discussions and more.

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