Ryan Chartrand

A national touring panel shared its opinions about hip-hop, youth vote activism and how they relate to the 2008 presidential election on Tuesday night in Fisher Science room 286.

While much of the forum, “Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop,” centered on how Americans ages 35 and under have come to be defined as the so-called “hip-hop generation,” other hot topics included the prevalence of race consciousness in American society as well as voter apathy.

“Politics has really become a spectator sport over the past few decades, where politicians really aren’t discussing the issues that are pertinent to us,” said Davey D., a hip-hop columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and disc jockey for Berkeley-based KPFA FM.

“People get so caught up in the Lindsay Lohans and Paris Hiltons and what they’re doing that they fail to realize that the socioeconomic conditions around us impact even the non-voter.”

Rosa Clemente, a community organizer, journalist and hip-hop activist based out of Annapolis, Md., agreed.

“There are issues that the mainstream media isn’t presenting us . the hip-hop movement is not a radical, but an honest way to address neglected issues. Too many people get caught up in the media frenzy over a black candidate, so that they won’t remember to ask the hard questions.”

The forum began with a discussion between the two panelists about the current political situation, asking why so many people are getting caught up in the hype over a black candidate.

“We have people who stood out in the snow for two hours in New Hampshire to see Obama speak at a rally,” said Davey D., who spent a considerable amount of time on the campaign trail early in the year.

“I had a homeless man in South Carolina telling me he found inspiration in a black candidate because they shared the same skin color.”

Clemente retorted, “Yes, but people can find false hope in such officials a la Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, who sat in front of the U.N. and gave a speech that he knew was full of shit.”

“I’m not trying to hate; I’m trying to think critically and not let our generation be another one which has gotten duped.”

The debate touched on a variety of topics regarding socioeconomic situations in America and the inherent constraints that such an environment places on aspiring minorities.

Issues ranged from the prison industrial complex to how U.S. politics make even potentially groundbreaking candidates such as Barack Obama adhere to a certain mold.

The late arrival of Shamako Noble, the president and co-founder of the Hip Hop Congress (a nonprofit organization aimed at instigating socioeconomic and political change on local, regional, and national levels), gracefully steered the conversation back to how hip-hop has an immense potential to affect both politics and society.

Beginning with his “Hippie Rap,” Noble took his own spin on a common theme in Barack Obama’s speeches by noting, “It’s not that all Republicans are bad people, but maybe that they just have bad ideas.”

“Love can be a dirty, ugly, painful thing, but it can also motivate people to put their lives and assets on the line for a movement or cause; hope is what motivates our political activity and causes us to inform and be informed.”

Drawing an analogy between the love that came to define the great political movements of the 1960s, Noble reiterated that the newfound love that hip-hop as a movement has forged between young people of all backgrounds needs to serve as a catalyst for change in all social arenas.

“I’ve found a lot of white kids out there who are doing anti-racist things, and it’s because hip-hop gave them a cause to fight for,” Clemente said.

After fielding questions from the audience, the panel took a moment to give a few lasting quotes encapsulating the forum’s overall message that were pertinent to the vast array of topics the forum touched on.

“I come from the ethos that you can make a dollar out of 15 cents, and hip-hop makes a lot of that possible,” Davey D. said.

Noble echoed such sentiments: “Just remember that this is a crazy planet, and everything is possible.”

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