Ten years ago, various Bay Area youth organizations and movements found themselves coming together to fight a hideous juvenile crime bill called Prop 21. This bill among other things would charge youth as young as 14 as adults and gave the police sweeping powers including the right to detain and arrest three or more people ‘dressed in similar attire’ as a gang. It was a special time in the Bay Area and even though the bill passed in California it was defeated here in the Bay Area where most of the organizing took place..
The fight against Prop 21 was more than just walk outs and chants… It was strategy building. It was coalition building. It was connecting to other movements and struggles with obtaining Social Justice as a guiding principle. It was elders from past movements sitting down and working with young people. It was building upon and working with movements that had been sparked by freedom fighter Angela Davis and the historic Critical Resistance Conference at UC Berkeley. It was working with the movements sparked in earlier years by the Chicano Moratorium, Olin and Student Empowerment Project which were key in organizing students to fight propositions targeting immigrants like the English language only Prop 227 and the so called ‘Save Our States‘ anti-immigrant Prop 187.
The fight against Prop 21 was one that saw folks take momentum that had been sparked with organizations like the October 22 Coalition, Ella Baker Center and the then emerging Third Eye Movement around the police killings of Aaron Williams and later Sheila Detoy in which a police officer said Detoy got killed because she was ‘living a hip Hop lifestyle’ .
The Fight Against Prop 21 was one in which Hip Hop artists of various disciplines came together and the It was young people going around from corner to corner politicizing their peers. It was artists like a then unknown Goapele showing up at rallies and blessing us with inspiring songs like ‘Aint No Sunshine‘ where she flipped a Noreaga beat and told us why we needed to Fight this insidious Crime Bill. It was popular artists like Boots Riley of the Coup going around with organizers like Marcel Diallo and giving impromptu concerts on the back of flat-bed trucks in West oakland. It was artists like The Deliquents, Money B, Mystic Journeymen, Blackalicious and so many others using their clout to speak out against t the bill It was artists like Michael Franti connecting his s 9-11 Power to the Peaceful concerts which was focused on freeing Mumia and political prisoners to the Fight against Prop 21.
The Fight Against Prop 21 eventually led to the formation of our current syndicated Hard Knock Radio Show on KPFA which is also celebrating its 10 year anniversary. It was a huge boost to my Sunday night show Street Knowledge on commercial giant KMEL with various organizers coming on each week to lace people about the protests and events being planned around the fight.. Later that fight helped spark the Local Flava Hour that myself and DJ Sake 1 did -special shout out to Gold Toes and the Deliquents who helped flipped that for us..
There are so many stories to tell and so many people cut their teeth and became well-known around the country for their organizing. One of the more nationally known figures was former White House Green Jobs appointee Van Jones..but there were scores of people who came out and put in work.. Yesterday some of those key organizers like George Galvis, Krea Gomez, Laatefah Simon, Malachi Garza, Nancy Pili and Tony Coleman came together to share reflections and insights, mistakes made and victories won. We’ll be airing some of that conversation later today (april 22 2010) on Hard Knock Radio 94.1 FM 4Pm PST www.kpfa.org
Below are some articles and videos to gives folks a flava of what took place during a time that many out here found special…
Third Eye Fights Back Against Prop 21
by Davey D-2/4/00
Big Props are in order to The Bay Area’s premier Hip Hop organization Third Eye Movement. This past Thursday they were featured on NPR [National Public Radio] where they brought to light the types of methods currently being employed to engage the Hip Hop community and politics. Most notable was was when the group recently showed up with over 300 folks and shut down San Francisco’s Hilton Hotel. Folks are still talking about that incident when Third Eye came down and brought the heat when it was discovered that the hotel chain was supporting Prop 21, California’s Anti-Gang Youth Crime Prevention initiative. It was a sight to behold when all these Hip Hop headz showed up and completely surrounded the hotel. They raised their fists and began chanting in unison a customized version to the popular rhyme featured in the Sugar Hill Gang classic ‘Rapper’s Delight‘.
Hotel Motel –And The Hilton
If you start a war on youth
You ain’t gonna win!
The youth then entered the hotel lobby while still holding up raised fists and began chanting a customized version of the chorus to DMX‘s ‘Ruff Ryder’s Anthem’.
Stop! Drop! People Gonna Rise To the Top!
ooh! ooh! Prop 21’s Gotta To Go!
Stop! Drop! People Gonna Rise To the Top!
ooh ooh Prop 21’s Gotta To Go!
The end result was the Hilton coming out and clarifying their position on the Prop 21. They made it known that it was the president or chairman of the Hilton who was backing Prop 21 and not the chain itself. It was great to get that sort of response and un-blurring of the lines. That wasn’t bad for a bunch a Hip Hop headz who are just getting into politics. The other noteworthy event involved several other Bay Area Hip Hop and youth organization who co-ordinated efforts and held three simultaneous protests against PG &E [Pacific Gas and Electric]. This included San Jose’s UKAH, Concord’s C-Beyond and Third Eye. Again more then 300 folks showed up at each PG &E office demanding that they back down on their support of Prop 21. The result was a sit down meeting with PG &E management in which they came and stated that they would be neutral on the position. Because PG & E had given money to the initiative, there was a push to have them donate equal money to fight the initiative. That hasn’t happened yet.
The other victory Third Eye had was with Chevron where they got this big corporation to come out and publicly state they were neutral on Prop 21. All this is encouraging at a time when so many insist on holding a negative image of Hip Hop.The other thing that should be emphasized is that while Third Eye and these others Hip Hop organizations were out there bringing the heat noticeable absent were some of the more traditional organizations who haven’t been aggressively breaking bread with Hip Hop.
In addition to organizing these large scale protests, Third Eye has been hard at work passing out literature and literally going door to door explaining to people the provisions in Prop 21. At first the education was taking place within the High schools and various college campuses but with a month left before the March 7th election, you will no doubt see their activities and visibility increased. There is some sort of big hip Hop rally/concert activity scheduled for February 21st.
Other Hip Hoppers stirring up noise on this on the political front include Keith Knight of the social conscious Hip Hop band Marginal Prophetshttp://www.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Marginal_Prophets. In addition to throwing down on the mic..Knight has made a name for himself as a cartoonist whose work can be seen in all sorts of publications ranging from The SF Examiner Newspaper to Salt Lake City Weekly tohttp://www.salon1999.com. Recently he penned a powerful cartoon bringing attention to Prop 21. All sorts of organizations have made copies and have been passing them out. By the way folks may want to peep the group’s album ‘Twist the Knob’.
The Bay Area’s hottest act The Delinquents from East Oakland are also getting into the act. They’re in the process of making post cards that shows their picture on the front with a big Vote No on Prop 21 on the back. They have also included some facts about the proposition as well as their position on other electoral issues. In addition to their popularity, the group has a huge truck that is shrink wrapped with their picture and album cover. They’ll be using this truck promotional tool to get the word out to their folks in the hood to get out and vote as bring them up to speed on some of the politics getting ready to effect ‘The town’.
Respond to Davey D at: Mrdaveyd@gmail.com
Hip Hop ActivismTo The Fullest!
by – Davey D
It was a weekend of intense activism here in the Bay Area as there were several successful ‘No On Prop 21‘ [Juvenile Crime Initiative] rallies that brought together clergy, elected officials and scores of Hip Hoppers. Rarely has anyone witnessed this type of activism and coming together.Things kicked off on Saturday morning with the opening of the ‘No on Prop 21’ campaign office here in Oakland [1019 Clay St in downtown Oakland]. Alameda County supervisor Keith Carson along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee secured a spacious location in downtown. Rap artists and Hip Hop organizations including, Boots of The Coup, Son of Nat Turner The 2Pac One Nation Committee, The Black Dot Collective, Underground Railroad and Third Eye Movement to name a few came out in full force.
Here they broke bread with more established community activists and elected officials like the The Mayor of Berkeley [Shirley Dean] , the former Vice Mayor of Oakland [Ignacio De La Fuente] , County supervisors [Mary King, Keith Carson], local City Council members [Larry Reid, Nancy Nadel] and a number of Ministers representing every religion from Baptists to Muslims to Jews. It was really a beautiful thing and the energy that resonated throughout was contagious.
The Ministers led people in prayer while Boots and several emcees ripped some wicked freestyles that directly dealt with the Prop 21 initiative. Everyone took time out to directly address the large audience by offering insight, possible solutions and words of encouragement. Several members who are down with the 2Pac One Nation Committee, The Black Dot Collective and Black Folks Against Prop 21, have put together a weekly political education newsletter called the ‘Daily Struggle [Makin Sure The Hood Knows What’s Crackin]‘ which they have been delivering door to door throughout the hood.
After the introductions were made and strategies imparted the large gathering grabbed pens and pads and went canvassing local neighborhoods. Everyone realizes there is a lot of work to be done getting the word out to the masses. In spite all the activism, there are still lots of people who simply do not know and need to be brought up to speed.Later that afternoon, former Black Panther chief of staff and current Oakland City Council candidateDavid Hilliard put together a large rally in West Oakland. In a move that was reminiscent of the old Panther days of the ’60s, he along with his crew gave out free lunches and brought out emcees from numerous local crews came out to perform and help get people registered.
.Lockdown 2000 Event A Success!
The highlight of the weekend was an event called Lockdown 2000. Here more than 1500 people showed up for a night of ‘cultural revelation’ which included spoken word, Hip Hop performances and dance. All the artist which include Michael Franti, Jason ‘The Kreative Dwella’, Local 1200 DJs and Amandla Poets to name just a slight few, donated their time as each one passionately brought attention to the issues at hand. Those issues were the case surrounding Mumia Abu Jamal and other political prisoners, the building of prisons as opposed to schools and Prop 21. To see all these folks from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, both young and old come together in such large numbers was incredible. Here’s a brief description from former Black Panther and activist Kiilu Nyasha. For folks who are unfamiliar with this sista she is one of the key elders in the Bay Area who early on had sat down and directly worked with a lot of the Bay Areas ‘conscious’ artists like Paris and Boots to name a few and laced them with some serious political game.
Every group and individual who performed or spoke packed a powerful political punch — and the messages were delivered with terrific artistry and pizazz. Our keynote speakers were Ida McCray Robinson of Families With A Future and Pam Africa of MOVE and The International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who brought with her from Philly her husband, Buck, and daughter, Pixie (11). There was sooo much love in that venue, such positive spiritual energy that folks walked away saying things like “amazing,” “awesome,” “the bomb!” I’m hoping Wanda Sabir will write a fuller description of the performances in her own unique style, so you can get the full flavor of the event.. All the organizers and performers/speakers volunteered their time, so we cleared well over $6000! We not only packed the place; every group imaginable was represented — from babies to teenagers, young adults and elders, Africans, Asians, Latinos, and Natives. What made it all happen, of course, was the wonderful spirit of cooperation displayed by all who helped pull it together. As one of the organizers, I can say honestly that I never got a “no” from anyone I approached for help; and lots of folks called and volunteered their assistance.
Noticeably absent from all these positive events were reporters from all of the Bay Area’s major TV and newspapers. As early as Saturday morning, I was still getting phone calls from reporters who still wanted to drudge up the drama behind the Cash Money concert violence from two weeks ago. Unfortunately, while they were diligent in covering the violence, not one of them bothered to be diligent in covering the building and coming together of Hip Hoppers who are successfully getting people politicized. There was no mentions on the radio. There were no articles in the local papers and no film clips on the 6 o’clock evening news.
What was most troubling, was the fact that calls were made directly to the weekend assignment editors of these outlets both the day of the event as well a couple of days before alerting them of these activities. The people who placed these calls were some of these high ranking elected officials who normally don’t have a problem obtaining press coverage. In fact while reporters were conspicuously absent from these rallies and events they managed to cover some of these same elected officials at other gatherings. For example, Congresswoman Barbara Lee who helped secure the ‘No On Prop 21’ campaign office spoke at the ‘No on Prop 21’ rally.
So to the average person who still religiously depends upon traditional mediums for his news and community information, there is no such thing as Prop 21. The thought of Hip Hoppers engaging in politics is still unfathomable. All he knows is that his local congresswoman was hard at work fighting for rent control and that’s it. Now, I’m not naive enough to expect anything different from the mainstream news media, but I had no idea it would be so blatant in its dismissal. Maybe its me, but I figured at a time when we have all sorts of drama surrounding Hip Hop in the form of Puffy, Jay-Z and other rap stars, seeing Hip Hop headz working alongside elected officials and the religious community would be a welcome change that one would proudly want to report.
The reason behind doing this would be to first, give props to people who are hard at work doing the ‘right’ thing and secondly, encourage and inspire a supposedly apathetic public to do the same. The big story here was that these Hip Hop artists and organizations working with elected officials is not a gimmick. It isn’t a cute stunt put together to create a photo op. It’s the real deal. It was months and even years of hard work finally manifesting itself in a new type of activism. When was the last time you went to a political rally and Hip Hoppers were equal participants? When was the last time you came across artists who were more interested in addressing the audience and expressing their views as opposed to getting wreck on the mic and using tan occasion as a disingenuous way to promote their album? I guess a multi-ethnic, intergenerational, multi-faceted gathering of people is threatening to the assignment editors of an industry that thrives on divisiveness and continuous mayhem.
Here’s a few other articles to peep