Turning Outrage Into Power-National Hip Hop Political Convention

National Hip Hop Political Convention-nhhpc

Turning Outrage Into Power
By Malik Cooper, WireTap

Alternet — August 16, 2006


Saying hip-hop is global now isn’t telling you
something you don’t already know, unless you have been
living under a rock since Planet Rock first dropped.
But using the art form for political gains is something
new, and spearheading this movement is the National Hip
Hop Political Convention (NHHPC).

The 2006 NHHPC in Chicago — the second biennial
convention — opened on July 20 and over the course of
three days engaged over 1,000 participants in the
debates over issues like misogyny in hip-hop, media
justice, the aftermath of Katrina, grassroots activism,
organizational leadership and electoral politics. The
convention closed with a concert on Saturday featuring
Dead Prez, Chicago Poets and Boots Riley among many
other artists.

NHHPC was founded in late 2002 when some elders pulled
organizers from all over the country for the first
national convention in New Jersey that aimed at
creating a political agenda for the hip-hop community.
I first got involved at this time, as we worked at
finding the issues of our community. Born and raised in
California’s Bay Area, I had been speaking publicly
since a young age, but became really active when I
finished filming MTV’s Real World series. After the
show I traveled as a motivational speaker to colleges
and got involved with youth organizations committed to
the fight against Big Tobacco. Through a good friend I
got invited to the Bay Area’s Local Organizing
Committee (Bay-LOC) meeting, and began to get involved
in hip-hop politics.

Like other local organizers around the country, we went
around our community with issue sheets for people to
fill out, which we used to create a state agenda.
During the state convention individuals from over 30
states and Puerto Rico came together and created a
national agenda. By February 2005, a group of different
LOC members had a retreat in Atlanta and formed a
national body with a steering committee whose goals
were to help bring local groups together and facilitate
any national work that needed to be done.

After Bay-LOC returned to California, we began to
organize a local Hip Hop Summit at Laney College in
Oakland in September 2005. One day of workshops and a
concert, which included performances from Dead Prez and
E40, attracted thousands. We had support and speeches
from Rep. Barbara Lee and Bay-LOC’s own Dereca
Blackman, and handed out voter guides, which we rewrote
in new language that identified with the hip-hop

Around the same time, the Chicago-LOC began working as
a host committee for the next convention. It was up to
them to handle the event program, and the event’s
success can only be attributed to their hard work.

The convention itself started with a dialogue between
organizers of past movements like Civil Rights and
Black Power, including Fred Hampton Jr. (Prisoners Of
Conscience Committee), Cliff Kelley (WVON Radio Host),
Angela Woodson (Federation of Democratic Women), and
writer and activist Amina Norman-Hawkins. Organizers
both young and old felt this was needed, since many
believed the torch was never passed on to the new

Hip-hop politics today — as I see it — identifies
strongly with the Black Power movement; the lyrics in
conscious rap resonate with ideals of Malcolm X and
self-determination. The Bay Area especially identifies
with the Black Panthers since its roots are found here.
But all over the globe — and even in early days of
hip- hop, when most music came from New York — lyrics
focus on the social ills and mistreatment of people of
color in this country. The same “@#%$ the system”
attitude gave birth to gangsta rap. And although the
majority of it now focuses on the material and the
misogynistic, early pioneers of the art form told the
world what was going on or was absent in their
neighborhoods. In other countries like Brazil,
Venezuela, Cuba — today more than ever — hip-hop
serves this same purpose.

Not everyone at the convention represented a LOC, and
with the alliance building that had been taking place
since the NHHPC’s inception, I saw other hip-hop groups
like the Hip Hop Congress represented there in full
force, leading workshops and hosting the concert piece.
The League of Young Voters had a huge presence, and not
only helped raise money for the convention but also
taught workshops on branding the hip-hop political
movement, lobbying, base building and electoral

The first day’s workshops seemed geared at creating
better methods of organizing the organizers. Panels and
workshops focused on alliance building, using art for
activism, political prisoners, organizing against war
and occupation, hip-hop and gender politics,
nonviolence strategies, and the use of electoral

On that Friday afternoon, a jam-packed room of folks
from all over the country listened to Kali Acunu
(Jericho Amnesty Movement), Troy Nkrumah, (chair of the
NHHPC steering committee), and chairman Fred Hampton
Jr. (Prisoners Of Conscience Committee) talk about the
many political prisoners that are currently
incarcerated. Harman Bell, Kamau Sadiki, Zolo Azania
Ojora Lutalo, Rodney Coronado, and Veronza Bowers were
a few of the names mentioned. Rapper Immortal Technique
event came in and voiced his support on the issue, and
it definitely was one of the most informative panels.

Saturday, July 21, seemed to begin with many issue-
based workshops and panels on education, criminal
justice, health and wellness, Katrina, immigration,
gender rights, white privilege in hip-hop, and media
justice. The media justice panel included Lisa Fager
(Industry Ears) and Davey D (Hardknock Radio/Breakdown
FM), who talked about a variety of subjects like the
media’s control over hip-hop and net neutrality. The
immigration and gender rights were two new issues added
to the 2006 agenda. I led the panel on gender rights,
whose purpose was to expose some of the misogynistic
rap lyrics in a social context, allowing participants
to better understand why the popular rap pushed by
record executives and radio stations seem so focused on
portraying negative images.

After the panels were over, a concert was thrown with a
battle between local folks. Using all the elements of
hip-hop, from rapping, break dancing, DJ-ing and
graffiti, crews took to the stage to compete for a
$1,000 prize. Afterward, local conscious artists like
Akbar, and national artists like Dead Prez and Immortal
Technique gave amazing performances. Even Chicago’s
rain and thunder could not clear the crowd formed at
Mandrake Park.

Sunday was a day for the national steering committee to
hear the voices of participants. Delegates representing
different LOCs, artists and organizers for different
groups were allowed to change the agenda and recommend
action steps that the LOCs can take home and start
implementing. The location for the next convention will
be announced soon. Will it be back East in New York,
down South in Atlanta, out West in the Bay Area, or
will newly formed but highly active Las Vegas LOC take
the 2008 to its Red State? We shall have to wait and

The organization as a whole has a talent at balancing
the varied political views of its members, some of
which seek to fight for social justice through
electoral politics, while others seemed more determined
to fight through grassroots activism. The way these
varied ideologies have still found a way to work
together for a common goal is why the NHHPC is still
going and growing strong. The structure with no leader
but still led strong through the local organizing
committee gives this organization a type of strength
that I have not seen in many other organizations that
function more top-down. I believe this unique model
will help keep their work relevant, and the
organization intact.

For more information about the NHHPC, or to learn how
to start a LOC (Local Organizing Committee) in your
area, go to HipHopConvention.org.

[Malik Cooper is the national spokesperson for the
NHHPC, as well as a Bay-LOC member. He also owns a
silk- screening and embroidery shop called People’s
Choice Printing.]

Return To Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

The Election Aftermath:Hip Hop Where Do We Go From here?

The Election Aftermath:Hip Hop Where Do We Go From here?
By Davey D.
Rock & Rap Confidential
November 2, 2004

I would be lying if I said last night’s election results were not a big disappointment. It’s not so much that I thought John Kerry would be the answer, but a Kerry win and a Bush defeat would’ve helped the momentum and further ignited the excitement and passions held by many within the Hip Hop community who went to the polls. Instead what we’re left with his a Bush Presidency. Adding insult to injury is the fact that he went from being a guy who was selected to being a guy who now holds the record for receiving the most votes ever in US history. If that’s not enough four new seats went to the GOP and they gained several more seats in the Congress. The toughest pill to swallow are the newscasts and articles where the question that is mockingly being asked-Where was the Youth Vote? How come they didn’t show up? Etc…

Leading up to the yesterday’s election there was a long list of things that we could point to that suggested that we were gonna make a huge difference:There were numerous Hip Hop Summits and Conferences. The registration and get out the vote efforts within Hip Hop was unprecedented. Over the past couple of months, there were at least 8 mixtapes and compilation songs released encouraging the Hip Hop community to go to the polls. The participants ranged from artists like Wyclef Jean to Jadakiss to Eminem to WC and Mack 10 to Cypress Hill to the scores of underground artists who participated in the Slam Bush project.


These artists’ efforts complimented the day to day organizing and important groundwork that was undertaken by numerous Hip Hop organizations and their members around the country who were the unsung heroes and sheroes, yet critical backbone in all these Hip Hop meets Politics activities. For example, the night before the election it was encouraging to get a late night fall call from one of the many members of BayLoc (The Bay Area Hip Hop Local Organizing Committee) asking me to Vote Yes on Cali Proposition 66 which would’ve reformed the dreadful three strikes law. I was also told to vote ‘Hell Naw’ on Measure Y in Oakland. This was an initiative that would add more police to the city’s payroll. I was told to go to the BayLoc Website to get more information on other propositions and asked to come out the next day to a Get out the Vote Rally that was going to be held at Oakland’s City Hall.

What BayLoc was doing was just an example of the dozens of similar efforts that were going down all over the country. For example, members of the Los Angeles Hip Hop Local Organizing committee were so determined to impact the outcome of the election that they dipped into their own pockets and brought plane tickets to go to Milwaukee after they got word of bogus fliers being distributed in many of the Black communities telling people that they risked arrested if they voted and had not paid their parking tickets or child support or had voted in any prior election this year. The sentiment amongst the LALoc was that there were enough troops on the ground holding it down in the Golden State and that they play a more effective role helping their Hip Hop counterparts in Milwaukee monitor polls and do outreach and voter education.

It was encouraging to do my radio show, reach out and get reports from Hip Hop organizers stationed in various cities around the country like; Columbus, Ohio, St Louis, Missouri, Phoenix, Arizona, Sante Fe, New Mexico and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to name a few, and hear how about how they had been registering people and their plan of action to get folks to the poll on election day.


Such efforts were underscored by the League of Hip Hop Voters and the League of Pissed off Voters who had meticulously researched and put out more than 115 different state and city election guides for folks to download off the internet and take to the polls. What was even more inspiring was seeing that while most major news outlets and so called Hip Hop and R&B radio stations completely ignored these newsworthy efforts, that the League was able to get the word out via all the large Hip Hop websites and listserves like AllHipHop.com, OkayPlayer.com, Industrycosign.com and RapAttacklives.com to name a few, and reach thousands of people who eagerly and used them.

During the 04 elections Missy Elliot paid for buses to get people to the polls

It was encouraging to read about Missy Elliott renting a bus in Miami and pitching in to take voters to the polls. It was encouraging to hear about Questlove of the Roots hooking up with actor Ozzie Davis to combat voter suppression efforts. It was great to hear about comedian Steve Harvey bringing together a coalition of rap starts ranging from Warren G to MC Hammer to Ice Cube and E-40 to ask for support on passing Prop 66.It was encouraging to talk to a Rev Gundy on our national broadcast and have him point out the important role the Hip Hop community had played in terms of getting the vote out. He spoke about the Black college tour that artists like Trick Daddy, Trina and Luther Campbell (Uncle Luke) put on and how they helped get hundreds of people registered.

Whether it was mainstream icons like P-Diddy and his Citizen For Change or Russell Simmons and his Hip Hop Summit Action Network or grassroots organizations like the Hip Hop Political Convention, the Hip Hop Assembly or Hip Hop Congress, lots of people stepped it up and got involved. For most it was their first time. For many they had to learn on the job. The collective efforts for these organizations and people should be commended after all, its a lot more then what was done in previous years.


With all that being said, after the dust has settled and folks get some time to reflect, there will be some important questions that will have be answered thoughtfully and honestly. Questions like ‘What could’ve been done differently?’ Did the numbers of people who came out to the polls add to up the expectations? In short, did the hype match the reality? Did we overestimate? Did we underestimate? Was too much weight put on the shoulders and expected turnout of the youth/Hip Hop vote?

Were the approaches used by organizers as well as politicians the right ones or the most effective ones to engage the Hip Hop Community and younger people in general? After all, when iconic figures like Russell or P-Diddy show off new clothing styles, introduce new slang or put forth a new trend folks seem to follow in masses, why was this not the case with yesterday’s election or was it? These are some of the hard questions we need to seriously look at.

Yesterday, during an interview with MTV P-Diddy said something very profound. He admitted that he may have been a bit reckless when he said he was going to rally people to ‘Get Bush’s Ass Out of Office?‘ He said it was reckless for him to say this and not have a viable, suitable candidate in to replace him. In some ways P-Diddy’s remarks seemed similar to ones made a few month’s back when Boots Riley of the Coup wrote a letter to the Eastbay Express Magazine asking that he not be characterized as an anybody but Bush type of guy. Boot’s noted that its not just enough to vote for someone, but it needs to be connected with a larger plan of action and education. Folks have to really understand the process and the issues that you’re asking them to vote for.. If there’s no connection at the end of the day folks will not only not go to the polls, they may actually become disillusioned with the process. They’ll be even more disillusioned if they discover that those who are advocating don’t really buy into the process.. Such may be the case today when folks woke up and found that some of their favorite celebrities while advocating voting, never went to the polls themselves.

When we look back at this election the fundamental question we have to grapple with is , was it enough to simply hate Bush if you weren’t feeling Kerry? Talk show host Tavis Smiley spoke to this issue last night during his ABC News broadcast when he noted that one of the things that may have effected John Kerry in Ohio was that he simply didn’t pull out the large numbers of Black people in places like Cleveland as was expected. He explained that a lot of folks did not connect with Kerry and that the word was ‘he was no Bill Clinton‘. This reality was conveyed to me earlier in the day from folks on the ground who had noted that in spite of all the rallies and media attention and speculation, the numbers were lower then expected in some of those critical Black communities especially around Cleveland.

Much of what Tavis spoke to could easily be juxtaposed with the larger Hip Hop community. The reality we may have to face is that folks simply could not buy into the whole voting/ electoral politics hype with Senator John Kerry has the big door prize. The end result and purveying attitude was likely to be similar to the one reflected by artists like Method Man who when asked who he was going to vote for, told allhiphop.com in a recent interview ‘F**k both them mother f**kers. I’ma play Soulcom2 online like everybody else. F**k Bush and Kerry. Both them n***a’s is cowards.’

One of the important lessons that we will have to come to terms with is not falling into the trap of leading or organizing by proxy. By this I mean, we needed to have in place a methodology and a way to really ensure that the folks we reaching out to be in agreement and had good understanding of what was being advocated. In other words, a possible mistake that may have been made was us not being clear as to what was being asked. Were we asking people to go to the polls to vote FOR John Kerry or to flex our power and vote Bush out of office just to prove that we could influence an election?

Ben Chavis and Russell Simmons of Hip Hop Summit Action Network

If we were asking folks to vote for John Kerry did we present a compelling set of arguments connected to a larger end game that folks would buy into? In other words were we voting for Kerry because he would appoint fair and balanced Supreme Court judges? Were we voting for Kerry because he we would be better positioned to maneuver about the system under him versus Bush? Did the potential voters see and understand those sorts of points? Did John Kerry himself ever really pay attention to the issues on both on the platform voted upon during the Hip Hop Political Convention or the similar platform being championed by Russell Simmon‘s Hip Hop Summit Action Network?

More importantly were the larger critical mass of people who never attended these Hip Hop summits, who we needed at the polls in agreement with and aware of the platforms?Lastly, did we expect too much too soon? Yes, it was an important election? Yes there was a lot of hope, hype and anticipation around the role Hip Hop would play in this election, but was it realistic to expect us to hit a homerun on our first at bat? Was it fair for us to allow ourselves to be put in that position? Conventional wisdom suggests that we look at and build around small, achievable victories versus trying to get it all in one shot. While hitting a homerun on the first try is great and will get you lots of props. Having to play the game where your forced to run the bases and deal with striking out from time and not getting any hits at all, will be best in the long run, because it allows you to build a solid long lasting foundation and establish important meaningful relationships with the people you are trying to reach. It will also allow you to do the important work at hand minus the roar of the crowd and all the hype that comes when you hit it out the park.

The bottom line is this.. The election results are disappointing and not all of our expectations have been met, but no means did we fail? All those collective efforts did indeed increase voter turnout.. A lot of folks came in and gave it their best shot and did some really good things that made a difference and will continue to make a difference. Fortunately many of the Hip Hop organizers like the folks from BayLoc, Hip Hop
Coup, LaLoc and others all throughout the country have embraced the attitude that the work they are doing is for the long term. It’s all about building a solid foundation that will not fold up and crumble at first windstorm or setback. The 2004 election is a setback from which they will learn from and will not paralyze them. One thing you can always count on is that the very essence of Hip Hop is that it always able to create something out of nothing and overcome insurmountable odds. The question that Hip Hop has to humbly ask at this point in time is where do we go from here? I believe bigger and better things are in

written by Davey D

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Editorial: Why Hip Hop Should Vote? by Paris the Black Panther of Hip Hop

Why Vote?
By Paris, August 7, 2004



Like the child who cried “wolf!” too many times and was eaten when he really needed the help of people who had grown to ignore him, the media and Bush administration are faced with such massive lack of credibility issues that we now must adopt a contrarian stance when taking what they say into account, especially when it comes to terrorism.

From the degrading and deplorable Abu Ghraib Iraqi prison scandal, to the wag-the-dog-like U.S.-implemented and staged beheading of Nicholas Berg, to the recently expressed desire for war with Iran, it’s apparent that the Bush Administration is scrambling to create further diversion and feelings of fear and division to rally support behind its wicked and out-of-touch policies.

So what can we do? Well, aside from community outreach and living by example, one of the best solutions is voting. The trouble is, I’ve read a lot of articles and heard a lot of discussion lately from people in our communities openly questioning whether or not we have any business voting. We do.

The simple fact is, if you can’t offer a concrete, tangible alternative to us exercising our rights and becoming a part of shaping decisions that affect us, then you have no business being opposed to galvanizing young people and people of color as a unified political force at the polls. Besides, y’all ain’t ready for revolution. So before you go saying how I’m “buying into the system” think about what it is exactly that you would do differently – and then ask yourself why you don’t. Like I said – it’s only a part of the solution. The strategy we must adopt is one that employs all of the tools that we have at our disposal to progress. Voting is one of them.

Are we are too lazy or disillusioned with the process that we won’t exercise rights that people who came before us died for? Voting doesn’t cost anything, so we can’t say that we can’t afford it (even though elections are held on Tuesdays, during work hours for many). Of course, it’s easy to say “f**k voting,” spark up the weed and turn on 106 & Park, but at what cost? We’ve seen the results of not voting – an illegitimate impostor in the White House, rollback of Affirmative Action legislation, poorer economic conditions and lack of employment opportunities, reductions in budgets for education and social services and increased instances of violence and police brutality – so why not opt for change?

Now I know you might not feel either of the major presidential candidates, especially with our recent discovery that they’re related – many don’t. But voting is larger than just the presidential race. What about the economy? Record unemployment and underemployment? Out of control gas prices? Shitty and unequal education? Lack of affordable housing? Why give conservatives and the existing powers that be an easy way out by not participating? They vote, and have an often unified support base that stresses the importance of participation to maintain their quality of life, often embracing policies and supporting politicians that don’t represent our best interests. It’s important that we participate too.

If we aren’t effective and our voices don’t matter, than why do they feel the need to cheat? To steal elections and keep us from the polls illegally? To establish a conservative media network? To keep us feeling disillusioned and disenfranchised, that’s why. To keep us thinking that we don’t matter.

How many people have you heard say that they’re not political? Here’s a news flash for you: you don’t have any choice but to be political nowadays, because everything is politicized. Politics is now pop culture, so you’d better adjust and become aware of the way things really are and what you can do to change our condition.

Opposition to voting often comes from the same people who don’t see the value in a college degree. Why is that? By not having the necessary credentials we give other people an easy out when it comes to dealing with us. As a rule, use every tool, every angle and every resource you have available to you to get ahead. As a people, we don’t have the luxury of adopting a stance of non-participation in anything that can be potentially beneficial to us. For too long we’ve sat by and allowed others to dictate the terms and conditions of our lives in our own communities.

We constantly hear commentary from conservative pundits on the state of things – barking about why it’s not right to question our “leader” during wartime – and calling anyone voicing dissent “treasonous” (and getting wealthy in the process). Think Sean Hannity (of Fox News) represents the everyman (he makes an 8 million dollar annual salary)? Or Bill O’Reilly (6 million)? Think again. (Funny how they dis easy-to-pick-on rappers but never discuss the profanity and imagery on Fox’s own Nip Tuck, the racism of COPS, or the misogyny of The Swan – but that’s another article.) These people vote. And they rally others who feel the same as they do to vote too.

We hear them say how much worse life was under Hussein in Iraq, and how U.S. troops are fighting to protect our freedom. But WE WERE NEVER IN DANGER from Iraq…and U.S. troops are being used in the worst way. They are there only to protect the big business interests of Bush’s buddies in high places – they ARE NOT protecting our freedom. The fact that Bush just signed a $417.5 billion wartime defense bill with an addition $25 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan pretty much drives my point home.

The world is full of dictators, but, luckily for them, they don’t have oil. Sorry-ass Saddam and his weak country would still be among the living nations if they had not had oil. Also still alive would be over 900 American servicemen and women, tens of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of wounded-for-life people.

This is especially important to us because we’re the ones who die, and we’re the ones the military places a disproportionate amount of focus on recruiting as was evidenced in Michael Moore’s excellent movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, which I encourage everyone to go out and see.

And while we’re on the subject of Fahrenheit 9/11, let me say that there have only been 3 points raised by those in opposition to the movie, and they are that 1. Moore never mentioned Great Britain in the “Coalition of The Willing,” 2. that Iraq was misleadingly portrayed as a utopia before we decimated it, and 3., that Moore is racist because of his portrayal of the countries willing to stand by the U.S.

That’s it.


There are still no other valid arguments against the points raised in the movie (all of which, coincidentally, were detailed on Sonic Jihad and on www.guerrillafunk.com 2 years ago). The rest is true and cannot be refuted, and Moore has even publicly considered offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can find a factual error, according to TIME magazine.

What it really boils down to now is that we are at a point in time where people simply believe in what makes them feel comfortable, even if the facts presented to them point to the contrary. If people know something is foul and needs to be set right, they agree that there needs to be regime change here. If, however, they are uneasy and in denial about the fact that the Bush Administration is full of @#%$, has lied to us, murdered people unjustly here and abroad for profit, reduced our civil liberties, is in bed with those we are supposed to be at war against, had a hand in facilitating the events of 9-11, and actively solicits young people of color to use for its war machine, then they tend to agree with the lies of the current White House occupants.

Only the evil or the misinformed are supporters of this administration, and they are the same people who don’t flinch when their conservative heroes are caught lying and give that standard bullshit “I take personal responsibility” speech. You know the one – the speech that’s designed to shut up detractors in a hurry (Tony Blair just gave it about WMDs) – as though saying it makes things A-OK.

Let’s all take our own form of personal responsibility and vote this November.

Register online here at http://www.guerrillafunk….eral_info/x_the_box.html, and stand up and be counted!