The history of Hip Hop

Hip Hop is the culmination of 'Black' thought, born centuries ago, out of the struggles of African s

Though Hip Hop was born in the 1970’s and came to prominence in the 1990’s, any historical analysis of Hip Hop must begin with the story of a group of Africans who were captured and enslaved some 500 hundred years ago. Between the 15th Century and the 19th Century, this group of Africans were stripped of their names, languages, history and cultural heritage.

They were forced to work from sun rise to sun down for free, and subjected to some of the most dreadful torture the world has witnessed. This group of slaves would provide the human resources necessary to build the western world. But though the story is often told otherwise, also amongst this group were people like Nat Turner, Paul Bogle and the Haitian revolutionaries who would refuse to be enslaved and lead rebellions against the British and French colonial masters. It is in the spirit of the above mentioned that you find the antecedents of a culture that would come to be known to the world as Hip Hop.

This spirit is found not only in their revolutionary acts, but in the words and campaigning of abolitionists like Frederick Douglas, civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Black Nationalists like Malcolm X and Black Power theorists like Huey Newton. Hip Hop is the culmination of ‘Black’ thought. It is a culture that is rooted, even today, in rebellion and struggle. Like the movements before it, Hip Hop is maligned by the fact that not all of those that the culture aims to speak to want to be aligned with it, the media and the system attempt to discredit it and it is portrayed as aggressive.

Hip Hop as we know it began in the 1970’s in Bronx, New York, when Afrika Bambaataa founded the Zulu Nation. Bambaataa, a former gang member, influenced by the Afrocentric teachings of the 5 per centers and Dr Malachi Z York, decided to challenge inner city violence and gang culture and promote peace through music, rap, art, movement and street knowledge. The purpose was to provide an outlet for the frustration and anger that characterised life for youth of African descent in New York. The alienated youth of Bronx needed a sense of identity and something to believe in and Hip Hop would provide this. At first, Zulu Nation would hold block parties for peace. It later started to hold regular classes that taught youth about their heritage, the great achievements of their African ancestors and what would become the original 4 key artistic elements of Hip Hop, Rap, Breakdance, Turntablism and Graffiti.

From its humble beginnings in New York, the movement that would come to be known as Hip Hop has expanded into the five boroughs, across states and nations. The birth and growth of Hip Hop has produced millionaires and multinational companies. It is a cultural and musical phenomenon like no other and our gift from God.

Anthony Thomas is the founder and CEO of Hip Hop Generation. He is a philosopher,organiser and entrepreneur. He is a director of London Citizens and the Black Londoners Forum.
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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