The vision of the Hip Hop generation

Hip Hop is heir of slave rebellions, abolitionist, civil rights and Black Power movements and the si

Any conversation about Hip Hop is likely to be peppered with references to the negativity of rap lyrics and the large amount of bling seen in rap videos. Hip Hop is conceived by a large amount of people to be a culture of gangsters, pimps and crack dealers.

From civil rights groups to mainstream politicians and the media the Hip Hop generation is seen as the embarrassing child of the civil rights movement an apolitical degenerate generation of nihilistic thugs.

The finger is pointed at Hip Hop to be the cause for gun crime, teenage pregnancy, anti-social behaviour and gang culture. So when we stepped forward and created our organisation Hip Hop Generation and proclaimed to be harnessing the power and embracing the spirit of Hip Hop we knew we would be in for a hard time.

Many told us that we should change the name, that it was too controversial, however we were strong in our convictions that Hip Hop was both positive and the culture that most spoke for and to youth of African descent - the descendants of slaves - and their modern day struggles for money, power and respect in the inner cities of the Western world.

Hip Hop Generation UK was formed in 2005 with the aim of harnessing the power and embracing the spirit of Hip Hop as a tool to organise and mobilise a new political constituency who we refer to as the “streetz” to change the game.

The inspiration for the creation of the organisation came from the same titled book written by African American political philosopher and former editor of The Source magazine Bakari Kitwana, the work of Russell Simmons and Dr Benjamin Chavis at the Hip Hop Summit Action and the politics of the Hip Hop Political Convention in the US.

Kitwana’s writings would set the foundation for the intellectual backdrop of our organisation and provide the organisation with its name. The Hip Hop Generation written by Kitwana is a socio-economic-political analysis of the generation of African diasporic youth who have grown up in a time when the most prominent global youth cultural phenomenon is Hip Hop a phenomenon so powerful it has become generation defining in the same way that civil rights did in the1960’s.

In his text Kitwana attempts to develop a clear, cogent political agenda our aim is to build upon that work and create a clear political agenda and implement it, to move from theory to practice. We have seen attempts to do this in the US with the work of HSAN who have registered approximately 4 million voters and toured multiple US cities turning out thousands of Hip Hop youth with support from the likes of Jay Z, TI, Kevin Lilles & Erykah Badu to empower them economically through their financial literacy tours. We have also seen this through the work of the Hip Hop Political Convention a bi-annual convention first convened in 2004 that aims to develop a Hip Hop political agenda and voting block.

Right now we are struggling to bring a new analysis of Hip Hop to the table, one that makes clear the difference between Rap and Hip Hop and their connection, identifies the core essence and philosophy of Hip Hop. An analysis that places Hip Hop within its true place as the heir of the slave rebellions, abolitionist, civil rights and Black Power movements of the 20th Century and the single most significant ‘Black’ cultural phenomenon of the 21st Century.

Our vision is to mobilise a new generation to continue the struggle of our forefathers, to create a new sect to deal with the old problems, to usher in a new era of a new modern 21st Century Hip Hop led “Black” politics, to create the most powerful global Hip Hop movement the world has seen and change the world in our lifetime.

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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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.