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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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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