WHY #OCCUPY?: A Call to Hip-Hop

By now, there are a few not-that-useful pieces of information that we all have heard or discussed in detail: Beyonce’s baby bump is breaking out in Feb, how Jay-Z left a tip of $10k in Miami, and how a quiet Kanye West made his way to Zuccotti park to get a first hand view of the Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Nice to know, but how do they change YOUR world?

Words: David Hamilton

The world is changing right in front of us and history is being written as you read this. Are you a part of that change? Are you weighing in to have your opinion counted?

There is no question that what some would call the Hip-Hop generation has grown from a “marginal band of misfits” into a culture that has done everything from airing the plight of big cities and country backroads, to highlighting broken justice and political systems. It has also done a great job of celebrating perseverance. But it was asked to me by a young Black female reporter from CUNY TV, “What do you have to say for those who think [#OccupyWallStreet] isn’t a movement that includes young Black people?” The notion made me look around and say, ‘Wait, what the hell? Yea, where are we?’

Although the demonstrations have been in effect since September 17, and some prominent Black figures such as Lupe Fiasco have been vocal about the movement since its inception, when I ask my peers if they will #Occupy with me, they ask what am I talking about?

How is that? Are you not aware of what the movement is all about? If not, why don’t you know? You tweet every 10 minutes (African-Americans make up 24 percent of all tweets as per Edison Research) and you’ve updated your FB status at least 100x today?!

So to answer the question Why #Occupy?, I ask you survey the things around you, where you live and the things you have access to.

Many of the schools where we live lack the necessary teaching tools, i.e. text books, and in some cases desk, chairs and even CLASSROOMS! I grew up in a time where not only did we have a music class once a week, but we also used and had actual instruments in class. These days teachers and staff are severely underpaid, schools are being packed into one building and arts’ programs are being cut so that the basic curriculum can be saved. And how many of you have enormous student loan debt thanks to higher education? #Occupy to say we NEED the resources.

The national average unemployment rate is 9.1 percent The Black unemployment rate is 16 percent. Enough said. #Occupy to fight to keep existing jobs, to increase new opportunities and to demand a new (and better) standard living wage.

Defend Troy Davis, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, etc. and ask for tougher laws against those in law enforcement that go too far. Reject the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which grants First Amendment protection of corporate and union funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections (simplified: corporations are people and can contribute unlimited amounts of money to whichever candidate they choose, which can result in a sway in elections.) #Occupy to make your voice heard on unbalanced laws and policies.

And there are many more reasons, from campaign finance reform, social security to the never-ending discussion over taxes as to whether higher-salaried individuals should be forced to pay their share (as opposed to writing most of it off as is customary these days).

And while there has not been a clear set of goals/policies/demands as a direct result of the #Occupy movement yet, therein lies the beauty of you reading this. There is still time to go to your local #Occupy rallying point and as Camron said, “Tell ’em why you mad.” Make your voice heard and your concerns known, so that when the demands are created, yours will be considered. (You know the expression…“A closed mouth don’t get fed.”)

So this is a call to all the up and coming emcees, singers, poets, musicians, beatboxers, dancers, DJ’s, graffiti artists, models and you 9-5ers… bring your stories, your songs, your dances, your voice to the #Occupy demonstrations. Then bring your whole ‘hood. Moms, dads, sisters and brothers. Whether it be BK or Atlanta, DC, Chicago or New Orleans. While we’re glad they showed up, don’t wait for ‘Ye & Uncle Rush to speak for you. Stand for something yourself.

Revolution is at our doorsteps, let’s use a few of our tweets, Facebook updates, Tumblrs, blog posts—as the Egyptians, Libyans and others did for the Arab Spring, to take part in our American Autumn. Let’s get fresh, turn up our swagg, pull up in our other, other Benz and get out there to show everyone watching, that we too have a say in America’s future.

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