By Bakari Kitwana

...
Lehigh University. Rap Sessions panel discussion, "America's Most Wanted: Hip-Hop, The Media & The Criminalization of Black Youth." With Jasiri X (One Hood), Michael Skolnik (Political Director for Russell Simmons & Editor-in-Chief of Global Grind), Niaz Kazravi (NAACP Criminal Justice Director) and Carlito Rodriguez (50 Shots, documentary on Sean Bell and Police Brutality).

On Friday March 21st Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, will headline a community townhall style gathering in Rochester, New York focused on solutions to Black youth profiling and criminalization in the US. The discussion is one in a series of events that Rap Sessions is conducting around the nation in 2014 under the theme, “America’s Most Wanted: Hip-Hop, The Media and the Prison Industrial Complex.”

 

The event, hosted by the University of Rochester, hopes to engage area youth in a candid, consciousness-raising discussion about the ways entrenched economic and criminal justice public policy continue to contribute to the school to prison pipeline for too many Black and Brown youth— a trend highlight by the President Obama’s recently announced My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

 

“Black youth criminalization is one of the most important human rights issues of our time,” says Bakari Kitwana, director or Rap Sessions. “...

It is impossible to be Black & political in the 60s/70s/80s/90s/2000s & not have been transformed by the vision and genius of Amiri Baraka, a towering intellectual and activist who reminded us loudly and often to commit ourselves to "the tradition of our liberation struggle." Deepest sympathy to his family. 

 

BEYOND JAY-Z / BELAFONTE BEEF TO ACTION

By Bakari Kitwana

published on August 2, 2013...

OUR ENEMY IS WHITE SUPREMACY

By Bakari Kitwana

originally published July 15, 2013 on globalgrind.com

When I heard the not guilty verdict announced live, I was attending a national gathering of one hundred 18-30 year-old Black activists in the Chicago area organized by the Black Youth Project. The reaction of the young people in the room to the news that George Zimmerman would not be held accountable by the nation’s criminal justice system will forever be etched on my memory.

Most were shocked. Angry. Outraged. Disappointed. But their tears, outcries and rage were all accompanied with a clear and unflinching determination that this will not be the last word in the battle for justice for Trayvon Martin.

Their shock and surprised revealed that this was a profound generation-specific moment, a collective emotional response that connected to this generation in the way that the Rodney King beating affected an earlier generation—much like the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X stunned the generation before us.

The verdict didn’t come as a surprise to me. Living as a Black man in America has a strange and steady...

Rapper Lupe Fiasco made an impromptu visit to a Rap Sessions public forum on “Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama/Tea Party Era” in Philadelphia this past week, where panelists, moments before, had been debating his recent Twitter beef with comedian DL Hughley over the importance of voting.

The Chicago rapper joined the stage at the forum after seeing tweets about the discussion in progress while nearby in the city promoting his new album. He responded to DL Hughley’s claim that “when you vote or not vote, you are saying yes or no,” suggesting the rapper promotes political apathy.

Fiasco explained his belief that political engagement is bigger than the vote, and that during the Twitter exchange, he challenged DL Hughley to put his money where his mouth is and match funds to support a youth program to better the lives of rural and urban youth.

“Taking our community back is not going to happen without money,” Fiasco said reflecting on tweet discussion. “We don’t have to wait til November. We don’t have to wait to vote. Let’s put up $50,000 each right now,” he says he told Hughley.

He told the audience at...

Originally published on newsone.com

Political activists around the country are still absorbing the news of Geronimo ji Jaga’s death. For those of us who came of age in the 80s and 90s, the struggles of the late 1960s and early 1970s were in many ways a gateway for our examination of the history of Black political resistance in the US. Geronimo ji Jaga (formerly Geronimo Pratt) and his personal struggle, as well as his contributions to the fight for social justice were impossible to ignore. His commitment, humility, clear thinking as well as his sense of both the longevity and continuity of the Black Freedom Movement in the US all stood out to those who knew him.

I interviewed him for The Source magazine in early September 1997 about three months after he was released from prison, having served 27 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. Three things stood out from the interview, all of which have been missed by recent commentary celebrating his life and impact.

First that famed attorney Johnnie Cochran was not only his lawyer when ji Jaga gained his freedom, but also represented him in his original trial. They were from the...

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2012 presidential election ramps up, expect conservatives to keep gunning for black youth, in general, and hip-hop, specifically. Black youth showed significant gains in 2008, and now represent the group of 18- to 29-year-old who vote the most. Their ability via popular to inspire young voters -- who in 2008 voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a ratio of 2-to-1 -- poses one of the most viable threats to Republicans' aspirations to retake the Ppesidency. The recent national discussion surrounding the rapper Common's appearance at the White House is perhaps the first salvo.

What was quickly summed up as either an attempt to defend law enforcement or as an attack on the value of the arts does not get to the heart of what conservatives were really communicating to voters in the Common dust-up. That is, is there a place in mainstream American political life for young blacks, whose political views don't always fall within traditional mainstream conservative/liberal lines?

Black youth, particularly those who are poor and often ignored by politicians and lawmakers, are the men and women that the...

Originally published in the Huffingtonpost.com

As the 2010 midterm election season winds down, electoral politics experts agree that 18-29 year-old voters have a pivotal role to play on November 2nd. Anxiety among Democrats and Republicans concerning the way the political winds will blow the youth vote is crystallizing around the idea that over the last two years President Barack Obama did not fulfill his campaign commitments to the 14 million plus young voters so crucial to his 2008 victory.

Last week, the Houston, Texas local Fox affiliate framed the question like this: "Youth Vote: Obama Boost or Backlash?" or as reporter Greg Googan put it, "Twenty-four recession-racked months later, the question now looms: Is it still 'change' young Americans can believe in?"

When it comes to young voters, has the Obama Administration gone far enough?

University of Chicago Political Science Professor Cathy Cohen suggests in her new book Democracy Remixed, which should be required reading for any politician serious about the future of our democracy, that this sentiment taps into the reality staring young voters in the face everyday: failing...

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