Seattle hip hop community tackles tough issues at NW Hip Hop Leadership Conference

by Julie Chang Schulman, NW Hip Hop Congress

Approximately 200 people came out from across the greater Seattle Area to participate in the 1st Seattle/NW Hip-Hop Leadership Council on Saturday February 28th at Seattle Central Community College,” wrote Wyking, co-convener of the event, “presented by the Seattle Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council, Bush School Diversity Speaker Series, UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E. Center and Seattle Central Community College Black Student Union, the conference provided a wealth of information beginning with history and socio-cultural analysis related to the hip-hop generation.”

Okay, so I was only able to attend one part of one panel, but I still gotcha covered. Here are the highlights I was able to collect from the comrades. Shouts out to Suntonio Bandanaz, Rajnii Eddins, and Toni Hill for helping me piece this together. Also, be sure to check out the rest of Wyking’s write-up as well. If you missed this one, don’t worry. We’re about to set it off at the 2009 Hip Hop Congress National Conference in Seattle, Washington with Dope Emporium, Umojafest, Hidmo, 206 Zulu and more July 29th-August 2nd! More to come.

The Hip Hop 101 presentation was led by Silver Shadow D, Rajnii Eddins, and Suntonio Bandanaz.The 206 Hip Hop vets opened the discourse with a mini open mic of sorts, with participation from one young man and two sisters in the crowd. The discussion then moved to the basics: roots of hip hop culture and violence prevention, and Universal Zulu Nation, the inception of the music industry, and the progression of the movement behind the culture. Naturally, the dialogue progressed to the domination of the corporate industry, its role in undermining the political aspects of the Hip Hop movement, and connection of such interests to Cointelpro through entities like Interscope Records and more. “We went from Fight the Power to Reclaim the Media, basically,” said Bandanaz, “to return to the founding principles within culture’s art forms.” Suntonio Bandanaz and Daichi Diaz from Alpha P also dropped by KSER 90.7 community radio in Everett for an interview on DJ Nanino’s Boombox FM later to promote their March 18th show at Studio Seven featuring Spaceman, Specs Wizard and more! Be sure to check Daichi’s new vinyl “The Fight Lullaby.”

The next panel, Hip Hop the New Face of Racism, was a community discussion, which included photographer Inye Wokoma of Ijo Arts, the conference keynote and author of How to Hustle and Win Supreme Understanding, Aisha B from Lakeside School Hip Hop Congress, Charys Bailey, Tacoma artist and youth mentor, and others.The discussion evolved to the questions, what happens when a culture becomes an industry, how does the corporate Hip Hop industry cater to white people’s perception of who Black people are, and what is the impact of that on racism and racial identity? One student spoke on how while her friends listened to conscious Hip Hop, they still had a hard time dealing with and recognizing white privilege. According to Raj, the dialogue that followed reflected personal experiences on the complexity of institutional and systemic racism and white privilege. A social worker spoke on the immense caseloads and rigorous data entry that supersedes effective service provision, a doctor spoke on the lack of people of color amongst his colleagues, a mentor spoke on how policies in youth detention centers interfere with young people’s ability to talk and internalize their experiences. Others spoke about the subtly of racism in Seattle, and the difficulty of addressing it without being labeled as an ‘anger black person.’ Supreme Understanding brought up the need to give people strategic tools and to make solutions concrete so they have practical applications in combating racism.

Rajnii also did his best to help me piece together a quick summary of the next panel, From the Hood to the Club, Violence in Hip Hop. This presentation featured Kun Luv, Omari Tahir-Garrett, Supreme Understanding, Gregory Lewis, Merciful, and Ted Evans and was moderated by Wyking. When Raj came in, Merciful was asserting the importance of addressing the root causes of youth violence, and illustrating the role police play in criminalizing and antagonizing Black youth through militarizing communities. He also spoke on young people acting out on that misplaced aggression, and how that contributes to the overall environment of the neighborhood by having communities turn in on each other. Kun Luv took issue with the claim, saying that most of the violence taking place in Seattle now comes from someone having a beef with someone specific. Kun’s basic premise was that the intentional, premeditated nature of the crimes makes youth violence not a political issue in Seattle. Omari, an unsung hero in Seattle Human Rights and Black history, smashed on this by stating, “There’s nothing going on that’s not coerced and endorsed by the state.” Tahir-Garrett grounded his assertion in his own family history and his experiences as a community organizer and activist in Seattle, which provides him a uniquely thorough understanding of public policy as offensive strategy to quash social movement. “National Security Council 46 is the new Cointelpro,” Omari said, cross-referencing the Obama adminstration’s recent restructure of the National Security Council with the Carter-administration memorandum to the Secretary of Defense and CIA on “Black Africa and the U.S. Black Movement.” Understanding the reference may be especially pertinent since the Obama administration has picked up a surprising number of our region’s slimy political leadership. Do some research. I spent 3 hours on some google ish myself after Raj gave me that quote.

Women In Hip-Hop was a power packed panel with lively discussion facilitated by Rahwa of Hidmo,” wrote Wyking, “The panel featured artist/educators/organizers Toni Hill, Khmet, Moni Tep, Monika Matthews Exective Director of the Nia Center and Life Enrichment Group, student Caela Palmer and fashion mainstay FirstLady Beunique of Presidential Clothing and Beunique Agency.” Toni Hill told me, “The speakers on the women and hip hop panel were insightful, engaging and honest. The gift of performance that was shared before the discussion set the tone for an enriching experience and the audience participation. It was an honor to be seated in the mists of Queens and princesses. I was particularly impressed with Youth representation especially Moni Tep. She is a talented, articulate and courageous youth with infinite potential. She was an inspiration and breath of fresh air. I have spoken on numerous panels across the country, sometimes leaving with unsettling feeling that the youth voices were not properly acknowledged or that they(youth) had not absorbed the information presented by the elders because they are tired of many of the adults talking at them as opposed to with them. Rahwa did a great job moderating and I would be proud to be apart of future endeavors with this cast of brightly shining stars.” Be sure to check out Toni Hill’s record release party for her new album “Only Love” March 13th at Chop Suey!

There were many more panels and workshops, so again, check Wyking’s write up on the event, and get ready for this summer. This year is gonna be a good one.

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