Seattle hip-hop organizing focuses on media access and social justice

On Nov. 19, Reclaim the Media helped put together a breakfast gathering with a number of Seattle hip-hop performers, promoters, organizers and community media producers. While groups like 206 Zulu, Coolout Network, OseaO productions, Silent Lambs Project and others have been meeting and organizing together for a few months now, the particular excuse for this meeting was the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center's "Hip Hop: Back to its Roots" festival, a weekend-length showcase of hip-hop performing arts and politics. RTM partnered with festival organizers to bring up Bay-area hip-hop journalist and media visionary Davey D. Davey was a featured guest at the brunch meeting. Photos from the event here.

Discussion topics included the need to document Seattle's rich hip-hop history, and the challenges of maintaining the connections between hip-hop expression and organizing for social justice. With Seattle's Nov 30 FCC media ownership meeting around the corner, media access and accountability were also central topics for conversation. Davey D observed that hip-hop artists and promoters around the country have recently been making the connection between local artists' lack of access to radio airwaves and the corporate control which characterizes broadcast media, especially radio.

In addition to corporate control of media, Davey also noted the problem of the continuing lack of support for alternative, community-owned media institutions. It's not news that there's a lack of institutional/governmental support for media alternatives. But, as Davey pointed out, there's also a lack of support from local artists who "just want to get on" the big programs, focusing solely on their own place in the limelight rather than building our own alternative infrastructure that supports our values and the culture that we're creating.

"There's nothing to 'get on' to," Davey argued. As often as not, commercial urban radio stations fake their local programming, and their local accountability. Grassroots performers and producers should see this absence as an opportunity to create and support our own media, instead of wasting time banging on the doors of the corporate "plantations."

Local hip-hop media/political organizing in Seattle will continue--many attendees of this weekend's gathering plan to attend and testify at the upcoming FCC hearing, and plan to hold another followup meeting soon afterwards.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey