Hip-hop culture now turning attention to electoral process:
- "We will make the political establishment understand that this is a generation that has not only produced a culture that has seized the center stage of the world, but that in terms of politics will be the most savvy of any generation that black America has produced," says Conrad Muhammad, founder and director of A Movement for CHHANGE (Conscious Hip-Hop Activism Necessary for Global Empowerment).
Earlier this year, he tested the waters for how he might fare in a run against Rep. Charles Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, even possibly as a Republican.
"We intend to put them on notice that they will have to vie for this generation's vote and reward it with substance or they won't get it," Muhammad said.
Quickly disappearing are the days when the black vote was firmly planted in the hip pocket of the Democratic Party. A 1999 Gallup poll found that 44 percent of blacks 18 to 34 years old identified themselves as independents. This is extraordinary in a demographic that traditionally has been seen as more likely to vote Democrat. A 2002 report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is equally telling. The study showed that 63 percent of young black adults identified themselves as Democrats. In a 2000 poll by the same group, 74 percent said they were Democrats.
This is a message that isn't being lost on young voters and, increasingly, politicians. Recently in Little Rock, Ark., advertisements paid for by the Council for a Better Government aired on the local hip-hop station, encouraging hip-hop kids to vote for Republican candidates. Former President Bill Clinton in New York and last week on BET has been reaching out to this emerging voting bloc as well.
The Chicago Hip-Hop Political Action Committee, the Cuyahoga County-based political action committee BUILD (Blacks United in Local Democracy) and the New York City-based Urban Think Tank Institute are all nonpartisan organizations, are all tapping into the power of hip-hop to bring about social change at the polls and are all asking their target audience - 17 to thirtysomethings - to participate in the mainstream political process - but not just on election day.