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Hip-Hop the Vote

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.

    T.J. Crawford, chairman of the recently formed Chicago Hip-Hop Political Action Committee, says his organization’s long-term goal is to change the social and political reality facing the hip-hop generation.

    “We seek to educate the hip-hop community about the political process, explain to them how we are affected by politics every day.”

    “And we want to get people out to polls so they can voice their concerns and stop taking a victim’s mentality.”

    Safe communities, jobs, arts and brutality-free policing lead the group’s list of long-term goals.

    ….These efforts suggest two important developments. First, the idea that this generation is disinterested in political issues finally might see its last days. Second, that a critical swing vote in the near, if not immediate, future is emerging out of hip-hop. And just as hip-hop shifted the paradigm in commerce and pop culture, look for more of the same as the hip-hop generation makes its way into politics. I hope when it comes to politics, the winds of change will give us all a very needed breath of fresh air – and, if we’re lucky, breathe a truer democracy of the many, rather than the few, back into our republic.

Well, yeah. I’m not sure I see the Republicans going for all that, however. It is also interesting that this feature is directed at blacks, but something like 2/3 of all hip-hop records are bought by whites. Are they part of the “hip-hop generation” as well?

I very much like this attitude however: “And we want to get people out to polls so they can voice their concerns and stop taking a victim’s mentality.” Word.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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