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Politics Mondays: Turning The Heart Of The Fathers To The Children...

On Thursday and Friday of last week I had the honor of serving as a moderator, panelist and workshop presenter at the historic National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Newark, New Jersey.

To me, the convention, along with a few other promising signs in the music industry this year, represents an important stage, not only in terms of the political evolution of Hip-Hop, but also a key stage in the unification of a younger and older generation of Black Americans.

Before the convention, I meditated over the 4th chapter of the book of Malachi, in the fifth and sixth verses which reads, “ Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

While the convention had a clear mission and there were obvious aspects to it, I was more struck by the subtleties of seeing and hearing the dialogue on panels and in the hallways that took place between those labeled the “Civil Rights Generation” and the “Hip-Hop Generation”. It is clear to me that among a great many positive results of this convention, none may be more important than the definitive reference it provides as a forum between those who struggled in the 1960s and 1970s and those who were born during those same years.

It is fitting that the conveners, planners, and early supporters of the convention openly stated that their efforts were being guided by two events – the Gary, Indiana political convention of 1972 and the Million Man March of 1995. Perhaps these two events, better than most show the potential for unity between the youth and those who have come before them.

In some ways I have felt that the emphasis on inter-generational tension in the context of a “Hip-Hop Generation” and a “Civil Rights Generation” has been designed to deliberately pit one dimension of the Black family against another – with each side defending its identity, stating why the other side needs its point of view. At times, the “elders” have sounded very arrogant and ignorant while the "youth" have sounded very arrogant and ignorant, juxtaposed to one another.

I know that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, approximately 70 years ago said that of all of our studies, history is best qualified to reward the researcher. He also explained why. I also know that a great many people today believe that Brother Malcolm X is the first to make the statement, "History is best qualified to reward our research”. In the context of bringing generations together that is fine. I am barely in my thirties, but I learned what I learned about the earlier reference to the study of history from older members of the Nation Of Islam who, with their own eyes and ears, read and heard the Honorable Elijah Muhammad write and/or say what he did about the value of the study of history, and cared enough to inform me. I am grateful to them and Brother Malcolm.

If we all come together in study and dialogue then the sharing and grasping of facts and interpretations are improved, and regardless to sourcing, we will get the benefit of the truth, perfectly marrying our principles with our practices. God has made a witness for everything, and by allowing one generation to give birth to another and educate (through oral and written means) those who are younger, the process is in place for all of the truth of Life's witnesses to be passed from one person (and people) to another. Unfortunately, Black people in Africa and America, in particular, have been the most deprived of accurate witnesses, due to a unique enslavement and oppression. A key element to the denial of this educational process in America has been prohibitions –internal and external – on the freedom of assembly to discuss the most serious problems that face the oppressed.

Hip-Hop, as the dominant mass communication media of Black America has promoted and preserved witness-bearing. In retracing the steps of Gary, Indiana, the National Hip-Hop Political Convention has made a powerful step forward in overcoming the prohibition and inhibition regarding meaningful assembly and dialogue, that is necessary to the educational process that will inform a new activism in Black America and throughout the world.

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, June 21, 2004

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