Hip-Hop Fridays: Ending Poverty and Ignorance in America and Throughout the World: Significance of the Steele for U.S. Senate Campaign in Maryland by Russell Simmons
Some of my liberal friends and associates are quite upset with me for personally endorsing Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele for the United States Senate. Steele is conservative and a Republican. I am an Independent who has, in the past, supported numerous Democratic candidates with the recent exception of my endorsement of the re-election of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a moderate Republican.
At a time when the ranks of the poor and impoverished across America and throughout the world are on a steady increase, I am going to support and endorse those political leaders who are bold enough to commit publicly to playing an active leadership role in building an effective legislative strategy to end poverty and ignorance. Real leadership, however, should not be limited, solely defined or circumscribed only by political party affiliation.
Hip-hop culture is global and universal. It not only transcends race, ethnicity, class, gender, geography, religion and national boundaries, hip-hop also transcends established political parties. Hip-hop is inclusive, not exclusive, of all of the realities that impact the quality of life of millions of people who daily cry out for a better way of life.
I was pleased to witness Michael Steele as a statewide official taking action in Maryland during the last four years to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, initiate educational programs for incarcerated youth, increase access to minority community economic development, clean up the environment and develop alternative energy sources, as well as support equal, high-quality education for all in the public school system. My attention was focused on these accomplishments and the fact that Steele kept the promises and commitments that he had made to the voters.
Steele's criticism of President Bush and the war in Iraq further exemplifies that Steele is an independent thinker and leader who is not chained or bridled by the neoconservatives of the Republican Party. Of course, I know that no politician is perfect and there are many issues that Steele and I do not agree on. What's important to me is that I believe, after reviewing his track record, Michael Steele will be a leader in the U.S. Senate toward making ending poverty and ignorance a clear priority.
Love is neither liberal nor conservative; it is what God gives to us all. Love requires justice, fairness and openness for new ways of making a difference in the quality of life for all people everywhere. One of my mentors, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, encouraged me to directly connect my daily private practice of Yoga to my public actions and endorsements. Dr. Ben was with me when I made the trip to Baltimore to announce my support of Lt. Gov. Steele. In one of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is written, "The practice of concentration on a single subject is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments." In other words, a singular focus or concentration on ending poverty is a necessary commitment by anyone who is serious about this issue.
That night Steele announced, "I declare a new agenda for America; an anti-poverty agenda - an economic empowerment agenda that I will take with me to the United States Senate - because empowerment creates opportunity that poverty will never let you see. To tell you the truth, not enough people in either party are willing to even say the word 'poverty' ... much less do anything about it. To begin, unlike a lot of Republicans, I believe we need to raise the minimum wage."
Great movements for change always require taking risks and acting outside the close-minded boxes of society. Building an effective anti-poverty movement will need many elected officials like Steele and many others from different constituencies from across the nation and
throughout the world.
Let's stay focused. Don't get distracted by party labels.
Let us all work together and share responsibly in God's love for all.
Let's end poverty and ignorance!
Russell Simmons is Chairman of The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). Visit The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network at www.hsan.org
Friday, September 1, 2006