The changing face of a movement

Kyle Roerink

Author discusses inheritance of black community

Sixty people packed the African Community Theatre to continue celebrating the achievements of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama last night.

After the crowd clapped its hands in unison to the rhythm of “Amazing Grace,” keynote speaker Bakari Kitwana, author of “The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture,” said he tries to give a balanced look at what the hip-hop generation inherited from the civil rights generation.

In his speech, Kitwana said the hip-hop political movement needs to build national organizations, engage mainstream political parties, build coalitions across all races and continue to secure resources to build forward-thinking, cultural and progressive groups and movements.

“One of the most serious setbacks we see within the hip-hop movement is the idea that we don’t have the responsibility to fund our own movements,” he said. “We absolutely have the responsibility to do so.”

In an interview before the speech, Kitwana said he wanted to give a balanced look at what the hip-hop generation inherited from the civil rights generation.

“You have successive generations within the African-American community that provide activist movements and a certain kind of cultural impulse that pretty much remain the same from one generation from the next,” Kitwana said, “until you get to the hip-hop generation.”

The hip-hop generation consists of anyone who was born between 1965 and 1984. He said the hip-hop generation is different than the civil rights generation because of the changes in the ways people worshipped, the explosion of the global economy and the ways people communicated and worked in the community.

Kitwana said in the black community, the changes in everyday life and culture created a friction between the two generations.

As the economy changed throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, he said the availability of jobs changed, changing people’s attitudes about the economic landscape. Eventually, education started to matter less, he said.

Kitwana said the pioneers of hip-hop and their points of reference and worldview are very much shaped by being on the tail end of the black power movement and the civil rights movement. He said the hip-hop generation needs to focus applying morals to a social evolution.

“I think that what the hip-hop generation needs to learn (from Dr. King) is what is the moral center of the hip-hop political movement,” he said. “And that needs to be widely distributed and understood.”

Kitwana said visionaries get people to believe in themselves, which is why King did not fight the civil rights movement all by himself.

Joey Pompignano, a junior journalism and mass communication major, recited his poetry before Kitwana’s speech. He said he was “blessed” to be in a position where he can transcend the voice the civil rights generation gave to all.

“If it weren’t for people like Dr. King, I might not be performing tonight,” Pompignano said. “It is just amazing how far we have come along – everyone is just one.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].