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Panel will examine hip-hop’s role in 2008 election

Bakari Kitwana, executive director of Rap Sessions, will serve as moderator.

As the 2008 presidential race heats up and the Pennsylvania primary nears, Lehigh University will host a timely and engaging event that will unite leading hip-hop activists, scholars, and artists to engage students and community members in a dialogue on the political issues that will impact today’s youth.

The event, entitled “Hip-Hop & the 2008 Presidential Election,” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, at the Whitaker Lab Auditorium.

Part of a national tour called Rap Sessions, the evening is designed to jumpstart crucial local debate. It will examine why the hip-hop vote counts, what’s at stake for America’s youth, how local hip-hop organizers influence the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, and what student activists can do to mobilize the hip-hop vote.

“Hip-hop plays a huge role in politics,” says Calvin John Smiley, president of the Black Student Union, which is hosting Tuesday’s event. “In 2004, P. Diddy promoted voting in his Vote or Die campaign. Other rappers have financially backed candidates, like Timberland when he gave $800,000 to Hillary Clinton. Many rappers have voiced who they support and this has a profound influence on what citizens look at in candidates.”

Bakari Kitwana, executive director of Rap Sessions and author of The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture, will moderate the event. Speakers include:

• Rosa Clemente, co-founder of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention and organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

• Jeff Johnson, executive director of Truth Is Power, who served as the former national youth director for the NAACP, vice president of Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and deputy director for People For the American Way.

• M1 (aka Mutulu Olugbala), half of the political rap duo deadprez.

• Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, an adjunct professor in the Women in Politics Institute at American University, and author of The Political Action Handbook: A How to Guide for the Hip-Hop Generation. She is the former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

“All of the speakers that are coming are highly qualified in their respected areas. Many have advanced degrees from higher learning institutes,” Smiley says. “Also, they are both active in the fields of hip-hop and politics and can bring a new perspective to Lehigh and its community. We hope that these speakers engage our audience and that people can take what is said and use it to make their decisions in who they will vote for.”

“Hip Hop & the 2008 Presidential Election” is also sponsored by the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Visiting Lectures Committee, the Sociology, History, Political Science and Theatre Departments, Women’s Studies, the Humanities Center, ArtsLehigh, Joint Multicultural Programs, Career Services, Black/Latino Alumni, the Global Union and Kappa Alpha Psi Inc.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Monday, March 24, 2008

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