Executive Director’s Message Spring 2005, Volume 6, Number 2

IDVAAC Hip Hop conference creates common ground among diverse stakeholders

 

O

ur annual conferences are always very powerful, and I’m proud of the impact they have on our audiences. Our last gathering in August of 2004 moved the IDVAAC experience to a whole new level. Not only was our conference on “Domestic Violence and the Hip Hop Generation: Understanding Challenges, Resources and Interventions to End Violence in this Generation” powerful, but it was extremely provocative. And it provided a much-needed forum for creating some common ground among a diverse group of stakeholders: the music industry, academics, DV practitioners, and the media.

The audience learned that there may be more to Hip Hop than what we see represented in the news media: bad language, scantily clad women, and threatening black males. We found that corporate entities direct the depiction of certain images, and the fashion industry tries to capture and borrow from the African-American culture.

For example our prison system is filled with males who don't wear belts for some serious safety reasons. This is not just a fashion statement. Not many people realize that this is where the sagging pants of today's youth come from.

Unfortunately, intentional or not (and many would argue that it is intentional) young African Americans who are members of what has been dubbed the Hip Hop generation, which some say ranges from age 15-50 depending on your tastes, are portrayed primarily in a negative manner.

What is often ignored is the positive side of Hip Hop and its spiritual roots. Remember Kanye West who received a Grammy for “Jesus Walks” and the poetic music of Nana Soul. We look at how music with reverent beginnings has spiraled out of control, due to commercial interests. It is very troubling that in today’s global society the negative, distorted images of young black people from the United States are transmitted all over the world.

In this issue, you will learn more about the content from our conference last summer in New York City, with excerpts from author Bakari Kitwana and Professor Carolyn West’s presentations. We had an all-star cast of speakers, including Lateefah Simon, executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco, and Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence Magazine.

We’re pleased that Essence has launched a campaign to challenge sexism in rap music. The editors claim that this is a women’s issue, but it’s a black women’s issue first, because of the prevalence on music videos showing “bikini-clad sisters gyrating around fully clothed grinning brothers like Vegas strippers on meth.” The topic was featured in the Dec. 2004 issue of Essence and the March 2005 issue of Vibe Magazine. We are pleased that sexism in music is finally getting the attention it deserves.

These are highly charged issues that affect deeply the prevalence of domestic violence in the African-American community. We are pleased that IDVAAC has had the opportunity to undertake a leadership role in examining issues related to the intersections of Hip Hop and domestic violence and recommending solutions.

 
Oliver

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