Saturday, April 14, 2012
Wu-Tang 4 The Children; RZA Chats with Youths on Skype about responsibilities
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has always found a way to include the genre of hip hop in the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day convention.
This year’s live webcasted youth and hip hop townhall featured a conglomerate of influential artists and community activists who delved into subject matter aimed at inspiring young people to accept responsibility.
“Education is the thing that they don’t want you to have that you can elevate yourself with. Anything that’s worth something, you have to strive for it and education is the ultimate thing to strive for,” said rap artist Cormega.
“The first step in getting young people excited about education is to show their value in it and make it relevant,” said Enoch Muhammad of Hip-Hop Detoxx.
They were a part of the first set of panelists along with experienced organizers Hasaun Muhammad and music artist Lah Tere. The event was hosted the evening of Feb. 25 at the Stephens Convention Center.
Greg “Grouchy Greg” Watkins, who co-founded AllHipHop.com, facilitated that segment on education. The popular site served as an official co-sponsor and broadcasted the entire program to their thousands of online readers. It could also be viewed on the N.O.I.’s site.
“We need to create a trend where we start promoting excellence, not just in entertainment and sports, but within this business paradigm. Opportunities exist outside rap,” said Hasaun Muhammad.
Lah Tere said she founded Mama’s Hip Hop Kitchen as a platform to educate and empower women to “be activists and talk about what’s happening in their communities because as women we are dying. Our community is dying,” she said.
RZA spoke to the youth via Skype.
“No government can change what’s going on in our community. We have to do it ourselves and use Hip-Hop as a tool,” said Lah Tere.
“I think it is important that everybody realize that you’re going to have to educate yourself. Unfortunately, we are a community of people that have been severely oppressed. Nobody has our best interest in mind when it comes to education,” said Grouchy Greg.
The crowd was brought to their feet as performers Avian Nalej, Akilah Nehanda, Nailah Muhammad and Malika rocked the microphone with songs filled with conscious and uplifting lyrics.
The power of originality
Ashahed M. Muhammad, Asst. Editor of The Final Call newspaper, moderated the second panel discussion. RZA, of the Wu Tang Clan, spoke via Skype and was interviewed by Mr. Muhammad. RZA also answered questions from the audience.
“There are more opportunities in this industry besides being an artist. There are many avenues we can enter into to show our talents and not just copy the same thing we’re seeing others do,” said RZA. “Be original and try to bring something unique to the game. When it is original it is unique and when it’s unique it has value,” he added.
The award-winning producer also spoke on how the Wu Tang Clan has been able to maintain longevity by studying the business side of the industry and also feeding their minds constantly on the Supreme Wisdom Lessons brought by Master Fard Muhammad, founder of the NOI.
“After all of my studying, I’ve come to find that Islam is the proper way of life. Master Fard Muhammad, for whom we celebrate Saviours’ Day, brought this divine wisdom to free our minds. If you look at Method Man, Old Dirty, Raekwon, Ghostface, they all study these lessons. A lesson a day keeps the stress away,” said RZA.
Jasiri X, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Ja’Mal Green, Divine, Raheem DeVaughn, Mary Brown and JT The Bigga Figga were the next featured panelists.
“Violence is really a big thing in this generation. It’s really hard to watch the news because that’s all you see. I think there’s a lack of opportunities for youth so they go into the streets,” said Mr. Green, a 16-year-old music writer.
The majority of those in attendance were under the age of 19 brought by co-sponsoring group Much Better For The People. For some this was their first time being outside of the confines of their Chicago neighborhoods.
“You are the most important generation our people have ever seen. In the 20th century we fought for civil rights, but the difference right now is we’re fighting for existence,” said Rev. Yearwood, who heads the D.C.-based Hip-Hop Caucus. “There’s some in this room who the spirit is going to hit you that you’re going to recognize that this is the time for us to fight.”
Mr. DeVaughn, a Grammy nominated R&B singer, spoke on how he has successfully navigated through the “landmines” and “pitfalls” of the industry thus far.
“Try to have the right team around you. You’re judged by the company that you keep. Be God fearing, be a leader and be willing to go against the grain. Know that nobody is going to give you anything,” said Mr. DaVaughn.
Pittsburgh rapper and activist Jasiri X has chosen to address serious issues via his popular YouTube videos versus contributing more to the dumbing down of the masses.
“We have almost a depression in our community as far as the lack of resources, the lack of jobs, and people being killed. I feel like, as an artist, to talk about popping bottles and making it rain, that’s not the real experience that our people are dealing with,” said Jasiri X.
“I don’t want to be an artist just for the sake of selling records. I want to use my art to uplift our community. It’s my responsibility,” he said.
Insight into taking advantage of the digital revolution, the need for ownership and what it takes to maintain integrity was offered by JT The Bigga Figga, Divine and Mary Brown.
“We brought the young people in hopes that they would be inspired by seeing people of color who are successful and who may have been through similar situations as they have. They enjoyed it,” said Jay Waddy, who spearheads Much Better For The People.
“This was a great event and we received so much support. I always love involving Chuck and Grouchy from AllHipHop because they also back us up. We hope to make it even bigger next year because these young people need to know Minister Farrakhan,” said Yonasda LoneWolf Muhammad, who was the lead organizer of the town.