Sep 3, 2004 in UNITY 2004

Can the Hip-Hop Generation Send Dubya Packing?

by Caroline Perez

Punk musician Fat Mike of band NOFX and San Francisco music label Fat Wreck Chords created, an online community with up-to-date current events and a section on how to register to vote. Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network is based on the premise that "hip-hop is an enormously influential agent for social change which must be responsibly and proactively utilized to fight the war on poverty and injustice," according to its web site.

These hip-hop generation initiatives and the importance of voting are explored in political commentator Farai Chideya's new book, "Trust: Reaching a 100 Million Missing Voters."

"I think it very much remains to be seen whether the hip-hop voting initiatives will work," Chideya said via e-mail. "We'll know on November 3, and even if they don't work, we have to keep trying."

In an April 22 interview with News Watch, Chideya described the 100 million missing voters as the hip-hop generation--Americans under 35 who are multi-racial, economically diverse but primarily working class. The book is an "appeal to help them mobilize and take control of their political lives," she said.

Chideya said major political parties largely ignore people who do not vote -- the poor and working class. Therefore, they've lost faith in voting. "I also think that culturally, Americans are just not very invested in the idea of voting as a civic duty. In some countries, like Germany and South Africa, over 70 percent of citizens vote, " she said.

Outside the loft of her book release party at the Unity Journalists of Color Convention in Washington last month, Chideya explained why she wrote about voting.

"The breakdown between government and citizens is really about trust," she said. "I really just tried to break it down and take a look at how the system treats people."

Although, the sytem may be broken, the only way to fix it is for people to participate, Chideya said, and she is interested to see if the hip-hop initiatives will have an impact on the upcoming presidential election.

"People like P Diddy and Russell Simmons and the hip-hop political convention are trying to get people to vote. And all sorts of other groups too. I think a lot of people are at least recruiting voters. We'll see if they actually vote."

More than 70 friends, family and journalists came to the book release party. In between the DJ mixing hip-hop, a few friends read passages from the book. "Trust: Reaching a 100 Million Missing Voters" is scheduled to be released later this month.