Hip-hop symposium joins academics and activists, Oct. 6

Sept. 27, 2006 12:27 p.m.

Princeton theologian and activist Cornel West will share a stage with rapper Talib Kweli, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California, and some of the country's leading thinkers in the field of hip-hop music for the "Princeton Hip-Hop Symposium" on Friday, Oct. 6, at Princeton University.

The Princeton student group "Hip-Hop: Art & Life," in cooperation with the national Center for American Progress, will present a panel discussion at 2 p.m. in McCosh 50 focusing on the role of hip-hop in post-9/11 America. The event, which is free and open to the public, is intended to explore the role of the hip-hop generation as today's dominant youth culture in initiating social change.

Any members of the news media wishing to attend should contact Mike Rudoy at mrudoy@princeton.edu or (312) 286-5651 NO LATER THAN noon Tuesday, Oct. 3.

"This event truly contrasts the four original elemental figures in hip-hop culture -- the emcee, the DJ, the graffiti artist and the B-boy -- with the four fundamental figures in social change -- the politician, the intellectual, the artist and the student," said Princeton senior Michael Rudoy, a principal organizer for the event as a member of Hip-Hop: Art & Life. "Since hip-hop culture has established itself as both dominant in youth and pop culture in America today -- and we're seeing the solidification of hip-hop as a legitimate and worthwhile academic pursuit -- these counterparts are being forced to interact in new and complex ways."

Television personality Jeffery Johnson of Black Entertainment Television (BET) will moderate a panel discussion that explores this new interaction. Johnson is popularly known as "Cousin Jeff" for his role hosting the BET show "The Cousin Jeff Chronicles," and he was previously the national youth director for the NAACP and vice president for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

The panelists will include:

  • West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and one of the nation's most widely known and quoted intellectuals on topics of race, politics and class issues;
  • Congresswoman Waters, the Democratic representative of California's 35th District who has been vocal on issues related to minority representation in the media and social services for minorities;
  • Kweli, the hip-hop artist commonly dubbed "the thinking-man’s rapper" by entertainment industry insiders, including hip-hop publication The Source Magazine;
  • Bakari Kitwana, an author, freelance journalist, former editor-in-chief of The Source Magazine and co-founder of the first National Hip-Hop Political Convention;
  • Rosa Clemente, a hip-hop journalist, activist and community organizer recently featured on CNN, NPR and C-SPAN; and
  • Maria McMath, a Princeton University doctoral candidate in anthropology who organized a similar hip-hop roundtable with West and TV host Tavis Smiley in Paris last year.

The symposium's rare gathering of political activists and social commentators on the hip-hop culture was timed to coincide with a critical period in the country's history, Rudoy said.

"We're hosting this symposium as our nation commemorates three major events that have changed our society," he said. "We're commemorating the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 and the 219th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17. As a leader in progressive higher education, it is important that Princeton recognizes the hip-hop generation's role on the American political stage. This event has been fully initiated and developed by the torchbearers of the hip-hop generation -- the students."

The symposium is being held in partnership with the Campus Progress division of the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research and educational institute that engages students in social activism.

Sponsors include the Frist Campus Center, Fields Center, Coca-Cola Company, Princeton University Dining Services, Center for African American Studies, the departments of politics, English, anthropology, history and music, and the programs in African studies and American studies.

The event does not require tickets and will be simulcast live at the Frist Campus Center. It will also be carried on University Channel 7. Revisit this announcement on the Princeton Web site for updates.