Separating the Darkness So That We May See the Light: Guidance for the Hip Hop Community in 2013 and Beyond

By Bro. Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

www.tonymuhammad.com

The marked end of The Mayan Calendar on December 21st, 2012 as noted in the KRS-One song Aztechnical does not mean that life on planet Earth itself is going to end any time soon due to cataclysmic events. But rather, just as many Biblical Prophecies, Qur’anic Prophecies, the pyramid prophecies of Ancient Egypt (Kemet), the end of The Age of Pisces/beginning of the Age of Aquarius and other prophetic histories that are “written in advanced,” the end of The Mayan Calendar points to, above all else, the end of an old state of being and the steady movement towards a new age of spiritual and intellectual Awakening; into the very nature and reality of Self.

This is the consciousness and manifestation of God in the person of human being, which is also known as “The Hereafter.” This is not talking about a state of consciousness that we experience after we physically die, but an actual physical condition experienced here on Earth while we are still living.  Furthermore, “The Hereafter” is a state of being in which we are actively working to manifest The Divine in any way imaginable, while continuously removing obstructions that impede our progress from achieving this Ultimate Goal.  As Edgar Cayce, a legend within the New Thought Movement, said “For you grow to heaven, you don’t go to heaven. It is within thine own conscience that ye grow there …”

Hip Hop, as a culture and as a community, must move in this direction of Divine Order if it stands a chance to survive. Movement towards The Divine, in this sense, is not a partial occurrence, as it has been experienced in the Movement in the past (particularly in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s). Rather, The Time we are living in warrants a holistic change, incorporating all aspects of living – from the way that we think, perform, eat and even rest.

In essence, the root of making all things new in our way of life derives from what The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has referred to as The Most Powerful Creative Force which is Love, The Building Blocks that gave shape and form to the very Universe itself.  We along with everything in Creation itself exist because of Unconditional Love, which is Biblically synonymous with The Creator of The Heavens and The Earth Himself.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8).

It is because of Unconditional Love for the people, that one of the most influential Founding Fathers of Hip Hop culture, Afrika Bambaataa, was able to end gang violence in The South Bronx in the early 1970s.  It was gang violence that was leading to heightened levels of death among the youth.  In a gradual process, after entering into Divine Knowledge that he had learned from different communities at the time, including The Nation of Islam, The Nation of Gods and Earth and The Moorish Science Temple.  He utilized that knowledge to separate the darkness (or condition of gross ignorance) that lurked in his own mind and discovered the Divine Light that was buried within him the whole time of his own existence.  From there, he summoned the Divine Forces within himself and all of the Forces outside of himself.  They manifested themselves in the form of the gang members in the community, which he considered to be his family.  He called for peace, and established it under the banner of the first Hip Hop activist organization called Universal Zulu Nation.

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Afrika Bambaataa and Tony Muhammad

But just in the very nature of Love being a creative force he also summoned all of the Divine Expressions or Elements in the environment that also lurked in the dark (DJing, Emceeing, Breaking, Graffiti) and gave them aim, purpose, shape and form into the Universal Cultural Expression known as Hip Hop.  Afrika Bambaataa himself says in an interview with East-3.com, which was featured on Daveyd.com:

“It is Afrika Bambaataa to whom named and called each entity of BBoys/BGirls/DJaying/MCs/Aerosol Writing and adding The Most important Knowledge as the main Element of Hip Hop Culture and Brother KRS One helped to add more, with a few other as Plus Elements to the main Key elements of Hip Hop Culture. No one else never used or thought of naming each entity of the Culture an Element or to say that this Movement that we all are doing is called Hip Hop Culture or to recognize it as a World Movement. The Birth of this movement is The Bronx, New York City, New York Republic, but Rap is as Ancient as The creation of Humans itself.”

As noted by Afrika Bambaataa himself, this Divine Process falls in line with the great tradition of Motion of The Ancients themselves.  It goes as far back as The Great River Valley Civilizations of Kemet, Arabia, Sumeria and China in which the richness of the environment was extracted from (cultivated), given form, given aim and given purpose.   And even long before that, it is in line with the actual Self-Creation of The Creator Himself, separating Triple Darkness from Light, and giving Himself and the Universe form using the very rich aquatic material found in the Triple Darkness itself.  This Divine process mentioned in a coded way in both Bible and Holy Qur’an:

“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters At the boundary of light and darkness.” (Job 26:10)

“Praise be to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and made darkness and light. Yet those who disbelieve set up equals to their Lord.  He it is Who created you from clay, then He decreed a term. And there is a term named with Him; still you doubt.” (Holy Qur’an 6:1 – 2)

Just as it was in these Noble Divine Beginnings, so it can be with Hip Hop once again.  The culture overall has fallen in a state of spiritual darkness and has stayed there for well over a decade.  It’s most illuminating voices have been kept buried, hence “Underground.” But now, it just takes one with unconditional love within an organization, a town or a city to have the courage to unbury these luminaries, bring them together and put their gifts and talents to use for what they are Divinely intended to fulfill – UPLIFT HUMAN BEINGS, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES TO THEIR GREATEST POTENTIAL!  ARE YOU THE ONE THAT CAN FULFILL THIS?

Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 10 years and is currently involved in The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign for the development of the National Hip Hop Day of Service.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference.  He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Rasul Hakim Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.

KRS-One and Pharaoh Huni … Is There a Connection?: Acting in Accords with The Divine Force in Order to Build The Temple (Pyramid) Within

By Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

 

“Within each aspiration dwells the certainty of its own fulfillment.” – Wayne B. Chandler

 

About a week prior to writing this article, I saw several of my Facebook Friends post a picture of Hip Hop Icon KRS-One side by side with a picture of a sculpture of the great Kemetic Ruler (Egyptian Pharaoh) Huni to show how closely they resemble in physical appearance.  Immediately I thought to myself, “While they look almost identical, are there any similarities spiritually in their life work?”  After doing some research about both I came to the conclusion, “Yes!”  Not only are there strong parallels between these two important historical figures, but their messages are key to understanding not only where we are culturally today as a Hip Hop community, but more importantly where we are potentially headed, which lies in a balance in the hands of the people themselves. The Bible puts it this way, “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 77:5)

According to scholars, very little is known about Pharaoh Huni as a whole.  What is confirmed is that he ruled in the 3rd dynasty during Egypt’s Old Kingdom and was the father of Queen Hetepheres I, the wife of Sneferu, his successor and the first ruler of the fourth dynasty. He built a fortress on the island of Elephantine to protect Egypt’s southern border at the First Cataract.  He broke tradition by having pyramids built in the various provinces rather than Saqqara, a vast burial ground serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis.  The way these pyramids were structured may indicate that they were used as more than just tombs.  In fact, the pyramid built at Elephantine was not used as a tomb at all, but for ceremonial/religious purposes.  Huni is also credited for having a steppe pyramid built at Meidum, which was planned to become the largest steppe pyramid in all of Egypt.  The project remained unfinished.  It is believed that Sneferu attempted to have the sides of this pyramid smoothed, which failed and led to its collapse.  Hence, the pyramid at Meidum today is known as “el-haram el-kaddab” (Arabic for “fake pyramid”).  The building of the pyramid at Meidum, can be interpreted in this sense as a “medium” or “means, vehicle or half-way point” as it is noted to mark the transition from the Early Dynastic Period to the Old Kingdom. The name Sneferu interestingly itself denotes “logic.”  The name of Pharaoh Huni’s daughter Hetepheres means “satisfied is her face” and refers to the “Daughter of God.”

Pyramid at Meidum

Question: What does this all have to do with KRS-One, the current cultural state of Hip Hop and where the Hip Hop community is potentially headed?  To begin with, just as Pharaoh Huni was iconic in the history of one of the greatest and influential civilization known in ancient times, KRS-One himself is iconic to a culture (or sub-culture) known as Hip Hop, which has strongly impacted the world in the past 40 years, especially among the youth.  Just as Pharaoh Huni broke with an elitist tradition of the building of pyramids near the capital of Egypt, KRS-One has repeatedly broken tradition in Hip Hop by sharing knowledge with Hip Hoppers (through both music and lectures) that would usually be discussed in elitist academic and religious/spiritual circles.

Coherently, the pyramids that were built in Pharaoh Huni’s time (some used to bury the dead, others used to build and uplift the human being) may reflect the houses of knowledge that exist today and the intention behind building them.  The intention of a “house of knowledge” is reflected in how the knowledge taught within them is utilized by its students after graduation.  If the knowledge is not being utilized to “build and uplift,” and is just used to follow the decaying pattern of activity of the present society then what is being experienced and produced is death because there is no growth.  If new innovative activity is being produced after coming into knowledge then what you have is the opposite, life being experienced and produced, and reproduced as a result of it.  The former represents the limited educational system of this present dying world which is meant to maintain the current social order for as long as the rulers of it are able to remain in power.  The latter represents a new educational paradigm that is inspired in part by the poets, artists and great thinkers who acquire knowledge in an unconventional way and is demonstrate in their work.  The “houses of knowledge” that iconic poets, artists and great thinkers such as KRS-One have sought to build have not begun with an actual four-cornered structure called a school, a temple, a church, a mosque, etc. but rather the mind itself.  It’s what is being done and what will be done with the knowledge that we are divinely blessed with through these vessels and the vessels that will come that will determine our longevity.

The human brain itself is designed to compute perfectly.  However, it will function only as well as the information that is stored in it.  This is the sign we have in Sneferu and his work on the steppe pyramid built at Meidum.  He was set (as a “medium”) to transition the work of his father-in-law and teacher Pharaoh Huni which, in a spiritual sense, would pave the way for future generations.  But while his thinking was known for being logical he deviated from the intentions of Pharaoh Huni, attempted to give the pyramid a form that was unalike, and as a result the temple collapsed.  However, hope still lies in the feminine energy of Pharaoh Huni’s daughter, Hetepheres, which spiritually in name still reflects the divine image and likeness of her father.

 

This is the case today, in 2012, with Hip Hop as a culture and a community.   On a surface level, we are living in times when it appears that Hip Hop is under complete corporate control as its content, frequency and vibration on a popular level integrally contributes to the overall poor quality educational system of the society that is increasingly producing a nation of unintelligent consumers whose labor is being exploited through corporations, commercial academia and the prison system.  Fulfilling the roll of “Sneferu” in the midst of all of this are the popular Hip Hop artists, moguls and connoisseurs of today whose activities in the realm of Hip Hop may have started off with good intention and have experienced personal successful as a result of applying wisdom that they may have learned from communities such as The Nation of Islam and The Nation of Gods and Earth.  However, as business and overall lifestyle integration (even as far as having intimate intercourse) with those who hold high positions in corporations and banking institutions that are greatly responsible for the ignorant state of the society through pop culture increases, the more the measure of success becomes limited and empty.  It becomes an activity that is merely for financial and material gain.  Consequently the moral principles and the Knowledge of The Time that they learned from the righteous communities that they came up under become compromised. This is despite witnessing in present time the very things that these communities said would happen to America in its final days (i.e. erratic weather patters and the dilapidation of the economy and educational system).  Likewise compromised is not only the vision that the pioneers, architects and builders of Hip Hop culture have had for almost 40 years to save lives through the movement, but also the idea to transform it into a constant medium of influence that sustains life itself.  Essentially, the “steppe pyramid” designed in the 1970s in The South Bronx by Founding Fathers such as Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc is now being turned into a smooth pyramid by demonic mainstream forces and is about to collapse along with their overall system of death.  Victory is with those who continue to work to save lives, standing firmly on the foundational principles of the movement and growing and expanding based on it.  Many of those working in the cause may have never produced a “platinum album” or have been the cover feature of a popular magazine.  They may be presently unnoticed actively working among the multitudes in classrooms and community centers, known temporarily by civilian names and civilian titles, planting little seeds of knowledge.  However, because of their great work in the culture in the not too distant future they will become immortalized and recognized through their divine names and divine titles as their seeds bloom into large fields of vegetation that nourish and sustain life.  Just as Hetepheres, the hope lies with them as through their work they maintain the image and likeness of the Founding Fathers of the culture for the benefit of future generations.

Founding Fathers of Hip Hop, Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa

KRS-One gave insight to this in a lecture he gave in London in 2007 recorded by jumpoff.tv:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzkZXJyPWGc&feature=related

“Some of our founders and those that hold secret knowledge and ancient knowledge about how things really clicked, they’re still reading books or writing down. Our Abrahams are still walking around … Well, it’s going to happen.  We’re all going to drop off one at a time.  And as that happens in Hip Hop there will be no more voice. And what we leave as in books and DVDs and in your minds and in discussions like this, what we leave behind is the history … This piece of technology here (pointing to the camera) will outlive me, will outlive all of us …. In fact 2100 will have this tape.  We in 2007 are 2100’s ancestors today.  We are not our present selves today.  We are ancestors and when you realize that you are an ancestor right now in Hip Hop you and Afrika Bambaataa are identical.  You and Grandmaster Flash are identical. … But it’s a realization that you need to come to.  I know that I’m being recorded and I don’t know where this might wind up but I have a reflex that I’ve gained over years and that reflex is every picture I take … every DJ drop that I give or every shout out, every camera is going to outlive me.  So it’s not about who I am today. That’s for the fans … But for you who come out to these kinds of meetings after the show … Oh, this is a chosen group.  And you’re on the tape as well … Some of the information I want to leave on this tape will actually save lives.  … What is the role of Hip Hop?  What should we as a community be doing?  Well that question is not for me to tell you first and foremost. This is not a dictatorship. Hip Hop is not even finished yet.  Too many times we think that Hip Hop is finished … It’s like we’ve created it, it’s Breakin’, Emceein’, Graffiti, DJin’, Beatboxin’, Street Fashion … No!  Hip Hop won’t be created for another hundred years.  We need at least a hundred years on this.  At least … before we have created a definitive culture that can be repeated over and over again into infinity.  We’re still creating it.  Recognize this number one, you are the pioneers of Hip Hop right now … No holy place wanted us!  We were Breakers, B-Boys, B-Girls … God came to us directly! … Hip Hop is a Divine culture.  I know we may not think about it in this way today but I invite you to think about your culture in this way that our parents, your parents as well, prayed and hoped that a divine strategy would save their children from the oppression that they faced even here in The UK.  … Every institution rejected us… No help from nowhere!  … Our parents, The FBI, The CIA, Everybody else is like you’re not going to make it, we’re putting roadblocks in front of you, we’re sending all of you off to jail, we’re killing the rest of the half of y’all, no father, your mother’s crazy, the whole nine, we had everything against us.  Now there is a saying in all holy books that says that the last shall be first.  In all holy texts across the globe and across time there is a Force in the Universe that seems to look out for the bird with the broken wing, for the one who is downtrodden, for the one that no human will help.  That Force in the Universe we call it God, we call it Christ, we call it the Mahdi, we call it Mercy, we call it Salvation. Whatever we call it, this Force came to us in the Bronx … really, it hit the whole globe.  But for some reason, us in the Bronx, we got hit with this mentality … hitting specific ones in the Black community … This Force was specific!”

The Teacha, KRS-One

 

As KRS-One vividly points out presently things seem like they are at a standstill in Hip Hop.  But, in Truth, there are forces that are actively working that will ultimately bring about the change we have been long yearning for.  While many do not understand how he moves, KRS-One is in line with these forces as he takes time to not just perform for audiences as they normally do, but literally teach audiences while in the process.  In the song “Hip Hop Lives” (2007) KRS-One says “Every year I’m expanding/Talking to developers about this city we planning.”  The developers” is not speaking about the kind that typically invest in real estate, but rather the ones that must become awaken to the reality of themselves so that they can change their current state and allow “The City” or “Pyramid” or “Temple” of God to form within themselves, advancing the culture for generations to come.  Those like KRS-One, Chuck D, Professor Griff, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc and many, many others in Hip Hop who have gone through what is known scripturally as the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10) and today working in the name of God so as to save lives are doing the work of The Messiah, which let’s us know the True Identity of The Hip Hop Generations.

More to come next time, Allah (God) Willing.

Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 10 years and is currently involved in The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign for the development of the National Hip Hop Day of Service.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference.  He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Rasul Hakim Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.

Music Is Alive Campaign Launched at Organic Hip Hop Conference

 A message by The M.I.A. Campaign

MIAMI, FL – From the outcry of slam poet Jasmine Mann to Dee 1’s lyrical plea to 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, and Jay-Z, the stage has been set for a new era where artists and entertainers are being held accountable for the messages they send. Given the current state of Hip Hop culture, it can be seen as a necessary move if the community itself seeks to advance. But along with the critique of music, media, and cultural habits that have a negative impact, we also have to highlight, promote and bring to the forefront entities, and ideas that reflect the direct opposite. Understanding the need to collectively utilize the power of the arts for good, a groundbreaking movement has emerged to unite artists, activists, and educators in a mass campaign of positive messages and images.

The movement is called The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign, a national task force stressing to artists that they can’t be ‘missing in action’ and that it is now time to unify as a conscientious voice of uplift through music, media, mentorship and beyond. The campaign was inspired by the 2001 address of Minister Louis Farrakhan to the Hip Hop community where he called for the acceptance of responsibility on the part of artists.  Sister Arian Muhammad goes further into the vision of the campaign stating, “It’s time to stand as a collective force to combat negative images that are promoting ignorance and moral decay. We have to use our gifts to help reverse the effects, first, by understanding the power of art and our influence as artists, then using that influence as a means to educate and inspire a thirst for knowledge. Ignorance is prevailing, and ignorance is darkness when what we need is light.”

Consisting of a group of artists, and educators from various parts of the country, The MIA Music Is Alive campaign was officially launched October 29th 2010 at the 7th annual Organic Hip Hop Conference in Miami, Florida.  The Organic Hip Hop Conference, which was co-founded by veteran Miami-Dade educator Tony Muhammad, and has attracted many people across different genres who seek to promote Hip Hop as a culture and force that can positively transform lives.  The scope of the conference has historically been oriented towards teaching the Hip Hop generation the value of what the Hon. Elijah Muhammad coined as “How to Eat to Live,” through a culturally relatable medium of expression. 

The highlight of the conference this year was a teacher workshop held at Florida International University in which campaign founder Sister Arian Muhammad and Internationally recognized Hip Hop artist Jasiri X demonstrated how to incorporate the empowering voice of Hip Hop in the day to day classroom experience to 50 Miami-Dade County Public School teachers.  Other presenters included elementary school educator Nicole Kelly, P.A.T.H. (Preserving, Archiving and Teaching Hip Hop History) founder Brimstone 127 and writer/ film producer Jeff Carroll.

Tony Muhammad comments, “This was an excellent launch to the National Campaign! Why not teach and train teachers how to incorporate Hip Hop into the curriculum? Teachers nowadays are in the best position to effectively have young people critically analyze the current music and fashion trends that they partake in.  The new standard must come from and through a paradigm shift in education.  Artists must play an integral role in this paradigm shift as mentors and through service to complete the process.”

MIA Campaign members are looking to organize with youth and artists nation-wide to take part in educational conferences in various cities.  For more information on the MIA campaign visit http://www.miacampaign.wordpress.com or e-mail musicofamovement@yahoo.com to see how you can become involved in your city.

A New Approach to Hip Hop and Education

By Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

www.tonymuhammad.wordpress.com

 Note: The contents of this article are in part based on a workshop presented at the PATH (Preserving Archiving & Teaching Hip Hop History) Summer Camp in Miami.   The article itself was originally published in the August edition of Hurt 2 Healing Magazine, published by Sis. Ebony S. Muhammad, truly a gem and a rising star in our community.  For more info on PATH visit http://www.pathtohiphop.org/.  For more info on Hurt 2 Healing Magazine visit http://www.h2hmag.info/.

 

In recent years, it has become trendy for many education specialists throughout the country to incorporate Hip Hop as a valuable teaching tool.  While these measures have produced both very exciting curricula for many school districts and highly esteemed independently-based outreach community programs, as conscientious educators who have been stimulated to become the inspirational voices that we are today to millions of youth because of Hip Hop, it is absolutely crucial that our creative fire continue to evolve and expand.  Truly, the work must transcend the status of mere “trend” and become more of a movement and ultimately an integral part of our culture. 

In analyzing the current popular and corporate controlled state of the music, it is understandable why many who do not understand Hip Hop beyond its surface level in the present may in ignorance be opposed to the concept of Hip Hop expressed in the classroom; as in the case with recent curricula initiatives in the states of Texas and Arizona.  For educators that grew up in what is termed as “The Golden Era” of the culture (late 80s/early 90s) Hip Hop was much deeper than just music.  It was as Chuck D of the legendary group Public Enemy put it, “The CNN of the streets.”  For many of us that grew up in that era, Hip Hop gave us our first true history lessons and compelled us to look deeper within our roots and deeper understanding as to what our true culture is.   In fact, hundreds of Hip Hop albums at the time included samples of speeches by leaders such as Malcolm X and the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan.  Some of this continued into the mid to late 90s, which is termed by some as the Wu-Tang era, when the music became more grimier in its expression but still provided enough light to provoke many us to question our self-identity and true purpose in life. 

Paralleling CNN, the popular Hip Hop of the past decade has been void of almost all pertinent information.  As media mogul Ted Turner has noted, CNN has become “personality-based” with its various news talk show hosts and no longer a viable news source, focused more on ratings than information.  Hip Hop music has also been altered for commercial purposes, not for the sale of the art in and of itself, but the products the owners of record labels and their associates have invested in; namely liquor, fashion (including but not limited to clothes that sexually arouse) and prisons.  And the artists themselves, the more ignorant consumerist expression they have, the better. 

As adults who became inspired to become teachers because of the knowledge and wisdom that we learned through Hip Hop, we may find ourselves in many ways, day in and day out, judging our own students because they may like the ignorant expression of the popular music of today.  This is problematic because at the mere perception of being judged, students tend to shut down from communicating and they tend to look at the adults who judge them as old has-beens who are not “up with the times.”  For a teacher to be stuck in a “pioneer era” or a “golden era” or even a “Wu-Tang era” is what the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan refers to as a “time warp.”  The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan says on page 59 in Closing The Gap:

There is a saying, “the only thing that is permanent in creation  is  change.”  As long as we live, we are engulfed in an eternal process of change.  Sometimes, however, we get locked into an era of time that gives us great comfort, because in that era of time we became possessors of certain knowledge that acquits us in that time period and we become successful.

This type of thinking violates the mere principle of Hip Hop as defined by KRS-One in the song Hip Hop Lives.  He says to be “Hip” means to be “up-date and relevant” and “Hop” meaning “movement” or moving based on what is known.  It does not mean that we have to accept all the views and attitudes of our students.  It just means that we need to change our methodological approach to teaching and incorporate a style that compels the student, through self-discovery, to challenge his/her own thinking in regards to interests, attitudes and values.  In these scenarios, the student would be at the center of learning and the teacher would perform more as a coach facilitating the process.  In addition, other activities can be developed such as having students write rhymes (or poetry) to history lessons and have them flow over their favorite beats.  Conscientious lyrics of the past (as well as the present) can be used to facilitate understanding the development and evolution of realities in the world so that gaps between the generations can be lessened through the qualitative teacher and student interaction.  Through this approach to teaching, surely students have more of an opportunity through active participation to develop a greater sense of responsibility and consequently stand a greater chance of giving birth to a new expression of Hip Hop that will eclipse the knowledge and wisdom expressed in all previous forms of the music.  This can be a reality if we truly desire it and if we seek it!

 Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 10 years and is currently involved in The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign for the development of the National Hip Hop Day of Service.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference.  He is also a member of Difference Makers, Inc. and FLASC (Florida Africana Studies Consortium).

Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Promoting Proper Education in Our Communities

Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Promoting Proper Education in Our Communities

By Bro. Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/tony.muhammad

www.wordpress.com/tonymuhammad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Now let me tell you folks just exactly what I mean

The way they try to lower, the black man’s self esteem

Put us in their schools and I call em mental graves

When they teach us bout ourselves, all we learn that we were slaves

It amazes me that it was almost 18 years ago that Grand Puba of the legendary Hip Hop group Brand Nubian uttered these lyrics in the song Proper Education.  Despite the growth in the development of Black, Latino, Native American, Asian and other cultural history curricula throughout the country, if we take a look at the current state of education and how it affects our youth, we can safely say that we are in the same state that we were back then, if not worse.  Yes, there are now classes in high schools all throughout the country that have been developed specifically for the instruction of African and African American History, Latin American History, etc.  Yet, we have truly not experienced significant advances in the overall consciousness of our communities.  The youth and hence grown adults continue to confuse or lack even the vague notions of critical recent events in our history (i.e. Confusing The Civil Rights Movement and The Civil War because they both contain the word “civil” and The March on Washington with The Million Man March because they both took place in the nation’s capital).  In truth, those of us that are most aware of this problem are no longer in a position where we can simply blame the system for not properly teaching our true history in a public school setting because we have even taken for granted the value of teaching our history itself.  The process very intricately involves the cultivation and nourishment of the self-esteem of our youth of color, but it is not merely limited to this.  KRS-One put it best 22 years ago in the song You Must Learn:

I believe that if you’re teaching history

Filled with straight up facts no mystery

Teach the student what needs to be taught

‘Cause Black and White kids both take shorts

When one doesn’t know about the other ones’ culture

Ignorance swoops down like a vulture

Emphatically, as a Social Studies educator who has made the decision to play a role in shaping young minds in an inner-city public high school for over 10 years, I will say that we can no longer expect the system to do for us what we can do for ourselves and our local communities.  Signs of this critical hour are found in the manner in which cultural curricula is treated in two principle states that play a strong role in the development of textbooks; Texas and Florida.

Hiphopdx.com (and a host of other websites) recently ran an article entitled “Texas Board Of Education Declare Hip Hop Is Not A Cultural Movement.”  In the article it states that Members of the Texas State Board of Education have given preliminary approval to eliminate significant areas of the curriculum pertaining to Civil Rights and global politics and replace them with “conservative historical figures and beliefs.”  These conservative forces also “approved to have a sociological focus on institutional racism and its presence in American society banned from the books,” in addition to removing references to important Latino contributions throughout history – this is in a state that contains over 8.9 million Latinos (roughly 37% of the population).  In addition, Hip Hop History which is filled with many stories of personalities playing integral roles in working to eliminate violence in communities by way of the arts will also be deleted from the curriculum.  A final vote on this measure will take place sometime in May after conscientious voices in the community have had the opportunity to voice their opinions.  What I will say in short about this is that what the Texas School Board is attempting to do is eliminate any ray of light from the past that may serve to inspire the hope for change in the lives of poor Black, Latino and even White youth.  By eliminating such critical elements of history from the curriculum is contributing to factors that will land more of our youth in Texas in prison.

In Florida, African and African American History is a state mandate which requires school systems throughout the state to implement it throughout the curriculum. While it has been a state law since the early 1990s, the mandate and the seat that oversees its implementation has continued to be unfunded by the state and it has been proven time and time again that there is no true penalty for school systems that are not in accords with its guidelines.  In February I had the opportunity to be the only educator present at a meeting between curriculum specialists representing three of the largest school districts in Florida, which are regarded as “exemplary” in their implementation of African and African American History; Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.  I was invited because of my work in reforming the African American Voices Curriculum for Miami-Dade County.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how the three school districts can work together so that we can more successfully educate students in the area of African and African American History.  While engaged in this dialogue, there was an attempt on the part of two White curriculum specialists from Broward to derail the focus of the meeting and turn it into a plead for more funding from the state for the purpose of increasing professional development for teachers.  I commented in response that while more funding is definitely needed, ultimately “Enthusiasm is not determined by funding.”  I said in the presence of a state education official in that very room that if the state has not adequately funded the African and African American History mandate as of yet, it is not going to be doing it in these troubled economic times.  The state of Florida has proven that it does not really consider the African and African American History mandate a priority, but rather keeps it as a law as an attempt to keep conscientious voices quiet.  I proposed as a strategy instead to scope out enthusiastic teachers in schools throughout the three counties to become advocates not just to teach classes in Black History, but to transform the whole school culture through programs oriented in Black History.  The two White curriculum specialists interrupted me and accused me of proposing a “pep rallying” agenda.  I closed the meeting by saying that the need for proper implementation of Black History goes far beyond teaching a class and goes far beyond mere pep rallying around its content, but in essence, it is about instilling a sense of responsibility in the hearts and minds of the youth that it is being taught to so that they can become effective community leaders when they grow up and are in a position to give back and serve the community.  In truth, it has been Black people in the history of this country (and I will also say this world) that have been the prime catalysts for change and inspiring change whenever it has been deemed necessary for a change to take place.  If Black History (and really any history) is not taken and put to heart in this manner, we end up ineffective in what we seek to accomplish educationally.

As educators that hold certified degrees in the field as well as those among us that do not hold certified degrees in the field, the solution does not lie fully in state educational mandates, but in the level of responsibility that we are willing to fill our hearts with and the level of sacrifice we are willing to commit to in providing service to our communities, especially in respects to the next generations that are coming up under us.  The process must involve proper role modeling and a thorough teaching of our true history, for, as Marcus Garvey put it himself “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”  In truth, no school systems have any real power to determine what knowledge is best for our youth to learn for their growth and development.  As conscientious communities we hold that right!

As a note, while the work that will be required to impact a significant change in consciousness a reality may entail much volunteerism, let us bear in mind that no good work is ever left unrewarded.  Our first reward comes in the form of us actually witnessing the transformative effect of our work.  If worked in a proper way through networking and the pooling of our resources, it will guarantee opportunities that will garner further success for many of us.

More discussion on this very soon through the will of God!

Tony Muhammad teaches Social Studies at an inner-city high school in Miami and is currently involved in The MIA (Music Is Alive) Campaign for the development of the National Hip Hop Day of Service on August 11th .  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference.  He is also a member of Difference Makers, Inc. and FLASC (Florida Africana Studies Consortium).

Towards A National Movement of Responsibility within the Culture!

Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Towards A National Movement of Responsibility within the Culture!

By Tony Muhammad

Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

http://tonymuhammad.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace and Blessings! We are now in the year 2010; marking the beginning of a new year and the birth of a new era of intelligence in this universal culture we have come to know as Hip Hop.  Hip Hop has been best defined by one of its greatest icons, KRS-One.  In the song Hip Hop Lives, KRS-One says:

Hip means to know

It’s a form of intelligence

To be hip is to be up-date and relevant

Hop is a form of movement

You can’t just observe a hop

You got to hop up and do it

Hip and Hop is more than music

Hip is the knowledge

Hop is the movement

Hip and Hop is intelligent movement

All relevant movement

We selling the music

So according to this lyrical definition, in order to live and express Hip Hop to its greatest potential we must stay in tune with the modern times and act in accordance with what is most needed in those times.  As the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan puts it, “Time dictates the agenda!”  I have encountered many “old school heads” that argue that we need to return to the spirit and expression of Hip Hop’s golden era (late 80s and early 90s).  Time and time again I have disagreed with this assessment.  While it is enriching and inspiring to study how the knowledge and wisdom that was pregnant in the music of that time inspired many of us to become the cultivated men and women that we are today, we must keep in mind that it may not be the medium of expression needed to have a significant impact on the hearts and minds of the people today; especially young people.  The music has changed and so too the culture has changed.

What we are countering today goes far beyond the senseless street violence of the 80s that prompted noted Hip Hop artists to produce the Stop The Violence Movement in the East Coast and We’re All In The Same Gang Movement in the West Coast.  In truth, we have just experienced a whole decade in which the minds of our people, especially the youth, have been corrupted like never before.  Corporate media on all levels has fostered an attraction and consequently an addiction to materialism, violence, sex and sexual abuse.  This is so much so, that our young Brothers and Sisters, many of whom are growing up in homes that offer very little love and guidance, are being raised to believe that it is totally acceptable, and therefore normal, for a man to inflict harm on another human being so that his own senses could be pleased.  Our young men mainly become victims to this in the streets and our young ladies mainly become victims to this domestically “between the sheets” … or literally by force in the back seat of cars.  The predominant image of a young man of color by way of subliminal media suggestion is one that is constantly in and out of jail, jobless and maintains very little responsibility for self or others.  Our young ladies are made to believe that if they do not look like Beyonce or some object that is “sexually arousing,” then they are not valuable in the eyes of anyone, including themselves.  In response, many of those of the older generations within the culture become disgusted by the new trends and in their bitterness do not take the time to drop seeds of wisdom to the youth.  Either this or in their attempts to stay relevant (A.K.A. “cool”) and therefore financially successful, the older folks pick up the negative trends that the younger generation has adopted, both in music and lifestyle.  When all of this happens, there is no true guidance.  Overall, what has been fostered for well over a decade across the board is a culture of death and disrespect and Hip Hop has been one of the main vehicles used in order to bring it into existence.

According to a recent national report compiled by Northeastern University criminologists, “54 percent of gun violence victims are black males between the ages of 14 and 17.”  According to the same report, “the number of homicides involving black youths — as victims and perpetrators — surged by more than 30 percent from 2002 to 2007, even as overall murder rates across the U.S. have been relatively stable.”  It is also noted in this same study that guns have increasingly became the weapon of choice since 2000 (by 40 percent).  While the homicide rate among Latino youth is statistically not as high as among Black youth, it is found that the homicide rate among poor urban Latinos is still well over three times higher than the white homicide rate.

We must pose the question, “Can we afford to lose another generation of young people of color?”  Emphatically, the answer is “No!”  However, in order to effect a change, a new breed of role modeling within Hip Hop needs to be birthed.  We can no longer compromise and simply settle with financially successful personalities who market and distribute music and fashion that promote violence, sexism and unintelligent mass consumerism to speak to young people as why they shouldn’t engage in these behaviors.  These methods have proven to be ineffective.

This is why a national call is being made right now by a network of activists and artists within the culture to consolidate our efforts nationally and to engage young people in the process of actively rebuilding our economically wasted cities; ultimately devoting ourselves to a day of service that we claim for ourselves in which we are in control of a responsible image of Hip Hop that we can claim for ourselves.

 

For anyone interested in joining these national efforts please visit www.miacampaign.wordpress.com.  We can also be reached at Musicofamovement@yahoo.com or call 754-246-0222.

The Realities of Racial Profiling

Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Racial Profiling in a Post-Racial America?

 By Tony Muhammad

 Hiphopeducator19@gmail.com

www.myspace.com/tonymuhammad

www.tonymuhammad.wordpress.com

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The past few months have indeed been strange (but yet not surprisingly strange) for a few of us in and among the conscientious Hip Hop community in relation to encounters with police.  On the afternoon of Friday, May 8th, I, myself, was arrested for the very first time in my life.  I wasn’t taken to jail, but I was fingerprinted on the spot and fined, charged with soliciting in the city of Miami Gardens, Florida.  What was I actually doing?  I was passing out invitations for a special Mother’s Day program at my mosque.  I was passing out the invitations in traffic as many other FOI (Fruit of Islam) were doing throughout Miami-Dade county, nationwide and internationally.  I was stopped by a police officer and asked if I was selling anything.  I said “No.”  He inquired about the Final Call newspapers that were in a bag I was carrying.  He asked me if they were for sale.  I told him that they were not for sale, but that we accept donations for them if offered.  It was at this point that the officer asked for my ID and the “arrest” took place.  After he was done filling out forms and handed me the fine, the officer mumbled some words that sounded like I was permitted to leave but had to meet him on that same corner in an hour.  I said to him, “Officer, I have a mosque meeting that I have to conduct in an hour.  Why is it necessary that I meet with you in an hour?”  The officer then explained himself in a louder and clearer voice.  He said, “No!  I will let you go ahead and sell your newspaper for another hour.  You can go ahead.  I won’t stop you.”  I found this to be rather odd, practically like a set up.  Like, if I got pulled over and ticketed for speeding, would it make sense for the police officer that pulled me over to say that its okay for me to continue speeding since he already caught me?  I shook my head and said, “No.”  I walked away, got in my car and drove off.  A week and a half later, after the officer finally submitted the paperwork of the arrest, the charges were dropped by the judge even before I had the opportunity to make a motion for an appeal.  Yet and still, the arrest is still on record and I have to pay to get it expunged.  So, even though I am not guilty of any wrong doing, I still need to pay as if I was.

 

Fellow youth advocates Wise Intelligent (of Poor Righteous Teachers) and Paradise Gray (The Arkitect of X-Clan) have likewise experienced ridiculous arrests recently.  Wise was falsely suspected of drug dealing, literally in front of his home in Trenton, New Jersey.  In the end, he was charged with “obstructing an investigation” since they couldn’t charge him with anything else.  Paradise was falsely charged with blocking a door entrance while video recording a public demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

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The reality of it all is that incidents like these continue to be an every day experience for Blacks and Latinos in the United States despite now having a President of the United States that is of color.  According to CNN, a 2004 Gallop Poll revealed that 67 percent of African Americans and 63 percent of Latinos believe they have experienced police discrimination.  Amnesty International estimates that in the United States 32 million people (approximately the same amount of people that live Canada) have been subjected to racial profiling.  In truth these statistics are more than likely conservative because they are only based on documented cases.  When taking class into account, we would more than likely find that there is a sea of undocumented cases.  It has been shown that poor people of color are least likely to know what their rights are in relation to treatment by police.  This is especially the case of immigrant populations where language barriers may exist.  Official statistics also do not indicate percentage of false arrests or the amount of people there are that have accepted false charges in plea agreements in exchange for no jail time.  More than likely, poor people of color, who also tend to be least aware of their legal rights, disproportionately make up a great percentage within this category. Coherently, it has also been shown that poor people of color are least likely able to afford adequate legal defense and are pressured to deal with court appointed lawyers who usually try to work on ending court cases as quickly as possible; seldom, if not ever, in the best interests of defendants.

 

Since Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in front of his Cambridge, Massachusetts home on Thursday, July 16th it has re-sparked much nation-wide discussion on the realities of racial profiling, involving even President Barrack Obama in an almost “out of character” way (initially publicly saying that police acted “stupidly” in the situation).  As the story goes, after returning from a trip to China, Dr. Gates (along with a driver from a local car company) was seen by a white woman breaking down his “jammed” front door.  The white woman alerted police that a “Hispanic looking” man (much likely the driver) and another man (much likely Dr. Gates) were trying to break into the house.  When the police showed up Dr. Gates was asked by Sgt. James Crowley for ID to prove that he lived at the residence, which he provided.  However, in the midst of it all, Dr. Gates demanded that Sgt. Crowley give him his badge number and, according to police, angrily accused the police of being “racist.”  After ignoring the request for the badge number several times, the officer stepped outside.  When Dr. Gates followed the officer outside, he was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and was detained for several hours.  Less than a week later, after much media attention, the charge was dropped.

 

Several noted journalists have recently written articles criticizing the fact that so much attention has been given to Dr. Gate’s police encounter; labeling it a mere distraction.  This is especially after President Obama attempted to defuse the hype behind it all last week by having a “beer summit” at the White House with Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley (no doubt in attempt to bring more attention to his national health care plans); likewise with the media exposure of Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett being suspended for referring to Dr. Gates as a “banana-eating jungle monkey” in a mass e-mail to his buddies on the force.  Overall, I would argue that on a surface level the incident is a mere reflection of what happens to peoples of color on a day to day basis with police and on a larger scale white supremacy.  However, if we analyze it in light of Dr. Gates’ attempt to promote a “post-race” identity academic movement since the Presidential Election of Barrack Obama; it serves as a major sign for us.  If the police report is correct that Dr. Gates became emotional and accused the police of racism (and there is an overwhelmingly good chance that it did indeed happen) then surely it largely negates the basis of his work in the past half year.  Even more evident of this is his announced plans on The Tom Joyner Morning Show recently to do a documentary on racial profiling in response to his experience.  In truth, it all reveals how dangerously naïve this “post-racial” false ideology he was trying to push is in today’s times. 

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Concurrently, on New Year’s Day, it was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept BART Officer Johannes Mehserle from irrationally holding a gun to the back of Oscar Grant and pulling the trigger.  On June 10th, It was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept James Von Brunn from shooting and killing Stephen Tyrone Jones, a Black security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.  It was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept Broward Sheriff’s deputy Jonathan Bleiweis from sexually abusing undocumented Latin American immigrants in Fort Lauderdale, Florida just because he thought he could get away with it due to language barriers.  It is not a “post-racial” type of thinking that is keeping the Miami-Dade County Commission from considering the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center to be financially expendable and shut it down due to financial constraints, despite the great service the Center provides to young people in Miami’s Liberty City community.  It is not a “post-racial” type of thinking that is keeping colleges and universities nationwide from downgrading or literally shutting down Black, Latino and overall cultural diversity programming due to budgetary constraints… but yet there is always money available to expand sports (mainly football) programs. 

 

Dr. Gates should be mindful of all of this while making his racial profiling documentary and make sure that it is not just simply a way to capitalize off of his experience, as many academics normally do.  Because of his position of influence, it should in fact provide a service!  He should also be mindful when it comes to selecting the right crew for such an assignment, preferably people of color that have extensively studied racism and racial profiling in the United States; likewise featuring people of color from different genres that have experienced being racially profiled.  Noting Dr. Gates’ track record, the project should be unlike any project he has undertaken before; especially and namely the development of the Encarta Africana Encyclopedia in 2000 (An encyclopedia about peoples of African descent in Africa and the Diaspora) which involved racial profiling itself.  It involved the hiring of merely 3 Blacks out of 40 full time writers.  In truth, there is no coincidence that the only Hip Hop entry in the project was “Sir Mix-A-Lot.”  I guess “Baby Got Back” but if Dr. Gates wants to show and prove that he has authentically learned from the experience he’s going to have to get the right “backing” for such a documentary!

 

Peace! Until Next Time!

 

Tony Muhammad teaches American, African American and African History at an inner-city high school in Miami and is currently involved in efforts to reform The African American Voices Curriculum for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2008).