Friday, January 4, 2008

Report on Genocide in Kenya

January 4th 2008– Fresh Coast Global Report on Genocide in Kenya

Though you wouldn't know it from listening to most corporate media outlets, social movements and social justice have always been an inherent theme of Hip Hop music and culture since it ever was. We know authentic Hip Hop is just as vocal about issues of inequity, and human rights as it is about ballin' and having fun. This is why Hip Hop Culture grew to be such a global phenomenon so quickly-The fact that in this globalized world, we got globalized issues. Hip Hop is the cultural platform from which some folks have come to understand and combat these issues, sometimes more effectively than standard means. What happened during the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya last year may be a good example of what I mean by this.

The World Social Forum is an annual gathering of social justice activists, groups, and organizers from around the world that meet to coordinate their work to build stronger movements for the greater good. Now, juxtaposed with the fact that most Kenyan citizens couldn't afford to attend the forum their own country was hosting, some would find this ironic. For others, the determination to tell the truth about why was deadly. Davey D, a Hip Hop journalist reported from the ground that dozens of youth from the Korogocha slums showed up at the forum to protest and block the entrance to the Social Forum food court. They laid out handmade signs that read 'The World Social Forum Has Been Hijacked' , 'reduce Prices for Kenyans' and 'No Capitalism for People in the Ghetto,' and told listeners that a corrupt Kenyan government in bed with corporations were exploiting the opportunity to host the WSF for personal profit. In the days following, Hip Hop artists/activists inspired by the youth, formed an organization called The Undugu International Committee, to begin ground work for an African World Social Forum. Sadly enough, the protest that was their inspiration was lethal. After following a tip he received during the Forum's closing ceremony, the journalist later confirmed that two of the organizers from the protest had been killed by police. Was it due to their refusal to accept the hypocrisy and their drive to let the truth be told?

Headlines from CNN yesterday, January 3rd read "'Genocide on a Grand Scale' in Kenya.' This week alone, 75,000 people in Kenya have been displaced by the violence that erupted in protest after the current President was declared reelected to office. Maybe we could ask them that question, because we surely we couldn't ask the 300 Kenyans who killed last Thursday, very likely by government forces, after their white flags, olive branches, and picket signs were met with tear gas and water cannons. In response to the upheaval, Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako called for a recount and independent investigation into the election, and diplomats are rushing to Kenya as you are hearing me say this to mediate. One woman on the National Hip Hop Political Convention listserve wrote in response to the CNN coverage, "If Americans were like Kenyans we might not be in Iraq right now & Bush/Cheney most definitely wouldn't be in office obliterating our freedoms. What if we had responded the same way when the system was rigged in Bush's favor in 2000 & again in 2004?"

Maybe the circumstances aren't that dire yet for the comfy citizens of the US, Hip Hop or not, but for the homeless folks in Tent City, temporarily up the block from me in the Central District of Seattle, it might be. And maybe, if Hip Hop is the lense through which we view the struggle in Kenya, and the Philippines, and the Republic of Lakotah, we can better understand the nature of the struggles we are facing in our own communities, how they are related to the global movement, and what it would mean to truely overcome. Maybe.

-Julie C

Julie C is an emcee from the legendary Alpha-P crew, as well as Northwest Regional Coordinator for Hip Hop Congress

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