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Date posted: 6-8-02

It's Like They Want Us To Fail...
by Nkrumah Tinsley


On June 7th, 2002, thousands of New Yorkers assembled at City Hall to protest Mayor Bloomberg's proposed 1.2 million dollar budget cut from the Board of Education. In attendance was music mogul Russell Simmons, one of the prime coordinators for the event, along with hip hop artists Noreaga, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Dougie Fresh, Run DMC's Reverend Run, and Jay-Z. Five-time Grammy award winning R&B singer Alicia Keys was also on hand.

The speakers stressed that the rally would not have been possible without the expressed concern of the students & teachers present at the rally. Members of the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) took this opportunity to spotlight the importance for a new and vastly improved salary that will allow teachers to live more comfortably off of their earnings. It was an anonymous understanding; everyone knew full well of the less than stellar academic and financial situations that brought about such a large gathering.

Fundamentally good-natured in intent, the rally still, like any other major event with a purpose, contained those who came for no more than mere celebrity sighting. For example, when a speaker from a lesser known city foundation took the stage, many of the younger audience members weren't very enthusiastic at all. However when DJ Big Kapp, a renowned disk jockey, threw on a beat or favored song, the crowd went into a dancing frenzy. It was disappointing. However, the students did show poise and maturity despite their disapproval with the restrictions placed on the rally by the police.

Although the efforts of those like event coordinator Russell Simmons and celebrities like Alicia Keys were put forward with good intentions, the event itself could have possibly been even more impacting if more of the teens came with a sense of genuine social consciousness. As mentioned, lots of them came with what appeared to be counterfeit or misguided ambition; if there were more of a consistent ground of education on issues like this, the overall impact of so great of a crowd would have been much stronger.

On an average day in the city, you can catch mini-ads plastered all over street poles and walls by "street teams" (groups assigned by record labels to market music artists on a grassroots level.) If some of these hip hop artists partnered up with action groups to promote social awareness when it comes to education about issues like the budget cuts, increase in the prison budget, outrageous Rockefellar Drug Laws, or a range of other issues, via street teams, the overall effect of the crowd would have been stronger. It's obvious that the hip hop industry has kids' attention; now, it is only a matter of DOING something with it. Educate! Educate! Educate! It's one to thing to show moral support and then another to show action. My humble suggestion? Flood kids with education on what's going on in their world until they can't stand listening anymore and decide to get up and do something.

One of the more interesting ironies that I overheard, was a police officer talking to members of the crowd, stating that kids of a certain age should not have been out of school, despite the situation. Yet there seemed to be no complaint when Giuliani called on city students to cut school a couple of years back for the New York Yankees parade. A baseball parade versus an education rally...and education gets the boot? Apparently, this action taken by the police shows that priorities are still in the wrong place in terms of form cognition for our city's youth.


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