The Hip Hop Generation Engages in the Debate About our Next Foreign Policy
From Our Friends at the Hip Hop Caucus
By Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
The Hip Hop Caucus has always seen the Hip Hop Generation, those born after 1964, as representative of what we like to call the “Dream Generation,” or the generation Dr. King prophesized, in which all people regardless of race, economic level, religion, or sexual preference, stood together to stand for Justice and Peace.
Throughout the world we find young people from diverse backgrounds who identify with Hip Hop culture and have similar local-to-global issues yet feel alienated or disenfranchised by political systems who do not address their issues.
As we move forward a progressive agenda, it is paramount that we are able to recognize the potential for a global movement around similar issues people face using an inside out approach. We must 1) address local issues that fit into a larger global context and 2) educate (Hip) people on the similarities and affects between local and global issues, and 3) mobilize and move (Hop) people to action so they are active civic participants and hold their elected officials accountable. By working an inside-out approach we have the ability to engage new segments of our democracy, who have not traditionally been engaged in matters concerning US global engagement into this process.
This upcoming presidential election is a unique and timely opportunity to engage new segments of our population into the political process and educate them on foreign policy. We recently launched our voter registration, education and mobilization campaign, “Respect My Vote!” to capture the energy surrounding this election. We are engaging 18-29 year olds–targeting those that did not attend college– in the political process and ensuring we can maintain contact with them beyond the presidential elections, and mobilize them to the polls. Our campaign is unique because we place equal emphasis on election and post election work. We have chosen this group because only 67% of people in this age group feel they can make an impact on their communities and we want to show them they can have an impact on their communities as well as the world.
As part of our voter education campaign we have selected urgent foreign policy issues and will begin familiarizing with the issues for future campaigns.
Climate Change, Food Shortages, and a Green Economy
Our incoming President must address climate change in a very real and urgent manner. No longer can we ignore or thumb or noses at international policy, we must work with the international community to aggressively address climate change because if we do not act now in the 21st century, there might not be a 22nd century for Humanity on this planet.
Without drastic shifts in emissions of greenhouse gases, we will continue to see shifts in rain patterns and temperatures which will deepen the food shortages and drought which we are already beginning to see, especially in parts of Africa. We are also beginning to see a rise in food prices here in the US which has an acute impact on disadvantaged communities
To curb climate change and oil dependence we must find new and creative ways to embrace the green movement, and build a broader social base for our movement. There is also vast economic potential in a green economy which would make way for new technology and industry which can provide new “green collar” jobs. The Hip Hop Caucus is working with organizations such as Green for All to ensure that disadvantaged communities are at the forefront of the emerging green economy, allowing us to fight both poverty and pollution at the same time.
Proliferation of poverty, Iraq war, and the Iraqi refugee crisis
We must recognize the Iraqi refugee crisis as both a humanitarian issue and a national security issue. While we hemorrhage resources to the war in Iraq, a October 2007 CRS Report cited that 2.2 million people have been internally displaced in Iraq and there are now 2 million refugees in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. We spend upwards of $12 billion per month on this war which has caused a humanitarian crisis and proliferated poverty onto millions of people in Iraq, while our communities in the US continue to suffer from inadequate resources. Anti-US sentiment created by poverty, instability, and our treatment of people combine to provide a great environment for potential threats to US national security.
Yes, there are policies which need to be addressed by the incoming president and 111th Congress, but without an engaged citizenry to hold them accountable for their words and rhetoric there will be little change. This is why it is so important to engage our citizenry in meaningful ways. This is why we must make the connections between spending in Iraq and spending in our communities, or the effects of climate change and soaring prices of food as well as the opportunity for our communities to be at the forefront of the Green Collar job movement.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., is a minister, community activist, and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. Firmly grounded in his Caribbean and Louisiana roots, Rev. Yearwood is a fierce advocate for the human and civil rights in the 21st century. A powerful and fiery orator, Rev. Yearwood works diligently and tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice.
He currently serves as President of the Hip Hop Caucus in Washington, D.C. The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan, organization that inspires and motivates those born after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Rev. Yearwood is known for his activist work as the National Director of the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign in which he organized a coalition of national organizations and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Hurricane Katrina survivors. Rev. Yearwood has become an important figure in the peace movement as an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration. He was an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and led the “Make Hip Hop Not War” national tour to engage more young people in the movement for peace.
Rev. Yearwood was a co-creator of the 2004 campaign “Vote or Die” with Sean “Diddy” Combs. He was also the Political and Grassroots Director for Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004, and a Senior Consultant to Jay Z’s Voice Your Choice.
Rev. Yearwood, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He earned his undergraduate degree from University of the District of Columbia in 1998 and was awarded a Master of Divinity from Howard University in May 2002. Rev. Yearwood has been seen on CNN, BET Tonight, MTV, BBC, C-Span, and Hardball with Chris Mathews and featured in the Washington Post, The New York Times and VIBE.