Kitwana brings hip-hop culture to NMU

Winter Keefer

NMU is kicking off Black History Month with journalist, activist and political analyst Bakari Kitwana giving a presentation titled “The Politics of Hip-Hop and Policing: From N.W.A. to #BlackLivesMatter”.

Kitwana is considered a national thought leader in the area of hip-hop activism and has provided commentary on CNN, PBS, Fox News, C-Span and NPR.

“What I’m hoping is to give folks a sense of not only hip-hop history, but also how that history overlaps over the last 30 years with a very robust conversation and dialogue about policing,” Bakari said.

Kitwana’s presentation will use the recently released film “Straight Outta Compton” to start a discussion on the history of hip-hop culture and its politics. This film is based around the group N.W.A., which emerged from the streets of Compton in Los Angeles, Calif. revolutionizing hip-hop culture in mid-1980’s. Specifically, the discussion will relate to the challenges of police reform.

“For years a lot of the information about the role of blacks in American history was suppressed. It wasn’t talked about in mainstream press,” Bakari said. “Black History Month really started as a reflection on black history through the country.”

The conversation on important issues in America is really muddled because not enough people know their history, Kitwana continued.

“The legacy of hip-hop is very rich, both in its
political commentary as well as in its artistic presentation; and I think that there’s a lot for us to learn about the past of our country and also the
future by listening and engaging in the arts and the culture,”  Bakari said.

“His experience and ability to share firsthand knowledge and relate it to current issues—that’s important for us to hear, that’s important for all students to hear,” said T.J. Aiyash, graduate assistant for the MERC (Multicultural Education and Resource Center) and assisting coordinator for this event.

“Bakari specifically has a lot of experience with hip-hop culture,” Aiyash said.

Kitwana was the Executive Editor for the hip-hop magazine The Source and very close to the gangster rap revolution in the early 90’s, seeing a lot of it happen, Aiyash continued.

“Fortunately we’re starting to get to a place where we can talk about racial issues and talk about societal issues year round,” Aiyash said. “But it’s nice to highlight it when you have the opportunity. It’s a good time for self-evaluation.”

“A lot of locals or a lot of students that come to Northern have never heard of N.W.A. or never had experiences of any of the things that stemmed from them,” Aiyash said.

This presentation will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 3 in Jamrich 1320. Kitwana will talk about the relationships between hip-hop artists and the black community, police and the black community and police and the hip-hop community, said Aiyash. He will talk about the history of how famous hip-hop artist raised issues of police brutality to the public.

“Black history month is a remembrance of all of the people who paved the way for black people to do what we do today, fighting for our rights, fighting for what we believe in and equality and the importance of it,” co-president of the Black Student Union, Jeulani Gahiji said.

Kitwana is being brought to NMU by the MERC as a start to many on campus events celebrating this month.

“I’m really excited to go there and meet him and possibly have a conversation with him to see what he’s gone through,” Gahiji said.

“It’s not just about MLK and Malcom X, there are a lot more people who made a difference for black people today and a lot more people who fought for equality, people who are still now fighting for equality,” she said. “I think we need to be aware of that and be open to knowing that a lot of things are still going on that shouldn’t be going on.”

For more information about this event contact the MERC.