Friday, August 29, 2014

Activists say violent, vulgar lyrics in music ‘dehumanizing our youth’

Lisa DeNeal/Post-Tribune Chicago Times

Vulgar and violent lyrics and their effect in the minds of young people was the subject of “Detrimental Impact of Obscene, Violent Lyrics on the Youth,” a panel discussion hosted by the Gary Commission on the Social Status of Black Males on Wednesday at Ivy Tech Community College.

Bennie Muhammad, executive director of the group, said he was inspired to host the seminar after learning about the “Clear the Airwaves Project,” led by Gary activist Kwabena Sadiki Jijaga Rasuli.

“I chose to put this together in an effort to help shield the ears of our black youth,” Muhammad said. “While I am not trying to launch an assault on the rappers and artists who perform these songs, I believe theses artists are manipulated into producing and performing these songs from the music industry and record labels.”


The college’s multipurpose room was packed with students, parents, community activists and leaders as they listened to and shared opinions with the panelists on how hip-hop and some R&B songs feature lyrics that either degrade women or celebrate violence and drug abuse in urban communities.

Rasuli has been leading protests against radio stations in Chicago and Hammond that air what he deems offensive and obscene music, as well as businesses that purchase advertising space on the stations.

Rasuli did a presentation on the history of rap and hip-hop music, beginning with 1979’s popular, fun dance rap, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang, conscience and educational rap in the ’80s, the birth of gangsta rap in the ’90s to today’s rap and hip-hop music.

Often referring to hip-hop artists Jay-Z and Niki Minaj as “Slave-Z” and “Niki Garbage,” Rasuli blasted urban Chicago-area radio stations for “constantly killing” youth 24 hours a day with raunchy music that promotes gun play, self-hate, murder and stripping. “This music is constantly dehumanizing our youth,” Rasuli said.

Local activist, author and musician Theodore McClendon sat on the panel and said the music industry should be called to the task of bringing back live bands, real musicians and performers who sing edifying lyrics.

“Replace ‘slop-hop’ with jazz, fusion, classical music, the spirit of Motown,” he said. “I never allowed slop-hop to be played in my car when I took my children to school. They were educated on the values of music. Music is the deepest form of expression that can get into a person’s psyche,” he said.

Fellow panelist Jerry Crisler, 20, of Gary, is a spoken word artist and part of the Arise Group Organization in Gary. He said he wants to be a part of the youth who make changes in music. And while he knows his positive messages are not considered popular, he won’t let that stop him.

“If we cannot respect each other, how can we expect others to respect us?” he said.

The Rev. Vera Johnson of 5th Avenue United Methodist Church, and Phillip Jackson, of the Black Star Project in Chicago, struck the same chord with their sentiments on rap and hip-hop

“We can say take it away, but they will download the songs to their iPods or computers,” Jackson said. “What do you give back to them? We cannot make this an us-against-our-children movement. We cannot blame our children for the environment they are put in. We as adults have to set examples,” Jackson said.

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