by Latoya Peterson
In this month’s issue of Vibe, Barack Obama receives a formal endorsement from the magazine. Danyel Smith’s Editor’s Letter is an impassioned plea to get involved and help push Barack all the way into the White House. She writes:
We value freedom and aspire to be better than we are, and to live in a country that will be better than it is. We must vote for Senator Obama and for Senator Joe Biden. We must make sure our friends get to the ballot box. We must reach deep for every bit of idealism we had at the beginning of rap music. We must not be cool. We must not again make manifest the “apathy” label that has been thrust upon us. This is not a moment to be reviewed or dissected, or gazed upon from an ironic distance. This moment in history is ours. Our country will not be okay if Obama loses.
The issue goes on to provide three key pieces of political commentary: Obama’s own letter to Vibe readers, Jeff Chang’s “The Tipping Point,” a piece that explores the shifting nature of our political landscape, and a compilation of 99 hip-hoppers positions on politics.
Obama’s letter cuts straight to the heart of the apathy Danyel Smith describes in her intro piece:
Now, I’ve heard people say, “My vote doesn’t matter,” “My vote won’t count,” or “I’m just one person, what possible difference can I make?” And I understand this cynicism. As a young man attempting to find my own way in the world, I faced many of the same choices and challenges facing many of you today. I sometimes doubted that my thoughts and actions really mattered in the larger scheme of things.
But I made a choice. I chose to check in, to get involved, and to try and make a difference in people’s lives. It’s what led me to my work as a community organizer in Chicago, where I worked with churches to rebuild struggling communities on the South Side. It’s what led me to teach and run for public office. And even today, I hear the skepticism. Too often, our leaders let us down, They don’t seem to do much to make our lives better. So I understand the temptation to sit elections out.
But this year, when the stakes are this high, and the outcome will be so close, I need you to choose to vote.
Jeff Chang pens “The Tipping Point,” which provides a glimpse into each convention as well as a look towards the shifting demographics of America. I was particularly interested in his description of the Republican National Convention:
John McCain has outflanked the Democrats, and the next night, he was in a taunting mood. “Let me offer an advance warning to the old big-spending, do nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd,” he said in his speech. “Change is coming.”
But the Xcel Center’s pale masses belied his message. Only 36 of the 2,380 Republican delegates were African-American, the lowest tally since 1968. Even after adding Hispanics and Asian-Americans, the Republican National Convention was a 90-percent white gathering, whiter even than Minnesota.
It’s a tough time to be a black Republican. The young ones complain that they’re still seen as Carlton Banks stereotypes – which they most definitely are not. Not Sean Conner, 24, the tall Republican National Committee staffer from East Oakland who favors freshly caught fish and piping hot sneakers; or Lenny McAllister, 36, the pinstriped political commentator from Charlotte, N.C., who multitasks interviews with radio, TV, and print outlets; or Claudio Simpkins, 23, the slim Black/Puerto Rican/Cuban Brooklynite, who is finishing Harvard Law School and aspires to become the conservative Obama.
They call themselves hip hop Republicans.
“We are the trailblazers,” McAllister said, comparing themselves to rap’s pioneers. “We’re trying to bring about political diversity.”
They all grew up with the struggles of average inner city kids and joined the party that ended slavery because their views on community and service had led them there. “Don’t let Sarah Palin know this, but I used to be a community activist,” said McAllister, who, through the Hill House Association in Pittsburgh, Pa., organized young fathers around the issues of parenting and social responsibility.
They were frustrated that their party didn’t seem to care for them. “You don’t get much of a policy platform discussion about providing adequate housing, about gentrification, about funding adequate jobs, about reforming our public education system,” said Simpkins, who worries that the party is focused on “God, gays, guns, taxes, and terrorism.”
With Obama’s nomination and the rise of anti-immigration demagogues in the party, they figure tougher times are ahead. “I personally love Barack Obama. I see him as a role model for myself,” said Simpkins. “[But] I look at the policies and values that were instilled in me through my church and my family and I think it lines up more with what McCain talks about.”
He added, with a sigh, “Like it or not, I’m kinda stuck with this party.”
Chang’s piece also briefly touches on the Green Party, non voters, the DNC, and how Will.I.Am decided to make the iconic “Yes We Can” video.
Vibe also obtained 99 quotes on the politics in the age of Obama.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I was with a girl the other night. She’s like “I just don’t vote.” Finally, I said, “Just do it for me. You like me, right? You like me enough to have sex, could you just like me enough to go vote? Do it ’cause you love me.
Athletes should step into politics only if they know what they are talking about. I am personally handing out voter registration forms to the ‘hood, to enlighten them on what it takes to help change the United States.
—Amare Stoudemire, Forward/center, Phoenix Suns
Obama is not perfect – his ideology, what he’d like to do versus what he’s able to do are two different things. It’s not like Great, we got a black president and it’s all good. We need to hold Obama to a higher standard than most.
—Bun B, Rapper
We can’t make records calling Hillary Clinton a bitch. Every rapper should just back away until November. And then we can make any remix we want.
—Fatman Scoop, Radio personality
I hope there’s a radical shift in the image of America in the world. And the image of black Americans in the eyes of the world.
I’m not a voter at all. But this year I gotta vote for Barack. And I’ll probably never vote again. For me this is one-time only. I think all these guys are the Illuminati – straight up. I’m gonna cast my vote for this member of the Illuminati.
I voted in 2000. Felt like it didn’t count – and I was sour to the whole process. But the past eight years have been terrible. When he gets elected, I just want Obama’s platform to come to fruition. I feel like education is the key…the fact that we have to pay so much to get degrees…living in a democratic society and being capitalists, you get to see the fruits of your work rewarded. But people should take a look around and see educational system outside of America and how they work. We need to borrow from other people’s philosophies.
This election won’t be the end of anything. It may be the most important election in history. But it won’t change things by itself. It’s just the beginning.
—David Banner, Rapper/activist