On February 16th, a delegation of artists and organizers from Hip Hop Occupies, and the People of Color Caucus of Occupy Seattle participated in a three car caravan down I-5 to connect with the Bay Area movement. In the five day expedition, Hip Hop Occupies took it to the communities, schools, and streets; house parties, marches, and prisons, and more, building with allies and expanding the network. The following is a multimedia report back on what went down, as well as a glimpse of what’s next for Hip Hop Occupies.
The first action was the Pacific Steel Workers March for Dignity, for those who had been raided by ICE. Hip Hop Occupies members marched through Berkley alongside immigrant steel workers, flying some of the same banners flown at the January Seattle Solidarity Action in Support of Ruby Ridge dairy workers. “Hip Hop transcends borders,” says muralist/poet Maria Gullien, “and the struggles of farmer workers and migrant communities are the same struggles we see in the inner cities. We are in solidarity with the entire community that is this struggle.”
After the march, HHO stopped off to pay respects at the Mike Dream Memorial Wall, a masterpiece of finished graffiti pieces that stretches a full quarter mile across the 24th train yard in Oakland. "I wanted to go here specifically because it's a beautiful example of graffiti culture, it's reverent of the ancestors and people who came before, and the pieces carry strong sentiments of resistance," said Henry Luke. From there, HHO joined the Dignity March Afterparty that was at La Pena, a community arts center in Berkley. Speakers from participating organizations shared words and thanks, followed by performances featuring Mad Lines the Lioness, Aisha Fukushima, True-One, and DJ Cezanna.
The next day, Hip Hop Occupies hit the classroom in Oakland, participating in a panel on Occupy Seattle. Topics covered included the radical/revolutionary nature of Hip Hop, and the need for creative expression in the revolution. Panelists highlighted events such as “Rise & Decolonize: Let’s Get Free” , as well as the Hip Hop picket line that closed down Terminal 5 at the D12 Port Shutdowns. Relating the structure of the Hip Hop Occupies network to the structure of community, members challenged hierarchical organizing models, with emphasis on accountability, solidarity, and autonomy.
For art therapy the next day, some of our delegation headed to 24th Street in the Mission District of San Francisco, a Historical Chicano Community, to see the woman muralist walls. Highlighting the different aspects of women’s struggles in Latin America and around the world, the artwork speaks for itself, and inspired some beautiful ciphers amongst our emcees.
On Monday the 20th, Hip Hop Occupies got down with Occupy San Quentin, part of the National Occupy Action Day in Support of Prisoners. “Our brothers and sisters in the community are thrown into this institution of slavery,” says poet Matt Erickson, “The prison industrial complex consistently benefits from the enslavement of people of color and the impoverished.” Cody adds, “Prisoners are the bottom 1% of the 99%. 1% of the US population is in prison.” There, HHO had the honor of building with Emory Douglass, revolutionary artist of the Black Panther Party. When asked his analysis of why art was important in the revolution, he replied, "Art is important because it gives you an interpretation of the politics and the struggle. It can be inspiring, it can be enlightening, it can be informative and educational. It can be a guide to truth and a guide to action. It's like a language." Enjoy some footage below of artists Jabari Shaw and Timbuktu Akaamka speaking and performing "This is Modern Slavery" at the rally.
As a last stop, Hip Hop Occupies connected with partners Shamako Noble and D’Labrie from Hip Hop Congress at the downtown Oakland offices of WEAP: Women’s Economic Agenda Project. There, we built on HHO’s endorsement and participation in the upcoming World Court of Women being held May 10th in Oakland.
With the wrap-up of the trip we reach the exciting part of this report back. Next steps! Hip Hop Occupies is calling for input and participation for a number of projects and actions in the Spring and Summer including a mural campaign heading up to May Day, a “Summer of the Block Party” National community-building effort, creative direct action collaborations and more. Join us at our next meeting, email email@example.com to get on the mailing list.