Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Operation Skid Row, and Making the Invisible, Visible.
Public Enemy Pre-Induction Press Conference: (Photo by Piero Gunti)
LA CAN Remarks
Los Angeles is a “tale of two cities.” It’s home to one of the largest media markets in the US and is also the homeless capital of the United States. Within a stone’s throw of where we sit exists the densest pocket of poverty—-skid row. Skid row can be considered the epicenter of this crisis. And to be clear, the crisis is heavily racialized with African Americans disproportionately representing the ranks of those “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty” borrowing from the words and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since 1999 LA CAN has been on the front-lines battling poverty and against the structures and institutions that reinforce the socially crippling effects. We have used every social reform tool at our disposal, community organizing, policy reform, popular education, participatory action research, leadership development, social media, arts and culture and the list goes on and on……all to secure justice.
Two years ago, while collaborating on a book entitled Freedom Now: Struggles for the Human Right to Housing in LA and Beyond, Chuck D was struck by what he saw in skid row. I recall him saying: “I see Black until the eye goes dim” I have never forgotten that moment…
Our conversation quickly switched to the historical role of culture in building sustainable social movements geared towards healing our communities; and, dispersing our efforts to a larger audience. And the rhetorical question we wanted to answer was: Can Hip Hop make the Invisible, Visible? That conversation planted the seed that would blossom into Operation Skid Row. The answer, of course, was yes! Yes in Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and the list goes on…that hip hop certainly makes the invisible, visible.
Additionally, Operation Skid Row was about building a platform for local artists to infuse the movement with their art and creativity–ultimately, fighting for our right to occupy the voices of those being heard on local and national media outlets. Occupy the Air! Coming to a neighborhood near you in 2013.
LA CAN congratulates Public Enemy for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—more importantly, we thank them for providing generations with a library of social anthems that have been used to explain social conditions, root causes, and activate the masses of those forgotten towards liberation.
I close with words of Nelson Mandela…
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”