A diverse audience of about 300 students gathered in Lisner Auditorium Monday night to hear Chuck D, co-founder of the rap group Public Enemy, speak about the problems facing black America.
The Student Activities Center sponsored the event as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Chuck D spoke of the negative effects of large corporations on the black community, the state of hip hop and the poor propositions for today’s young black adults.
While some students thought he was an appropriate speaker for the holiday, many students said the speech did not relate to Martin Luther King Day.
“Chuck D is passionate about issues of race and inequality and agrees with the same principles of Martin Luther King,” said Martine Philogene, SAC coordinator for student involvement.
He addressed the portrayal of blacks in the media and blamed the music industry for the decline in the quality of rap and hip-hop and discussed the underlying social problems facing black Americans.
Chuck D also blamed the music industry for the decrease in intelligence, motivation, grammar and syntax in young black males. He said the music industry puts out the wrong kinds of messages to the black community, such as rap/hip-hop videos that give young black men the idea that they can only better themselves by playing basketball, rapping or being a comedian.
He used basketball prodigy Lavron James as an example of this new culture that seeks instant gratification instead of studying to achieve skills.
“It’s time for rap music and hip-hop culture to define itself,” he said. “When you have an industry, where people go in to make a killing and not a living, it’s not a viable industry.”
Chuck D reinforced the idea that the black community needs to control its own communications.
He cited the affirmative action of the 1960s when many AM radio stations were given to black leaders to help build communities. He endorsed repeating that plan with FM stations, which he said are controlled by a few white-owned companies along with the rest of the media.
He also alleged that large media corporations do not only passively subvert the black community but have been involved in the unsolved murders of several rappers including Notorious BIG, Tupac Shakur and Jam Master Jay.
“When Tupac was alive he sold 4 million (albums). After death, 36 million,” Chuck D said. “It’s easier to sell a dead black man than a live one.”
“(I) thought it was excellent,” sophomore Stephen Harris said. “(The speech) said a lot of things that needed to be said, (but I) wished he could have reached more people. (It) brought forth a lot of good issues that are slowly destroying the black community.”
“(Chuck D was) really good, he knew what he was saying,” sophomore Donald Harris said. “He told it like it was … he didn’t sugar coat it.”