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Rap Sessions Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop

Rap Sessions Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop

Check out the Rap Sessions Highlight video  from our April 2011 program on YouTube!

Rap Sessions 2012

Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama/Tea Party Era with special guest Chuck D
September 13, 6:00-8:00PM Doors open at 5:30PM
Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash, 1st Floor.

For the sixth year, the Institute partners with Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop, bringing a distinguished panel of scholars, journalists and activists for a townhall-style meeting addressing important issues in our communities.  

Rap Sessions is led by critically-acclaimed journalist, activist, political analyst and Institute Fellow, Bakari Kitwana. 

This year's panel explores the ways the election of Obama, the emergence of the Tea Party and the shifting national political landscape has both strengthened and diminished hip-hop's effectiveness at galvanizing youth. 

Over the last decade, hip-hop unleashed its influence on the national political scene through national hip-hop political organizations and local activist groups, on college campuses, through the Internet, at grassroots gatherings and beyond-a force that by 2008 notably influenced the outcome of the US presidential election. Two-thirds of 18-29 year-olds who voted for president in 2008, cast their vote for Barack Obama. With Election 2012 months away, now is an opportune time to consider the potential impact of hip-hop on the next presidential election.


Rob "Biko" Baker, Executive Director, The League of Young Voters 
Rosa Clemente, Community Organizer and Journalist

Chuck D, Hip-Hop activist, Entrepenuer, Producer and MC

Laura S. Washington, Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times, Political Analyst, ABC-7 Chicago
Jasiri X, independent Hip-Hop Artist

Moderated by: Bikari Kitwana


Rob "Biko" Baker is the Executive Director of The League of Young Voters, which has been organizing hip-hop voters around the country since 2003. In his home community of Milwaukee, he has used the power and agency of art to inform, mobilize, and motivate young people to participate in civic life. Baker has served as the deputy publicity coordinator and young voter organizer for the Brown and Black Presidential Forum. He was also lead organizer for Slam Bush, a 2004 nationwide voter mobilization project using rap and poetry. In 2006, Baker developed the League of Young Voters training program. In addition to his activists work, he has also been a longtime journalist and commentator. He has been a contributor to The Source magazine, and has appeared as an expert on youth organizing on C-SPAN, Fox News and CNN. A Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, Baker serves on the research advisory board for The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). www.theleague.com.

Rosa Clemente
  is a community organizer and journalist. In 2008 she was the Vice Presidential candidate for the Green Party.  Her commentary has appeared on CNN, C-Span, and other leading news programs. Ten days after Hurricane Katrina, Clemente traveled to ravaged areas as an independent journalist. Her on the ground reports appeared on Air America, NPR, Pacifica Radio, Democracy Now, Indy media, and Hard Knock Radio. In 2001, she was a youth representative at the United Nations World Conference against Xenophobia, Racism and Related Intolerance in South Africa. She’s been a lead organizer of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention, The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and REACH Hip-Hop. Clemente has been named by Red Eye Magazine as one of the top 50 Hip-Hop Activists to look out for. She holds a M.A. in Africana Studies from Cornell University.

Chuck D
is a hip-hop activist, entrepreneur, producer and mc who, as leader of the rap group Public Enemy, helped usher in the period of politically conscious rap music in the mid-1980s. Public Enemy was known for their revolutionary, pro-black lyricism and groundbreaking production. PE's fiery rhymes and unique stage show (featuring their military-style dancer, the S1W's) won them millions of fans across the globe. They released four classic albums between 1987 and 1991: their 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse ’91, The Enemy Strikes Back (1991). Also during this period PE released the single “Fight the Power,” which was the theme song for Spike Lee’s politically-charged 1989 film Do The Right Thing. Over the next decade Chuck D launched a solo career, and became an advocate for MP3 technology with the release of his 1999 There’s Poison Goin’ On, the first full-length album to be made available on the Internet. He’s the founder of rapstation.com and slamjamz.com. He’s also the author of The Autobiography of Mista Chuck and co-author of Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality. Most recently he has been the co-host of the Air America Radio talk show Unfiltered, released the single “Tear Down That Wall” in 2010 in protest of Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, and in 2011 conducted a global reunion tour with Public Enemy. In addition to countless causes he’s supported from raising awareness regarding conflict diamonds to the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention, he also sits on the board for the human rights organization TransAfrica.

Laura S. Washington
is a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and political analyst for ABC 7, Chicago’s ABC-owned station.  She is also a contributing editor to In These Times magazine. Washington brings more than two decades of experience as a multi-media journalist and non-profit professional specializing in African-American affairs, local and national politics, race, and social justice. From 2003 to 2009 she served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University. She is the former editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, served as deputy press secretary to Mayor Harold Washington and received BSJ and MSJ degrees from Northwestern University. Her work has been honored with dozens of local and national awards, including two Chicago Emmys, the Peter Lisagor Award, the Studs Terkel Award for Community Journalism and the Racial Justice Award from the YWCA. Newsweek magazine named Washington one of the nation's "100 People to Watch" in the 21st Century, saying: "her style of investigative journalism has made (the Reporter) a powerful and award-winning voice." Her work has been widely featured in the national media, including Time and Newsweek magazines, The New York Times, PBS and the BBC.

Jasiri X  is an independent hip-hop artist who emerged on the national scene with the powerful hit song “Free The Jena 6.” Since then he’s been the creative force behind the groundbreaking internet video series This Week With Jasiri X, a program that cleverly uses hip-hop to provide social commentary. From the controversial viral video “What if the Tea Party was Black?” to the hard hitting hilarity of “Republican Woman...stay away from me,” the series has garnered critical acclaim, thousands of subscribers, millions of internet views on websites as diverse as Allhiphop.com and The Huffington Post. Jasiri is also a founding member of the anti-violence group One Hood, and the founder of the New Media Academy, which teaches African-American boys how to analyze and create media for themselves. The first Hip-Hop artist to received the August Wilson Center for African American Culture Fellowship, Jasiri X has performed internationally, and has been a guest on The Michael Baisden Show, Free Speech TV, Left of Black, and Russia Today.

Bakari Kitwana (Moderator and CEO of Rap Sessions) is a Spring 2009 Institute Fellow, and a journalist, activist and political analyst whose commentary on politics and youth culture have appeared on CNN, Fox News (O’Reilly Factor), C-Span, PBS (The Tavis Smiley Show), and heard on NPR. He is CEO of Rap Sessions and Senior Media Fellow at the Harvard Law based Think Tank, The Jamestown Project. His 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at over 100 colleges and universities. The former Executive Editor of the Source, he has taught in the political science department at the University of Chicago, and is co-founder of the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention. Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era (Third World Press, 2011) is his most recent book.

This program is co-presented by the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media, and Rap Sessions. It is sponsored in part by the Leadership Donors of the Institute.


For information, or to request ASL services (48 hrs notice): or 312-369-8829.

Rap Sessions