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Chuck D & L.A. Rappers Show Skid Row Love

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By Kamren Curiel

I have to give props to Cali's newest resident, Chuck D, who led the movement of politically-charged hip-hop in the 80s as front man of Public Enemy, and continues to fight the power today. He helped organize Freedom Now/Operation Skid Row on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday to bring awareness to the ongoing homeless crisis in L.A. and beyond.

The festival was in conjunction with the release of a book he and his wife, Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, a Black Studies professor at the University of Santa Barbara, contributed to called Freedom Now! The book, a project of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, documents the struggle for housing equality and social justice from Skid Row to South Africa.

"Hip-hop has to make a statement," Chuck D told the VC Reporter. "We cannot have Skid Row be obscured. We have a moral obligation down there. This statement marks our 25th year. Occupy Skid Row is a peaceful protest of power, and hip-hop is trying to make the situation better."

Symbolically held on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the festival brought together a huge lineup of old school L.A. hip-hop heads, including Freestyle Fellowship, Lady of Rage, King Tee, Kurupt, and Ronnie Hudson ("West Coast Poplock"). A special R.I. P. went out to Nate Dogg with everyone holding up the peace sign.

Skid Row activist and Rodney O & Joe Cooley former member, General Jeff, helped organize the event, which kicked off a larger movement to fight for the thousands currently living on the streets. I spoke to Becky Dennison of the Los Angeles Community Action Network about its relationship to the Occupy movement, and she said although there are Occupiers in Skid Row, it's not part of Occupy.
"Then we mobilizing occupy PROTESTS on radio stations for community, 25% artist take-back. There are only a few groups that own many," Chuck D. tweeted last week about the need for radio stations to play more local artists.

Whether the event was Occupy-related or not, there's no doubt the movement has inspired hip-hop to start committing itself, once again, to social justice causes. Showing love to Skid Row, where the largest concentration of homeless people in the U.S. live, is a start.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by the greatest leader this country has ever known:

"We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." --Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 16, 1963, Birmingham, AL)


Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column AMP (Art, Music & Politics) profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.