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Educators Should Learn From This Youth Group

Ohanian Comment: Lots of educators are complaining that neither political party will listen to them about pressing education issues. We should take a page from this group--write an education platform and picket the conventions if they won't listen.

NEWARK, N.J. - The National Hip Hop Political Convention passed a national platform on Saturday in a historic effort to give voice to issues affecting the younger generation and as a cohesive way to measure accountability among the presidential candidates.

Delegates representing 17 states, including Florida, ratified a five-point agenda calling for action in the areas of education, economic justice, criminal justice, healthcare and human rights.

''This is the first time we have come together and defined the issues that are real for the hip-hop generation,'' said Angela Woodson, one of the cofounders of the convention. ``We consider this a dry run because all the states were not represented, but these are issues that must be addressed.''

Organizers of the four-day convention, which drew about 2,000 participants to Newark, say they will formally ask the Democratic and Republican parties to present the platform at their respective conventions this summer.

''We are going to ask, but if they deny us, we will picket,'' Woodson said. ``Our issues are going to be heard.''

Specifically, the agenda calls for equal funding in all public school districts, a rollback of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate interests as well as slavery reparations for black Americans, the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, free universal health care and the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with documenting human rights violations.

Delegates are charged with taking the platform home to address local issues and work with elected public officials.

The Florida delegation included 12 college students from Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee and Gainesville. The local issues include FCAT testing, immigration disparities and alleged voter disfranchisement in the 2000 presidential election.

''We are going to take this back to the state and begin establishing a framework to make sure our agenda actually gets put into action,'' said Alison Wiley of Miami, the state chair and a student at the University of Florida.

The vote was held at a college gym after a series of rousing speakers -- all charging the hip-hop generation with charting the country's political future -- including Charles Baron, a New York City councilman and mayoral candidate, and Chuck D., part of the seminal rap group Public Enemy.

'We have to take control, and the only way to take control is to unite and point to the powers that be and say, `We ain't taking it anymore,' '' Chuck D. said. ``This is the beginning of change.''

— Audra D. S. Burch
Hip-hop youths gather to ratify political agenda
Miami Herald


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