Hip-Hop as Activist Megaphone
Some of the most prominent and consequential voices in hip-hop will engage in a discussion about music and activism and how each platform can help to serve the other. Talib Kweli is a rapper and activist whose new memoir Vibrate Higher traces his evolution as an artist – from his early days in Brooklyn to the launch of Javotti Media. He will be joined by hip-hop artist Jasiri X, whose deep involvement with the national Movement for Black Lives has led to invitations from prestigious institutions such as Harvard University and Stanford to share his views about anti-violence, race, and politics. Martha Diaz is a community organizer, media producer, and educator whose passion for social justice inspired her to co-design the first online hip-hop high school. This special evening will be moderated by USC Annenberg’s Director of the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment Taj Frazier.
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After nearly 20 years of releasing mesmerizing music, Talib Kweli stands as one of the world’s most talented and most accomplished hip-hop artists. Whether working with Mos Def as one-half of Black Star, partnering with producer Hi-Tek for Reflection Eternal, releasing landmark solo material or collaborating with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze, J Dilla, or Madlib, Kweli commands attention by delivering top-tier lyricism, crafting captivating stories, and showcasing his ability to rhyme over virtually any type of instrumental. The Brooklyn-based MC has earned his stripes as one of the most lyrically-gifted, socially aware and politically insightful rappers to emerge in the last 20 years.
In 2011, Kweli founded Javotti Media, which is self-defined as “a platform for independent thinkers and doers.” Kweli has set out to make Javotti Media (which released his 2011 album, Gutter Rainbows, and is named after his paternal grandmother) into a media powerhouse that releases music, films, and books.
The work of Jasiri X is a vital contribution to the artistic dialogue needed in today’s political climate. He is the first independent hip-hop artist to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate and is deeply involved with the national Movement for Black Lives. Jasiri’s focus on social change has also touched the global arena, commissioned by The Open Society Foundation to travel to Colombia to create a film (War on Us, with Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Rhymefest) that highlights the international effects of U.S. drug policy. One of the most important political voices of his generation, in 2018, he was named a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Resident. In 2017, he was also named as a Nathan Cummings fellow and in 2015, a USA Cummings Fellow, a BMe Fellow, and a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellow. To this day, he remains rooted in Pittsburgh through organizations he has co-founded under the banner of 1Hood.
Martha Diaz is a community organizer, educator, media producer, archivist, curator, mentor, and serial social entrepreneur who for twenty-five years has traversed between the hip-hop entertainment industry, public arts sector and academia. Her passion is advancing social justice and transforming communities through media, technology, and leadership development. She has produced and consulted on several hip-hop documentaries including, Where My Ladies At? (2007), Black August: A Hip-Hop Concert (2010), and Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014). As an educator, she has taught middle and high school students in Harlem and the Bronx and was an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School. In 2010, Diaz launched the Hip-Hop Education Center to cultivate and formalize the field of hip-hop-based education.
A graduate of the New York University Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, Diaz has worked with Parkwood Entertainment (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter), the Tupac Shakur Estate, and USC-KAOS Network. She has served as a Fellow at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History, Visiting Scholar at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Community Scholar at Columbia University, and the Nasir Jones Fellow at Harvard University. Diaz is currently the New School Creation Fellow at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education where she is co-designing the first online Hip-Hop high school.
Robeson Taj Frazier is a cultural historian who explores the artistic, political, and expressive cultures of the people of the African Diaspora in the United States and elsewhere. His research examines histories and current-day dynamics of race and gender, cultural traffic and contact, urban culture and life, and popular culture. He is the author of The East Is Black: Cold War China in the Black Radical Imagination (Duke University Press, 2014), co-producer of the documentary film The World Is Yours, was on the Scholarship Steering Committee for the audio-visual and traveling art platform Question Bridge: Black Males, and is on the editorial boards for the Journal of Race and Policy and Communication, Culture, & Critique. He is currently the Associate Professor of Communication; Director of the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA) at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
Celebrating the photographers who have played a critical role in bringing hip-hop’s visual culture to the global stage, CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop is an inside look at the work of hip-hop photographers, as told through their most intimate diaries: their unedited contact sheets.Learn More