Educating the Milwaukee public about voter suppression and other key issues in advance of the November 3 General Election will be the focus of the Hip-Hop Political Education Summit on September 22, a day-long streaming event that will feature key rap artists and other prominent voices in the fight for systemic change.

Alderman Khalif J. Rainey sponsored legislation that created Hip-Hop week in 2018 to honor the cultural influence of the revolutionary music genre, but also as an educational platform for the Milwaukee community.

For its third year, the popular event was forced to adapt to the necessary social restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that especially impacted communities of color. So the week of live public events was reimagined as a virtual experience.

Past years have included programming such as health and wellness, employment opportunities, financial literacy, civic engagement, along with live musical performances. The focus for 2020 will be on voter suppression. The issue is still fresh on the memories of voters in the City of Milwaukee, who could only vote at five in-person polling locations in the April 7 Spring Primary Election.

At that time, Wisconsin was only a few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic upheaval. The GOP-controlled legislature in Madison refused to implement public safety measures, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the attempt by Governor Evers to delay the election until a later date. The detrimental combination resulted in the greatly reduced number of poll workers.

“Voters have had to deal with ridiculously long lines at reduced polling locations, foreign interference, and even wide-scale attempts to scrub thousands from voter rolls,” said Alderman Rainey. “As we approach Election Day we need to empower voters with the information they need to make sure their vote is counted, and that’s why I am looking forward to the Hip-Hop Political Education Summit.”

Since the 1982 release of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Hip-Hop has been a powerful voice for the voiceless within urban communities. Hip-Hop represents and narrates the stories of those who have been crushed by the war on drugs, police brutality, subpar education, and economic hardship. Today, there are tens of millions of voting Hip-Hop fans of every race, gender and ethnicity between the ages of 18 to 55, an age group that represents more than 60% of the 2020 electorate.

“Hip-hop has long given voice to the greatest threats facing Black, Brown and poor Americans,” said Dave Mays, a pioneering hip-hop advocate who founded “The Source” magazine and co-founded the Hip-Hop Political Education Summit with author and activist Bakari Kitwana of The Hip-Hop Generation. “This summit recognizes voter suppression tactics during a global pandemic as the new danger.”

Alderman Rainey said the event would take place on National Voter Registration Day, and partner REVOLT, a global news-politics-music-entertainment online outlet, with Hip-Hop Week MKE and Black Voters Matter. Performances will feature several rap figures, as well as the heroic activists fighting on the frontlines for change.

Special guests of the program will include Cordae, Chuck D, DJ Envy, Dr. Cornel West of Harvard, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown, Latosha Brown who co-founded Black Voters Matter, Soledad O’Brien, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker.

The Hip-Hop Political Education Summit will stream live on REVOLT’s YouTube channel, website, and Facebook platforms, hosting panels, performances, and poetry that celebrate the legacy and ongoing cultural influence of Hip-Hop.

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Lee Matz