A Nation of Millions

Hip-Hop Convention seeks answer to what's holding young America back

The thorniest issue next week will likely be the schism between the hip-hop generation and their predecessors in the Civil Rights movement. The age gap has been a lightning rod for controversy in recent years. Outkast has been embroiled in a suit with Rosa Parks ever since they titled a hit song after her. Ice Cube dissed Jesse Jackson on "ghetto, gutta, and gangsta," for Jackson's critical comments about the movie Barbershop. Most recently, Bill Cosby fired a shot across the bow of the hip-hop generation during his appearance at a gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed.

A whole day has been slated next week for talks between the clashing demographics, featuring the likes of dead prez's M-1 trading notes with Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. "The intergenerational dialogue is about bridging the divide and opening some lines of communi- cation," says Wilson. "A lot of young people feel they're being kept out of the political process. Then the older folks feel that the hip-hop generation is apathetic and isn't really carrying the ball."

Convention leaders are also hoping to lay out the sort of agenda that will give them more staying power than some of their predecessors. (Anyone remember the Black Radical Congress?) They want to get beyond simply registering people to vote—though voting is a vital component of their plan—by giving them real-life issues to care about. "We feel we've got to get people registered, for the simple fact that we have to be able to measure the size of our voting bloc," says Kitwana. "But it's more than voter education. It's getting people into the network and getting them to understand that politics is a process, not something that you just do one day."

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