Back To Afrika
I have read the works of Peter Noel for a while, and I am a huge fan of his on certain topics, most notably his take on police shootings in NYC and around the country. However, I have a problem with the concept of deeming Conrad Muhammad the "hip hop minister" ["Taking the Rap: Are Civil Rights Leaders Frontin' for Hip Hop Gangstas?" January 16]. I wish nothing but peace and blessings upon the brother, but the fact is that Conrad is not as much an authority on hip-hop as he and the media feel that he is.
As the founders of hip-hop culture, the Universal Zulu Nation has the inherent right to claim authority on that culture, and therefore it is my view that only our ministers or others who were there with us when it all began may stand as authorities on the culture. I wholly agree with many points that Conrad brings up, such as his dislike for the lack of accountability by today's artists. However, there is no authority in hip-hop who is bigger than Afrika Bambaataa, the Godfather of Hip-Hop (who, incidentally, was never even contacted regarding the hip-hop summit mentioned in Noel's piece).
Maliq Adonai Soter
Youth Minister, Universal Zulu Nation
Son Learns From Daddy
I sit here reading Peter Noel's article, "Taking the Rap," with my 11-year-old son who loves hip-hop, trying to explain Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs's hypocritical glorification of violence that apparently erupted from his plush Lincoln Navigator, which was being pursued by police. Puffy ain't really no gangsta, and his ass deserves some jail time.
Caryn K. Hodge
St. Croix, Virgin Islands
As an American-born daughter of Guyanese immigrant parents who moved to the Farragut Houses in the '60s, I was delighted to read "Project Girls" by Janet McDonald [January 23]. We lived in the Farragut Houses for 24 years. Although there is a large Indian community in Guyana, we were the only Indian family in the projects. But we grew to love our neighbors. And because I was not raised to identify with my South Asian or Caribbean ancestry, I became heavily influenced by African American culture.
With the influx of drugs in the '80s, we watched Farragut residents fight, kill, rob, steal, deal dope, and die from it. But in the '70s we played. I have fond memories of Farragut that house-born people today probably cannot fathom: in the summer, the smell of fresh-cut grass, wax on turntables at "jams" in Shady Rest Park, bodies immersed under fire hydrants, jumping Double Dutch, block parties, handball, bike racing. At night, the street lamps became extensions of the sun as we talked and played backgammon. In the fall, we played football on the grass and "skellies" on the tar grounds. In winter, we had snowball fights with "rival" buildings and slid down snowy slopes in cardboard boxes.
Our divorced mother supported us on her own. In the interim, my father became the proud owner of Persaud's grocery at the corner of Myrtle and Flatbushacross the street from the Metrotech complexfor 12 years. After my father passed away, our family moved to a house near Prospect Park where we could live together . . . safely. Although we no longer have to ride a dark, dirty elevator to reach our door, crime is still rampant around our home. To me, it's not where you live, but how you live. Through its many beginnings and endings, Farragut Projects still stands tall, strong, and proud. With a little bit of faith and devotion from spirits like Janet McDonald, it can once again become a place of new beginnings, as it once was for my family. Farragut, to me, will always be my home.
Redeeming the Nightmare
I happened to read Nat Hentoff's column "Supreme Court Redeemed" [January 16] on the same day a full-page ad appeared in The New York Times representing the opinions of 554 law professors at 120 U.S. law schools. The professors characterized the U.S. Supreme Court intervention in Bush v. Gore as "five justices . . . acting as political proponents for candidate Bush, not as judges" and declared, "By taking power from the voters, the Supreme Court has tarnished its own legitimacy."
In his column, constitutional scholar Hentoff goes so far as to state that "Some of the law professors, columnists, and editorial writers so eager now to bastinado the Supreme Court may feel justifiably foolish on rereading, years from now, the reports of their comments in news clips."
That Hentoff finds a silver lining (possible election reform, possible expansion of voter rights) to this dark cloud cannot justify his overlooking this heinous act by Scalia and his cronies, which denied many voters their voice. Because of them we now have a Cold War cabinet, an attorney general candidate with an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, and a conservative president with the power to turn the Supreme Court still further to the right.
Robert F. Drake
Nat Hentoff replies: The rhetorical ad by 554 law professors failed to document their charges, and did not mention the January 14 report by The Palm Beach Post in Florida that "George W. Bush would have gained six votes more than Al Gore if all the dimples and hanging chads on 10,600 previously uncounted ballots in Miami-Dade County had been included in the totals, according to a review [of the ballots] by The Palm Beach Post." The Gore forces expected to pick up as many as 600 votes from a Miami-Dade recount.
Larry Blumenfeld was right on the money in "Burns-Eye View of Jazz" [January 16], except for one thing: Regina Carter plays violin, not vibes.
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