HARI In-House Blog

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Ferguson protests

Leaders of the New School event

This event is co-sponsored by: The Warren Center, Department of African and African American Studies, the Hutchins Center, and the Center for African Studies

The Hiphop Archive & Research Institute
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge, MA

Date: March 27, 2015, 4:30pm


Ashley Yates is an activist, poet and artist who hails from Florissant, Missouri. She is a member and co-founder of Millennial Activists United, a group of primarily young Black women activists, who spontaneously emerged in the days following the police killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Like other young activists in Ferguson who realized the media was either under reporting or demonizing protestors, she began using Twitter to tell the story of what was happening on the ground. Yates is also one of the organizers of Ferguson October (A Weekend of Resistance), which put out the call for activist allies around the nation to join local activists to show solidarity with Ferguson as the epicenter of the movement. Consistently articulating the demands of Ferguson youth activists for radical reform at the national level in the wake of Mike Brown’s death, Yates’s views on the Mike Brown tragedy and the importance of youth resistance to police terrorism have been featured in theFeministWire.com and the Wall Street Journal, and on HuffingonPostLive, Democracy Now, and MSNBC. 

Tef Poe is a hip-hop artist, writer and activist who built his reputation as a battle rapper in St. Louis. As an MC, Tef has collaborated with Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, Common, Killer Mike, and Big Boi. As an independent artist, he has been featured on MSNBC and BET and in XXL, Washington Post, the New York Times, and HipHopDX.com. Recognized by The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype in 2012, the following year Tef retired as champion of BET's 106th & Park Freestyle Friday competition. As an activist, Tef Poe has been involved in efforts for human rights with Amnesty International, Hands Up United, and Organization for Black Struggle. His Time magazine essay “Barack Obama Has Failed Us; But We Will Not Stop Fighting Injustice,” underscored his role as a central organizer in what he calls “The Mike Brown Rebellion.” In 2014, he received the Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists for his River Front Times column about racial and social issues.

Jasiri X is an independent hip-hop artist who emerged on the national scene with the powerful hit song “Free The Jena 6.” Widely recognized among social justice organizers as one of the most important contemporary activist MCs, he consistently raises the bar with songs like “A Song for Trayvon,” “Occupy (We the 99),” and “Checkpoint.” Following the success of “Free the Jena Six,” he created the groundbreaking Internet video series This Week With Jasiri X. From the controversial viral video “What if the Tea Party was Black?” to the hard-hitting lyrics of “The Ten Frisk Commandments,” the series garnered critical acclaim and millions of internet views on websites as diverse as Allhiphop.com and The Huffington Post. As an activist, Jasiri is on the frontlines in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he is a founding member of the anti-violence group One Hood, and the founder of the New Media Academy, which teaches African-American boys how to analyze and create media for themselves. The first hip-hop artist to receive the August Wilson Center for African American Culture Fellowship, Jasiri X has performed internationally, writes regular commentary about youth activism and social change on blackyouthproject.com. Ascension (2013) is his latest cd.

Johnetta (Netta) Elzie is a 25-year-old resident of St. Louis who has been documenting the events in Ferguson on Twitter: @nettaaaaaaaaa. She is also a curator on the #Ferguson Protester Newsletter, created by DeRay McKesson. This daily newsletter highlights statistics related to the Mike Brown Jr case, current events and planned actions, articles that are directly related to Ferguson, Saint Louis, Mike Brown Jr and the local police departments. Before the death of Mike Brown, Netta volunteered with a girls group, called the Sophia Project in the city of Saint Louis. The group focuses on helping teenage girls navigate through life. Her essay “When I close my eyes at night, I see people running from tear gas” was published in Ebony magazine on September 9.  Since then, Elzie has been one of the youth voices that has taken the message of resistance from the Frontline in Ferguson / St. Louis to international media outlets like Aljazeera.com, The Feminist Wire,  the Wallstreet Journal,  GlobalGrind.com and Huffingtonpost.com.

William Jelani Cobb is an Associate Professor of History, Director of the Institute of African American Studies and a contributor to The New Yorker magazine. The author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama & the Paradox of Progress (Bloomsbury 2010), To The Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic (NYU Press 2007), and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays (Thunder’s Mouth Press), he is editor of The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader. Born and raised in Queens, NY, he was educated at Jamaica High School, Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Rutgers University where he received his doctorate in American History in May 2003. Professor Cobb’s forthcoming book is titled Antidote to Revolution: African American  Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931-1957. His articles and essays have appeared in The New YorkerThe Daily BeastThe Washington PostEssenceVibeThe Progressive, and TheRoot.com. He has contributed to a number of anthologies including In Defense of MumiaTestimonyMending the World and BeatsRhymes and Life. He has also been a featured commentator on MSNBC, National Public Radio, CNN, Al-Jazeera, CBS News and a number of other national broadcast outlets.

Moderated by Bakari Kitwana

Bakari Kitwana is a journalist, activist and political analyst whose commentary on politics and youth culture have been seen on CNN, Fox News (the O’Reilly Factor), C-Span, PBS (The Tavis Smiley Show), and heard on NPR. He is the Executive Editor of Rap Sessions and Senior Media Fellow at the Harvard Law based Think Tank, The Jamestown Project. His 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at over 100 colleges and universities. The former Executive Editor of The Source and the former Editorial Director of Third World Press, he has taught in the political science department at the University of Chicago and has been a visiting scholar at Columbia College’s Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media. Co-founder of the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention, Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era (Third World Press, Fall 2015) is his forthcoming book.