Talib Kweli ‘occupies’ Memorial Hall




By Joy Priest

Talib Kweli, an American rapper and poet who has been a relevant figure in hip-hop since the early 90s, visited UK on Thursday night to discuss “Hip Hop and Economic Recovery” with Bakari Kitwana, a journalist and political analyst who is known for his commentary on Hip-Hop.

Kweli, whose first name, Talib, means “student” in Arabic and whose last name, Kweli, means “true,” answered questions from Kitwana while sitting on Memorial Hall’s stage.

Topics covered by the two hip-hop activists included new technology and its affect on music, illegal immigration and the recent “lynching” of Moammar Gadhafi, as Kitwana referred to it.  But the most addressed topic of the evening was the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Kweli said Occupy Wall Street was something he saw on Twitter first, and assumed it to be a one-day protest.

“I wasn’t interested in it as a one-day protest,” said Kweli, who is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. “When I realized people were planning to stay I said ‘There might be something to this.’”

Kweli said there are two sentiments present in media used to discredit the movement: Occupy is “just a bunch of hippies,” and it is a “leaderless movement,” to reach he replied, “good.”

“You got to get on the right side of history,” Kweli said, referring to Steve Jobs as a “hippie,” and saying, “look where he got us.”

Kitwana and Kweli compared the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements in their discussion, saying that the two garnered different reactions — the Occupy movement drawing a negative reaction from authority and the Tea Party movement being celebrated — when they were really demanding the same things.

“The only difference is where they’re getting their information from,” Kweli said.  “The Tea Party people are getting their information from Fox news … Occupy protesters from more credible sources.”

Kweli said this is the first time in his lifetime that he has seen constitutional rights exercised “in a tangible way,” and was “very excited about it.”

Kitwana said the Occupy Movement is an alternative for sitting in the house and complaining.

“It’s providing another way to deal with it,” Kitwana said. “They’re forcing media to cover it.”

During the Q & A portion of the evening, geography sophomore Benjamin Overstreet posed a question about Leon Trotsky’s belief that violent revolution was the only successful method against authority. He asked Kweli if he thought this was relevant to the nonviolent Occupy Movement.

“The way America is built … it’s only going to be fair through violent revolution, but I know life isn’t fair,” Kweli said. “(Occupy) asks, How are these issues not being discussed? … And we’re going to make your lives inconvenient until you’re forced to discuss them.”

In spite of his efforts with the Occupy protest, Kweli said “I am not anti-capitalist,” and gave students advice on entrepreneurship, which he felt was important in this economy.

“Harness what you love,” Kweli said. “You got to figure out what you love and do that alongside college.”

Integrated strategic communications junior Zephir Griffin said she appreciated Kweli’s visit and recognized his experience, but did not feel he was any different than any other liberal commentator.

“I prefer the more radical approach to revolution, and that doesn’t necessarily mean violent,” Griffin said. “It goes back to what Kitwana was saying tonight when he said we’re not angry enough. This talk to me felt like they are not angry enough. They were very safe.”

Kweli informed fans that he and fellow artist and Blackstar group member Mos Def would be releasing a single “in a couple of weeks.”

Kitwana has an upcoming book “Hip-hop activism in the Obama Era, “which he said discusses the “dissatisfaction young people have with the current president.”

“An Evening with Talib Kweli” was sponsored by the Martin Luther King Cultural Center and co-sponsored by the African American and Africana Studies, WRFL-FM, The Stuckert Career Center, the Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media Program and the National Association of Black Accountants.