At a recent benefit party for Louder Than A Bomb, a poetry festival and symposium held by Young Chicago Authors, founder Kevin Coval was joined by Chuck D of Public Enemy to talk about contemporary culture and how youth can author their own culture. The two were later joined by poet and educator, Jamila Woods, and Dr. Gaye Johnson, Professor of Black and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA, but not before Chuck discussed his personal journey of “poetic and political prophecy.”
Kevin first queried Chuck about having a festival named after one of Public Enemy’s songs. “I’m humbled by it, but it’s not about me at all, it’s about you all, and my job is serving.”
When asked about what he is presently working on and what he’s most excited about, Chuck explained how he strives to service local artists and independent artists. He talked about his successful website and app, rapstation.com, which helps artists to realize their own label.
“Young people in the city have found a way to circumnavigate capitalism and go directly to the consumer,” Chuck D said.
Chuck was particularly passionate about how young people should be actively working against radio and news media that does not support local artists. “Chicago radio stations should be supporting local music. It’s not about the national artists, it’s about the local artists that need to be fed in their hometown.”
“Teach music, you teach history by default.”
When it came to the subject of learning, Chuck reminisced about growing up around music and the importance of culture and music in K-12 education.
“Whenever you don’t teach music in a school system, then you’ve got people looking for it after the 12th grade by going into a corporation, thinking they’ve got to buy culture,” Chuck said. “Teach music, you teach history by default.”
The two were later joined by Jamila Woods and Professor Gaye Johnson, where the discussion moved to the cultural state of the world for artists and especially artists of color.
Johnson noted that she was inspired by women of color and queer women of color that are putting in the work to make the ability to see the human in everyone more universal.
When Kevin posed a question about misogyny in hip hop, Johnson responded, “We need men on the frontlines to not tolerate it. We all need each other and to hold each other accountable.”
The evening’s conversation ended on where they all locate hope and joy in these times. Youth and people who are struggling but still get up everyday and work for a better world was the common refrain. Jamila was inspired by the young poets participating in Louder Than A Bomb.
Chuck punctuated the conversation by saying that he always enjoys seeing “young adults become the leaders.”