By Elizabeth Kim | Special to the OBSERVER

Dear Community,

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of hip hop. This is a genre of music that was born out of a civil rights movement in 1973 after a particularly violent summer of shootings and killings in the Bronx, New York. An 18-year-old-Jamaican-born kid, DJ Kool Herc, decided to throw after-school parties to unite the community. 

In our own neighborhood here in Sacramento, we’ve witnessed a surge of mass shootings in the last year that rocked our communities with fear for our youth’s safety. But we also saw our community and leaders rally around those families who suffered tragic losses, such as the recent murder of our city’s own DJ Gio. Still, our community continues to grow stronger together after each incident of senseless violence.  

In the 50 years of hip hop’s existence, corporate interests in the music industry have changed messaging and branding, which has had an undeniably and significantly harmful impact on our culture. Most of the general public have long forgotten the origins of hip hop and find that current rap music glamorizes gangs, guns and drugs—they’re not wrong. 

However, there continues to be a core group of artists who remain true to the original roots of hip hop through DJ-ing, dance, art and storytelling. 

It’s important to acknowledge and thank all those who preserve the purity of what hip hop was meant to represent—a peace movement. This effort is collective—from our brave lawmakers risking political odds to advocate for artistic freedom in our lyrics; our DJs rocking shows, promoting positive hip-hop music and providing healing to a grieving community in times of loss; and our hip-hop artists who buck the corporate system and continue to record music with uplifting lyrics that teach our youth about overcoming obstacles and achieving success. 

There is no greater act of revolution than the stand each of these artists take as they recognize the power of the mic and the impact their music has on communities around the world. 

We as a community can also play a strong part in promoting the true meaning of hip hop by educating our youth about its history rooted in civil rights. Our continuing fight for our rights, our freedom and our humanity cannot happen without each one of you. 

Elizabeth Kim

Organized Voices Founder