Linda Sarsour is Keynote Speaker at Third Annual Hip-Hop Institute

Linda Sarsour, the keynote speaker at the third annual Hip-Hop Institute, told the audience at MEC to protest, consume accurate news accounts, and to tell the truth about inequality, misogyny and racism.

“We got to show up for one another,” said Sarsour, a human-rights activist who was a key organizer of this year’s historic Women's March She is an Arab-American Muslim who was born in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.   In the current climate, when the rights of women, immigrants, and minorities are under assault, it is important to stand up for everyone, Sarsour said. And, she added, to get to know our neighbors.

“We live in a time when people who speak truth to power are under attack,” Sarsour declared. Still, the source of the problem cannot be laid at the feet of the current President, she said. The country has a bloody history that includes the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of black people, a ban on Chinese immigrants, and the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans, said Sarsour.

Sarsour’s comments came July 12th during the conference that adopted the theme “Speak The Truth,” this year. The Hip-Hop Institute unfolded as a day of discussions about entrepreneurship and criminal justice in the black community, with lectures, panels, and workshops. Sarsour drew an overflow crowd to the EOJ auditorium for the kick-off.

After Sarsour’s speech, MEC faculty, students and alumni participated in a panel discussion on community engagement and activism in the age of hip-hop.  

The conference was followed by the Dummy Clap Film Festival, a day of hip-hop culture films. Both events represented a partnership between the English Department of MEC and Brooklyn Bodega.

Brooklyn Bodega is a collective of academics and creators that advocates for hip-hop culture and produces the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival a mix of music and other events. Its partnership with MEC, timed to coincide with the popular hip hop festival, reflects the primacy of hip-hop studies in colleges and universities and its integral cultural role. The Hip-Hop Institute has drawn major speakers, like DeRay Mckesson of Black Lives Matter, taking on current events.

Sarsour, a mother of three, took a leading role in the Women’s March in January because it had initially been largely organized by white women, she explained in her speech.

“We determined that this major march had to include women of color, working and poor people, Muslim women,” she said.  She sought to inject issues of race and class when organizers discussed problems like equal pay for women, she said.

This year, scheduled Hip-Hop Institute participants included Timothy Anne Burnside from the National Museum of African-American History; Chuck Creekmur (AllHipHop.com); Datwon Thomas (EIC, Vibe); Ginny Suss (Okayplayer); Jerry Barrow (WatchLOUD); Lenny S. (RocNation).