Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Small Town and Suburban Racism Doesn't Cut it On College Teams or in Many Portions of the Workforce

 
One of the things that the Trump loving, Confederate flag waving racial epithet spouting white folks in small town America need to realize is that they are compromising the futures of their most talented young people
This fall at least five white athletes as schools ranging from Cornell to Marquette to Oregon State have been kicked off college teams when Instagram posts filled with white supremacist rhetoric that they made while still in high school were uncovered.
Openly racist language common at family dinners, house parties, and in locker rooms in all white towns and suburbs doesn't cut it when you go to college or enter the workplace, or even if you join the military. It can not only get your ass kicked if your Black teammates hear it, it can get you kicked off a team, deprived of a scholarship, or get you kicked out of school.
The proliferation of racist and white supremacist imagery and activity in the US is not only going to come back to haunt the people engaging it- getting them fired from their jobs if they unleash it in public places, it is going to compromise their children's futures.
This is a multiracial country becoming more so every day and the last gasp of militant whiteness is not going to end well for the people promoting it and spreading it

Why This Historic Moment Is Special: My Reflections on the Movements Sweeping the Nation

 
I am tremendously optimistic about the current historic moment because the Black Lives Matter movement has grown to proportions as large, or larger than any movement I have seen in my lifetime, including the anti-war movement of the 60's which it resembles most. What has been most astonishing has been the number of small towns that Black Lives Matter vigils have been held in, many of them in places where most people would have said protesters would fear for their safety. In Eastern Long Island, there have been BLM vigils not only in relatively liberal towns like Sag Harbor and Bridghampton, but in conservative enclaves like Montauk and Hampton Bays. Almost all of these protests have been led by young women, many of high school age. And this has taken place all over the US and in many parts of the world. At last count, my students and former students have participated in 51 BLM actions, more than half in small towns and suburbs. And these movements have forced long needed changes in police procedures and police funding in many states and
cities, and this in less than two months
. Now, the movements are also turning their attention to colleges and universities where racist practices have long been tolerated or been too difficult to challenge. What is most exciting is that for a significant number of protesters, this has been their first action which has put them in direct conflict with police, public officials and racist and white supremacist hecklers and goon squads and as far as I can tell it has made them firmer in their convictions and enthralled by the culture of resistance they have been part of. This can definitely have spill over consequences for other justice struggles such as defense of immigrants and, movements to freeze mortgage payments and rent
To me this uprising most resembles the protest movements of the Sixties where you had people who participated in civil rights actions soon joining the anti-war movement, and then, helped spawn the Black Power Movement, the women's liberation movement and the gay liberation movement. We are also seeing energy spilling over into campaigns to elect progressive political'candidates. I think this movement has far greater depth and lasting power than anything I have seen since the 1960's. I am not sure I see too many analogues with the 1930's because this is a youth led, m

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"Imagine" Thoughts on Reinventing Law Enforcement

In the spirit of John Lennon's "Imagine," here are my thoughts about reinventing law enforcement
Imagine:
If every dollar spent on armored vehicles, stun guns, and tear gas for urban police departments were invested in sports programs, music programs, and summer jobs for youth
If CompStat were eliminated and police officers were rewarded for resolving conflicts peacefully rather than chalking up arrests for non violent offenses like loitering, jaywalking, fare beating or selling goods on the street
If honest, justice seeking police officers were rewarded, rather than punished and ostracized, for exposing fellow officers who put everyone at risk by engaging in racial profiling, or using excessive force in vulnerable communities when making arrests.
Police do what they are asked to do by elected officials and the general public. If a cross section of our society wants police officers to conduct themselves like an occupying army in communities of color, that's what we are going to get
If we want a different form of law enforcement, we have to push long and hard to get it.
That is what is at stake in the current protests. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

NYPD At The Crossroads- Some Backround History

 
All over the nation, protesters are demanding that police budgets be cut and that the funds saved be invested in community development projects in working class neighborhoods, particularly those which have high concentrations of Black people.
As this movement spreads to NYC, it might be useful to review the history of police expansion and militarization in NYC, its surprising origins and unintended consequences.
Although most people don't know this, the first big expansion of the NYPD after its budget was cut during the Fiscal Crisis of the 70's took place under the Mayoralty of David Dinkins! The demand for this expansion came largely from the city's poorest neighborhoods, which were under siege as a result of crack related violence In neighborhoods where gun battles were taking place all hours of the day and night, making people afraid to go to work, go shopping, or send their children to school. In response to this, community organizations in the Bronx, East New York and other hard pressed areas began calling for more police and more arrests so that people they represented could go about their daily lives safely.( If you don't believe me, read Noel Wolfe's 2015 dissertation "A Community At War: The Bronx and Crack Cocaine") The Dinkins Administration responded to these pressures by expanding the NYPD, and deploying these officers near schools, churches, public transportation stops and business districts in the neighborhoods hardest hit by crack. Dinkins Police Commissioner, Lee Brown, won support for this approach by constant consultation with community groups in the city's Black and LatinX neighborhoods.
However, with the election of Rudy Guiliani, the city's approach to policing took a very different turn. Whereas Dinkins major focus was making the city's poorest neighborhoods safer, Guilani's focus was to reduce violence and disorder in the entire city and make Manhattan a safe place for tourism and investment. To this end, he and his Police Commissioner, William Bratton introduced and approach called "Broken Windows Policing" which deployed the NYPD to arrest people en masse for non violent "quality of life crimes" such as panhandling on the subway, washing windows at busy intersections, turnstile jumping and fare beating, and drinking in public. The city's business leaders hailed this new approach because it dramatically changed the atmosphere in Manhattan's wealthiest business districts, sparking the gradual revival of NYC as a major focus of domestic and foreign investment
In Guiliani's second term, this approach was modified, in disastrous fashiong, by a new Commissioner with a military background, Howard Safir. Dispensing with the last vestiges of Community Policing, Safir deployed centrally controlled units to descend on the city's poorest neighborhoods to take guns and drugs off the street.The aggressive tactics they used led to one of the most shocking murders of an unarmed Black person in US History- the 41 shot execution of a Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo in a Bronx hallway.
Safir was ultimately forced to resign, and Guiliani left after two terms in office, but the new Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, expanded on the approach to policing Guiliani had pioneered. Not only did he keep expanding the NYPD, he introduced a computerized program CompStat, to make sure that every officer was making large numbers of quality of life arrests, and empowered officers to "stop and frisk" any person they thought might be suspicious. The result of this was that every Black man in the city found himself 'under suspicion" In Bloomberg's final year in office, there were more police stops and searches of Black men than there were Black men in New York City.
The Police Strategies of Guiliani and Bloomberg coincided to an economic boom in Manhattan marked by the constructions of tens of thousands of units of luxury housing, a huge increased in tourism, and the creation of a whole new array of upscale business districts in once decaying neighborhoods like SOHO. It
also fostered gentrification, first in Manhattan neighborhoods like the East Village and the Upper West Side, then in outer borough neighborhoods like Park Slope, Fort Greene, Williamsburgh and Astoria and finally in historically Black communities like Harlem and Bedford Stuyvestant
It also led to a simmering rage in the city's Black and LatinX neighborhoods, where daily police harassment became a reality for people going to work, going to school or going out of the house for recreational activity. Communities who had asked for more police during the height of the crack epidemic now saw police as a force to keep them intimidated and confined while New York attracted wealthy residents and investors from all over the world. The message they received from this kind of policing was loud and clear- "you are a danger to the city and we want you to leave."
Even after a term and a half of the DeBlasio Mayoralty, in which stop and frisk was allegedly ended, there is still a high level of resentment of the NYPD. The current crisis has brought those resentments to the surface.
As wealthy residents depart the city because of COVID-19, we may need to revisit now police are deployed, whose interests they serve, and what kind of atmosphere we want in the city's most popular commercial districts and tourist destinations.
A city where wealthy people from all over feel comfortable and poor people feel confined to their communities or pushed out of the city entirely may not longer be a tenable state of affairs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

My Top Three Policy Proposals for Getting Us Out of This Crisis

 
What this crisis tells us is that people have been pushed to the wall economically as well as victimized on the basis of their race. We have to deal with both issues to heal our wounded country. In response, I propose the following three initiatives
1. A New Deal Style jobs and public works program, modeled on the WPA and the CCC, that creates millions of jobs for unemployed people, particularly unemployed youth, rebuilding our infrastructure, repairing business districts damaged in the uprisings sweeping the nation and creating millions of units of affordable housing.
2. A demilitarization of urban police forces and an end to "broken windows policing" which targets people for non violent offenses and makes our cities safe for gentrification while making poor and working class people feel insecure in their own communities
3. A continuation of the national conversation on race, coupled with an effort to identify and remove open racists and white supremacists from our police forces, our military, and our schools. We need to restore confidence in the fairness of our most important government institutions.
There are obviously other reforms that could be envisioned but these are my top three.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Rage of the Young at a Compromised Future Adds Fuel to the Flames

 
Let me be blunt, I am frightened by the level of violence that protests have attained in my own city, and in cities throughout the country.
But I am also acutely aware that I have little or no influence on the people out in the streets doing the worst damage. What we have going on here looks more and more like a generational uprising as well as a protest against police violence
It is why so many protesters are not listening to people like me who tell them that looting stores and firebombing cars undermines the moral force of their protests. Here is the argument I am hearing more and more.
"You are in no moral position to talk about looting. Your generation looted the country so much that all we have left is student debt, low paying, dangerous jobs, and a militarized police force to keep us under control in cities which have been handed over to the rich. You tossed our generation on the garbage heap and now it's time for payback."
If you look at the collective distribution of income wealth and opportunity in our society, can you really say this argument is wrong, especially since the Pandemic has given a fatal blow to the hopes of many already living precarious lives. There are millions of unemployed, out of school young people in this country who have nothing to lose and huge amount of anger at their position,
No one is organizing these protests. And their very spontaneity shows how deep rooted the grievances are.
Several months ago, I feared that we could be facing food riots and rent riots on a Depression scale when the government stimulus money ran out and there were mass evictions and disruptions to the food chain
I never thought they would come this early, or with this particular
spark
We are in deep deep trouble as a country. Years of impoverishing and marginalizing the poor, and handing our cities to the rich have brought us to this point.
If we view racist, militarized policing as an instrument used to enforce rising levels of inequality and gentrification in our major cities, then much of what we are seeing in these protests makes more sense

Sunday, May 31, 2020

"White Privilege; Black Anger" A Powerful Essay by Pamela Knight author of "Teaching While Black"

Let me be clear on something. I would not loot my city, HOWEVER, when people are just as upset over people looting in response to another unarmed black man being killed for no reason, as they are that a LIFE, not a store front, not a police station, not a Target, but a living, breathing human being was TAKEN, you are devaluing black life. You might THINK you are for equality, but subconsciously, you do not think we are your equals. 
 
White privilege is finding sympathy for white murderers who shoot up churches and schools because they were bullied. If you did not post about how disgusted you were at Dylan Roof or the countless white men who decided to take innocent lives, some even CHILDREN, because he was troubled, but you are disgusted and outraged at people vandalizing their OWN—not your—City, you do not value black life as much as white life. 
 
Let me also break something else down: this rioting is so much deeper than simply destroying one’s community. It speaks to a myriad of things and deserves more analysis and reflection than a simple tweet or post of disdain. And unfortunately, many will refuse to do that much because that would require you to care about black life as much as white life, and so this will probably fall on many deaf ears: 
 
  1. Black people are angry. Rightfully angry. Just like the white male mass shooters are allowed to be angry, and the Amy Coopers of the world are allowed to be angry, for things that are INSIGNIFICANT: because they were told to put their dog on a leash, or because someone’s music was too loud, or because someone was publicly displaying joy in the face of their own misery, black people have and deserve to have a HEIGHTENED level of anger in this country, a country who has NEVER treated us fairly, who has had knees on our necks since our ancestors were kidnapped and brought here. We have CENTURIES of oppression that we are dealing with, in a nation considered the most powerful nation in the world. 
 
And YET and still, black people have not gone on a rampage killing white folk. Do you know what an Amy Cooper would do if she had a knee on her neck, or on the neck of her loved one? If she is angry enough to call 911 on a man for asking her to do what she is SUPPOSED to do, what kind of anger manifestation do you think would happen if her life was ACTUALLY in danger? 
 
 
White people have so many privileges, including the right to be angry and the right to express their anger, even when the levels are inappropriate. 
Black people are not appropriately expressing their anger, because none of you are dead. Black people have not gone on killing sprees killing white folk just because. White people have, killing black people praying and white children learning, this when they have no idea what oppression even feels like.
And when black people usually kill, it’s one of our own. Not random either. But the level of anger it takes to kill another human being manifests in our own personal interactions. We’ve expressed all of our anger, all of our hate bottled up inside us on another one of us. 
 
And instead of anyone even seeing the gravity of what that means, it’s used to display how violent we are. It’s used to look down on us. It’s used to justify the level of fear that you have of us. 
 
 
But we are not the violent ones. 
 
 
Our actual expression of anger doesn’t hold a candle to what is appropriate. We are inappropriately expressing our anger, because what would happen if we appropriately expressed our anger? 
 
Black people looting their own cities is no different than a person who has been abused, depressed or going through some form of mental breakdown choosing to cut themselves. Why does one do that? Of course, there’s self hate.  But guess what else there is? Beneath all the pain, there is compassion. Cutting yourself is releasing on your own body the rage and pain you feel without hurting another. And no matter what white people have done to us in this country, we always hurt ourselves before we ever THINK to hurt one of you. 
 
 
  1. Now some might believe that looting, for many, is just an excuse to take things that don’t belong to them.
 
Again, this quick writing off without deeper analysis is simply unacceptable. 
Somehow Black people are still expected to have some sort of allegiance to this country. Poor black people, who are marginalized both for race and socio-economic status, feel more than any other group in this nation, that they’ve been cheated. Please do not rant to me about pulling one’s self up from one’s bootstraps if you do not know the history of oppression that goes deeper than slavery and Jim Crow. If you do not know about systems that have been put in place to keep us down AND to build you up. If you don’t know what redlining is, please have several seats. If you do not understand drug laws and incarceration laws that have continued to deliberately keep poor brown and black people down, please stay silent. Please do not tell me about your poor grandmothers who came here from another country and made a lane for themselves. No one will ever know the pain and suffering of the black man, woman, child, or family. No one. So you have not earned the right to critique us in any way. 
 
 
No one knows the fire that burns steadily within us. And pray you never will.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

An Historian's Thoughts on the Uprisings in Our Cities

 
As an historian, I am am hardly surprised at the uprisings taking place in cities throughout the country
The murder of George Floyd pushed people filled with rage at their position in Trump's America over the edge.
It is not just that repeated murders of unarmed Black men and women, by police or self appointed security agents, had convinced many Black people that most whites signed off on policies that terrorized their communities, it is that they saw the rhetoric and policies of the Trump Administration as a daily assault on their safety and security.
In the minds of many people of color, it is wholly predictable-- and profoundly infuriating- that a country that could elect a race baiting demagogue like Donald Trump would sign off on the murder of unarmed Blacks, and never send those responsible to prison
Think about it: you are living in country where gun toting, Nazi and Confederate flag waving whites are cheered on by the President while unarmed Black men and women are shot down in the streets and their own homes, and where immigrant children of color are put in cages.
If you think that experience wasn't making people unbelievably angry, you are ignoring the lessons of history.
At some point, I suspected, that anger, which I know well because I feel it inside myself, was going to break loose. George Floyd's death may have been the spark, but there were a long chain of grievances which have come to the surface in its wake
I do not know where these uprisings are going, nor how they are going to end.
I do know they have been a long time coming.
Anybody really LISTENING to what their Black/LatinX friends, colleagues,neighbors and family members have been saying
over the last few years, in response to provocation after provocation, should hardly be surprised at what is taking place in the streets of our major cities.

Monday, May 11, 2020

An Open Letter to Governor Cuomo on Education Policy from Fordham Alum Carrie Anne Tocci

May 10, 2020

Dear Honorable Governor Cuomo:

I have respect for the Cuomo family.

My first full-time teaching job was at La Scuola D'Italia in Manhattan. Your mom visited once, and I found her to be eloquent when she spoke about the importance of education, and a one-on-one mentoring program in place in our state.  Your dad sat next to my mom when she was a member of a coalition of concerned moms who sought to raise the drinking age in our state in the '80s, following several tragic accidents.

I am an adoptee and in February, due to the amendment of  section 4138 of public health law you signed off on January 15, 2020, I received my original adoption papers--a landmark moment in my life. Personally, I appreciate your support with this issue, and leadership during this difficult time in our nation’s history, while we part ways on your recent comments in support of the Gates Foundation, and your wonderings about why the “old model” of education persists. 

As an educator, I do have some -- I hope -- useful feedback for you.

I've seen/heard other government representatives preach on education, following this up with the assignment of education leaders who have zero education experience/credibility. This suggests that anyone can teach or lead teachers who guide students.

I agree with you that we have been teaching 21st-Century learners with 20th-Century methods but we need to merge, not replace one for another but this must be done thoughtfully.  Educators are coming off the failed 2010 implementation  of the Common Core Standards which were implemented across many states in the United States, intending to fill in learning gaps with more rigorous curricula.  The CCSS, however, have not closed all performance gaps.

If we implement more platforms, interventions, curricula, will they be tested before implementation?  Will educators and students be consulted?

Training and experience with children, matters. Educators matter--our human touch in concert with education platforms, whether in person or virtual, is essential.  To better understand my learners with learning challenges, I need to be present to assess not just school work but social emotional well-being which may not be fully transparent through a screen.

 Maybe a hybrid model is next, but that would mean more companies and businesses need to have child care--more schools, too, for the teachers who have kids they can’t leave unattended at home.

I urge you to consult a random sample of New York State students especially adolescents asking them what does and doesn’t work for them with both environments: actual and virtual. Studies exist that explore student reading preferences. Though digital natives, some students today choose their reading platform, digital or print, based on the genre -- say, digital for news and print for fiction.

During this virtual learning time, I’ve had a few students ping me on Google hangouts, to speak one-on-one, and I've witnessed a few tears mixed with trying to keep up a brave face. Back at school, my students pop into my office throughout the day for a smile, encouragement, sometimes for a safe place to share and even cry when they are frustrated or overwhelmed. 

Technology has expanded my teaching options, but still I go back to your mom's visit to my first teaching post. Her presence, the fact she cared enough to drop by to our small school, made a big impression on me, more so than if she had greeted us from a screen. I am confident of that. Let’s not lose sight of the importance of seeing our students in person.

Thank you for listening.

Yours, sincerely,

Carrie Anne Tocci

Carrie Anne Tocci is a doctoral candidate in Fordham University’s Contemporary Learning and Interdisciplinary Research (CLAIR) program and has over 20 years of experience teaching adolescents and adults in public and private schools in urban, suburban, and international settin

Friday, April 10, 2020

"What Keeps Me Up At Night:" Reflections of A Fordham Senior on COVID-19's Impact


I am trying to deal with what is an incredibly difficult time for all of us. I am incredibly disappointed that we will not have a graduation ceremony (it is my sincere hope they will ACTUALLY hold the ceremony). As a first generation american and a first generation college student, that day was so much more than a ceremony. It is something that transcends my experience. It was for my family who in their totality and boundless sacrifice brought me to this once in a lifetime milestone. It felt like bringing generations of struggle with me across the stage. Aside from the uncertainty of graduating into an economy and society which we have no idea what will look like.
Not to mention (which I am sure you have many many thoughts on) what the pandemic says about our society which falls apart at the seams at the first hurdle that requires collectivism. One that uses prisoners for slave labor and continues to put them through greater inhumane challenges of fearing contamination in what are already inhumane sanitary conditions and severe overcrowding. One in which our differences seem to pull us even further apart when they should be bringing us together.
Prisoners, those in unstable homes, and who are dealing with abuse, scarcity, Illness and unemployment keep me up at night during this time.
Ashley Brito FCRH 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Proud to Be a New Yorker


As I woke up this morning, at a time when New York is experiencing the worst tragedy of the 21st Century, I want to express my gratitude to all the people risking their lives and safety to get us through this crisis; our doctors, nurses, and lab technicians; our EMT's and ambulance drivers, our police officers and fire fighters; our MTA workers who keep the buses and subways running, our teachers and principals who provide an educational lifeline to 1.1 million children; our grocery pharmacy and restaurant workers, truck drivers delivering food and supplies to homes,stores and hospitals; those running shelters and food banks; custodians and building service workers in apartment houses, office buildings, schools and universities. While the rest of us quarantine ourselves and shelter in place, they make sure the sick and dying are cared for and vital services continue.
As the majority of New Yorkers stay home to flatten the curve, we cannot forget those who go to work every day at great risk to themselves.
They represent the unconquerable spirit of this great city, a spirit which we saw after 9/11 and which we are seeing now. Because of them, because of all of us, New York will be back.
Feisty as ever. Arrogant as ever. Often hated. Never duplicated

Sunday, April 5, 2020

My 10 Strategies for Getting Through This Pandemic


1. Get plenty of sleep every night and nap during the day
2. Take vitamins and supplements every morning to build up my immune system
3. Exercise every day, but never to the point of exhaustion
4. Never leave the house except to sit on the stoop or go for a walk in the park, and wear a mask whenever I am outside
5. Respond to every request for help from students and friends in a timely manner
6. Eat lots of comfort food as well as food that builds up my immune system
7 Since there are no sports to provide escape, read great mystery authors on Kindle and watch episodes of compelling series on TV with Liz every evening.
8. Wash my hands 20-40 times a day.
9. Enjoy bourbon, scotch, rum, vodka and wine whenever the spirit moves me
10 Put my heart and soul into providing my students with the best possible on line classes, and do so in a manner that reduces rather than adds to their stress

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Father O'Hare I Knew and Loved



During Father Joseph O’Hare’s Long and distinguished tenure as President of Fordham University, I was honored to count him as a friend and well as an academic leader. We didn’t agree on all Issues, and locked horns on a few, especially athletics, but in several key instances, Father O’Hare made decisions which showed his love of justice, and his concern for our community’s most vulnerable members , which earned him a special place in my heart and in the hearts of my Departmental colleagues
I am going to share two stories which reveal this aspect of Father O’Hare’s character. Since I have not seen these mentioned in other tributes to him, i think it is important that I share them, especially in a time when we are all being tested by the worst crisis of the 21st Century
The first occurred right after Father O’Hare’s inauguration. For several years, Urban Studies majors I had been working with at Fordham were trying to persuade the University to create a Community Service Program to encourage students to get involved in a Bronx community that was fighting an uphill battle against redlining, disinvestment, drug epidemics and the stigma the Bronx carried in public discourse. Less than a month after Father O’Hare took the helm of University leadership, he agreed to meet with me and my students about this issue. After listening for more than an hour to what they had to say, he agreed, on the spot to implement what they were calling for. Within a year, Fordham launched a fully funded Community Service Program which has evolved over time into one of the best in the nation. Father O’Hare’s empathy, vision and ability to take decisive action made this possible
The second instance took place nearly five years later. At that time, the University authorized a search for a scholar of African American religion who would be primarily housed in the Theology Department, but in which the faculty in African and African American Studies would have significant input. After a national search in which both Departments participated, the committee prepared to make an offer to a brilliant young scholar and teacher, Dr Mark Chapman. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the Theology faculty refused to make the offer. My Department chair, Dr Claude Mangum and I were so enraged by this they we actually arranged to move to another area university that was prepared to offer us tenure and relocate our African American and Urban Studies entities. But before we signed our contracts and left Fordham, we decided to meet with Father O’Hare to explain what we were about to do. As we described what had transpired during the search, Father O’Hare became increasingly dismayed and concluded the meeting by doing something for which Claude Mangum and I were forever grateful- he ordered the Vice President for Academic Affairs to create the tenure track line for Dr Chapman in African American Studies, not only allowing Claude and me to remain at Fordham, but instantly turning our Department into an Academic powerhouse.with a brilliant young religious leader on its faculty
I would not be here at Fordham, about to celebrate my 50th year of service at the school I love, had not Father O’Hare once again taken decisive action
Since that time, Father O’Hare has anyways held a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of everyone who who sees our Department as a valued part of the Fordham community
I mourn him. I miss him. And I try, every day, to keep his legacy alive

Saturday, March 28, 2020

How Hip Hop Differed From Rock and Roll In Its Formative Years



There were significant differences between Hip Hop's emergence as the most popular youth music in the nation, compared to rise of Rock and  Roll, though both began as musical forms in  Black communities. 



First of all, the take off period for hip hop, the time it took from its first commercial dissemination till its conquest of the youth market, was longer than that of Rock and Roll. For Hip Hop, the period was approximately ten years  (1979-1989); for Rock and Roll only three ( 1954-1956).  Both were maligned and resisted, but it took longer for Hip Hop to conquer youth markets, with the major vehicles for doing so being a single Music Show, MTV, along with music radio stations around the nation, rather than variety shows like Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan, and dance shows like American Bandstand, which helped promote Rock and Roll



Secondly, whereas Rock and Roll was a product of a wave of American Prosperity of unprecedented power and length, elevating the incomes of working class Americans, even those from  previously marginalized groups,  to the point where they could produce a teenage market for popular music and creating a wave of optimism that affected almost everyone in the nation, Hip Hop was a product of economic stagnation, urban decay, growing inequality, and the decline of post war optimism and Sixties idealism. The South Bronx of the 70's ("broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the stairs you know they just don't care') would have been- and actually was- unrecognizable to the people who sang doo wop on the corners and in school hallways in Bronx neighborhoods during the 1950's. During Rock and Roll's take off years, no one living in the Bronx in that time  could have ever imagined that housing holding for than 300,000 people could be abandoned and torched, or that the great music programs in Bronx schools would be shut down because of budget cuts. But those were the surrounding conditions  when first hip hop parties were held in community centers,  parks and school yards, creating a music featuring pounding percussion rather than beautiful harmonies of groups like the Chantels, the Chords, and Dion and the Belmonts



Third, the dismal economic and political conditions in which hip hop was created helped create another dynamic radically different from that of Rock and Roll---it was not appropriated, or rebranded by white artists the way Rock and Roll was. There is no equivalent to Elvis Presley in Hip Hop, a white artist so charismatic and successful appropriating a Black art form that he became known as "The King of Rock and Roll,"  For the first ten years of Hip Hop's history, there was not a single white artist who achieved prominence in Hip Hop to the level that Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, or later the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did in Rock and Roll.  The only artist EVER to achieve that status, was Emimen, and he did so 20 years after "Rappers Delight" hit the air waves. The Beastie Boys achieved great popularity fusing hip hop with punk, but they didn't ever pretend to convey a key portion of the hip hop ethos- which was coming from tough urban neighborhoods and triumphing over adversity. Hip Hop credibility in the marketplace become linked to "Blackness" and inner city hardship in a way that had no counterpart in Rock and Roll History. Although most of early hip hop was more party music than political music, its trademark was as the voice of disfranchised youth, left behind in decaying cities.  And since cities were not only decaying all over the nation, but all over the world, this trademark actually helped hip hop spread in a time when growing inequality was a global as well as national phenomenon



Gender Issues in Hip Hop



The one area in which Hip Hop resembled Rock and Roll was in the absence of women artists during its formative years.  From 1979 to 1987, when Salt and Pepa first produced songs which went platinum, there was not a single woman hip hop artist who left a mark on the growing national and international audience for the music, just as no woman artist achieved popularity in Rock and Roll during its take off period ( 1954-1956)  Hip Hop, like Rock and Roll, was aggressively and proudly masculinist in its early years

But unlike Rock and Roll, Hip Hop projected this masculinist ethos at a time when women's labor force participation was growing rapidly, when fewer and fewer women were dependent on male incomes, and when women artists were achieving great prominence in other musical forms, especially pop.   As the numbers below indicate, the change in the US from a  industrial economy to a service and information economy, which  led to a loss of high paying jobs for men, created opportunities for women in entry level jobs in the service sector 

"In 1950, the overall participation rate of women was 34 per- cent.  The rate rose to 38 percent in 1960, 43 percent in 1970, 52 percent in 1980, and 58 percent in 1990" 

 By 1990, when Hip Hop was firmly established as the most popular youth music in the nation, the majority of women were working outside the home, nearly doubling the numbers who were doing so in 1950.  No song illustrates that reality better than the Donna Summer Classic "She Works Hard for the Money"  but women's power and agency could be found  represented all over the radio in the 70's and 80's through the music of the Pointer Sisters, Chaka Khan, Cyndee Lauper, Gloria Gaynor, Madonna, and the still incandescent Aretha Franklin.

 in the midst of this, however, Hip Hop remained a male bastion, an arena where women had difficulty storming the barricades. Some would even argue that in communities where women were becoming the major breadwinners because high paying industrial jobs were disappearing and the expanding sections of the economy ( fast food, retail, insurance, finance, real estate, health care) hired women more than men in entry level positions, hip hop became an arena where men, especially men of color, could assert their power and pre-eminence even as they became economically redundant- at least in the legal economy

This difficult issue is one that all lovers of hip hop need to explore--  Why did it take so long for women to crack into hip hop as rappers, dj's and producers and how does the current era- when so many prominent women are making their mark in hip hop- differ from earlier periods?