The City of Sin will turn into the city of progress this week when the National Hip Hop Political Convention holds its third bi-annual convention at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas August 1-3.

Workshops and panel discussions will anchor the meeting of the minds, with several prominent artists and activists scheduled to attend.

“We’re going to have a number of panels featuring Jeff Chang, Rosa Clemente and other artists and activists in the Hip Hop community,” Heather Sanchez of the Las Vegas Local Organizing Committee says of the event. “The most important thing is the agenda, how we come together collectively to decide on the issues that affect us the most.”

The agenda Sanchez speaks of is the living document, meant to be a starting point for the Hip Hop community to identify and then address issues affecting poor, urban communities and the Hip Hop generation as a whole. Due to the diversity of the culture, Sanchez anticipates a variety of issues will be reflected in the final document, which is updated at every convention.

“Everything from health care, lack of jobs in urban communities, police brutality… a number of different things.”

With 2008 shaping up to be one of the most critical elections in the history of the country, many are wondering where Hip Hop fits into the equation. “We start with grassroots activism,” Sanchez says. “We have to come together to establish our own issues first. We do it as a collective”

The coming together part has often been a daunting task. When it comes to Hip Hop’s love affair with politics, the audience can often become polarized, divided by those who listen to artists who speak on social issues versus those who make more commercial music. Despite the labels and the battles the Hip Hop generation places on itself, the NHHPC is an inclusive organization, and needs input from all facets of the culture.

“Overall we try not to put that barrier on ourselves. Those of us who are true Hip Hop heads don’t see [labels]. We’re not very critical of one another, how we dress, look, or think. The NHHPC is comprised of a lot of people who don’t see conscious vs. street. We don’t criticize either side, we try to stay in the middle so we can reach more people. We want everybody to come and build with us regardless of what kind of music they like.”

“If you consider yourself part of the Hip Hop community, it’s in your best interest to attend. We’re going to give you the tools to go out and make change in your community.”

For the first time in NHHPC history, the convention will be able to address a presidential candidate. Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney is scheduled to speak during the closing session.

Cynthia is a long time supporter of the NHHPC. We’re non partisan so we don’t back any particular candidate. However, we like some of her views and believe she represents the Hip Hop community. She got in touch with us and we invited her out. She’ll be addressing the body at Sunday’s closing session.”

Coming second to the formation of the agenda is perhaps the convention’s aspect of educating its participants, something Sanchez feels is lost in many of the voter education drives that take place throughout the country.

“Voter education is important. We have kids voting based on what their parents’ affiliations are or what their friends are saying or because Barack is black or Hillary’s a woman. Conventions like this will allow people to make a more informed decision when they vote.”

For those who cannot make the trip out, there are a number of ways to contribute to the cause of the NHHPC.

“They can visit the website (www.NHHPC.org) and see if there’s a local organizing committee in their area. We have MySpace pages, and the links are on the web site. We can help people get one started in the area if one doesn’t already exist.”

Tentative schedule for the NHHPC Convention in Las Vegas:

Friday, August 1, 2008

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM        Attendee Registration

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM         Morning Caucusing

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM        Opening, Convention History & Purpose (TJ Crawford)

9:30 AM – 10:45 AM    Plenary A –  Criminalization of A Generation

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM    Break Out Sessions  (workshops & panels)

    Killing Me Softly: Tasers and Other Lethal Weapons

•    NHHPC – Starting Up a Local Organizing Committee

    Genvote Track

        Developing and Effective Message

–    Making Voter Guides

–    Visionary Audacious Actions

–    Bogart the Media

Film Screening: Black August (116 mins)

Noon Caucuses

12:15 PM – 1:30 PM        Black and Brown Solidarity Luncheon

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM        Break Out Sessions #2 (workshops & panels)

•    Speak Youth to Power-Media Justice

•    The Transformative Power of Broadband Technology

•    Climate Justice: A Generations Challenge

•    Asian/Pacific Islanders in Hip Hop Culture and Activism

    Genvote Track

•    Ideas into Action- YP4

•    Strategy Session (3 hours)

•    Introduction to Nonviolent Direct Action (3 hours)

•    Bogart the Media (3 hours)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM        Breakout Session #3 (workshops & panels)

                    Media Literacy – OneHood

                    Grassroots Lobbying

                    Know Your Rights

                    Who You Callin’ a B!@tch?

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM        Plenary B – Gender

7:00 PM – 11:00        Pool Party @ Alexis Park Resort

Saturday, August 2, 2008

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM        Attendee Registration

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM        Morning Causing

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM    Plenary C – Hurricane Katrina/Rita Victims and Advocates

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM        Break Out Sessions #4 (workshops, panels and trainings)

                Genvote Track

•    Strategic Campaign Planning (3 hours)

•    Nonviolent Direct Action Planning (3 hours)

•    Bird Dogging (3 hours)

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM    Break Out Sessions / Panels

•    Economic Justice

•    Unlock the Future: Prevent Youth Incarceration

•    Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War and the SF8

•    Conscious Contradictions: New Modes of Sexism, Racism and Consumption in Rap and Hip Hop

•    Using the Art Form Inside and Outside the Classroom

•    Climate Justice 101

•    Climate Justice: A Generations Challenge

•    Media Boot Camp

    Genvote Track

Voter ID, Registration, and Get Out The Vote

•    Student Voter Disenfranchisement

        

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM        Lunch

                “The Cipher Live” Meet & Greet Luncheon

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM        Plenary D –  Electoral Politics and the Social Justice Movement

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM        Panel

                    The Artists as Activists

                    Turf Unity: Can Hip-Hop Stop the Violence?

3:00 PM – 5:30 PM    The National Hip Hop Political Convention

    Agenda, Resolutions

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM    Break Out Session (workshop)

        Peer-to-Peer Organizing: How to Get Your Friends Voting and Engaged

        Youth Speaks Creative Writer’s Workshop

        Krumpin’ 101

3:00 PM – 5:30 PM        Film Screenings:     Beyond Beats and Rhymes with Byron Hurt 3                                The Corporation

8:00 PM – 11:00 PM        Awards Banquet @ Alexis Park Resort (appetizers)

                    featuring the Welfare Poets

Sunday, August 3, 2008

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM        Interfaith Worship Service/Choir

10:30 Am – 11:45 AM     Where and When Hip Hop, Spirituality, the Spirit of Resistance and Liberation                 Theology Meet

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM        Presentation by Cynthia McKinney, Next Steps, Announcements, Closing

12:45 PM  –             Finalization of the National Hip Hop Political Agenda (if needed)