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Open Letter to Hiphop America

September 2010

Peace to all of you. I am writing this letter from Brooklyn, New York, where I am currently a Democratic candidate for Congress. For those who do not know, there are 435 United States Congresspersons in America, and 100 United States Senators, all based in Washington, D.C. when not in their home districts, and all of them together represent the 300 million Americans living in our nation. That is power. The power to provide resources, services, information, jobs, and loans for small businesses. The power to help people to help themselves.

That is why I am running for Congress. I come from a single-mother led household, I had no father figure whatsoever, and grew up in the kind of poverty, violence, and confusion I would not wish on anyone. But a few things definitely saved and empowered my life. One was a belief in God, instilled by mother. Second was definitely my moms and her giving me a love of education, in spite of she herself only having a grade school education. And finally it was definitely music and culture, especially hiphop as I came of age in the 1970s and through the 1980s.

I was a dancer and I tagged my nickname—“kepo1”—any and everywhere in my native Jersey City. I was at all the famous hiphop clubs of the 1980s, like Union Square, Funhouse, and The Rooftop. I helped to produce, along with youth activists like Sister Souljah, those big outdoor rap concerts on 125th Street in Harlem in the late 1980s. A writer since I was a child, I was a founding staff member at Vibe, and interviewed Tupac Shakur more than any other journalist when he was alive. And I was the curator of the very first exhibit on hiphop culture, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

I am hiphop. And I am also a public servant and activist for people, all people. For the past 25 years, in fact, since I was a youth.

That is why I am running for Congress. Not only would I be the first true hiphop head in Congress, but I also would be bringing a fresh take on leadership, blending the best of grassroots politics with Washington, D.C. maneuvering, all to that boom-bap beat.

And, as dead prez once famously said, this is actually bigger than hiphop. This is about my being a leader, a bridge-builder, and all of us weaned on hiphop music and culture understanding the power of this, the most dominant art form of the past 30 years.

If not us, then who?


Kevin Powelll