So through the hhpc’s yahoo email list I found out that “Cousin Jeff” of BET fame is working on the campaign of Ken Blackwell. Folks were putting him on blast because they think he’s sold out, but more importantly because he makes the hip-hop movement look weak. Dumi asked me what my thoughts were on it.
First, if there were a Republican I’d support for office it wouldn’t be Blackwell. As Secretary of State for Ohio, Blackwell played a pivotal role in dampening Democratic turnout in 2000 and 2004. Check out this list of suits against him. On top of that, his plan to keep Ohio government small will decimate Ohio’s ability to provide social services for its citizens.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Jeff’s actions have been strongly criticized. In response he’s drafted a statement emphasizing his support of Kweisi Mfume in Maryland, as well as his desire to “change the game” by becoming a true independent.
My response? In all of the commentaries I’ve read on homeboy, I haven’t seen one that states that Jeff Johnson is an elected representative of any body of folks that could be categorized as “hip-hop.” He isn’t on the board of the hip-hop political convention. He no longer works as a youth representative in the NAACP. And he isn’t involved with the Empowerment Temple here in Baltimore. As far as I can tell, he’s a young brother who is down with hip-hop, has a television show with BET…and that’s about it. I no more care about what Jeff is doing with Ken Blackwell than I care about what Leroy Smith is doing with Ken Blackwell.
Why don’t I care? Because Jeff doesn’t represent me. In fact, Jeff doesn’t represent hip-hop. And to take it one step further, Jeff doesn’t represent ANY CONSTITUENCY CONNECTED TO HIP-HOP. Why?
Because he holds no elected position.
He’s just a missile (“miscellaneous brother”) with a tv show.
Now one reason to be moderately concerned is that Jeff may somehow “represent” himself as hip-hop while in Ohio, getting some percentage of heads to vote for Blackwell when they might not otherwise. I don’t think that plan will fly–young voters aren’t that stupid for one thing (remember, it’s BLACKWELL we’re talking about). They’re not going to vote for him because some missile with a tv show and braids told them to.
We’ve got to get back to a real old school mode of representation, at least politically. That way we can know who is acting for us (elected representatives, whether we’re talking about the black student union, or the hip-hop political convention, or Congress), and who’s just acting (people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton). More importantly, we can know how to take OUT the people who don’t act right (by voting them out of office). I can understand why people are mad at Jeff…but they are mad at him for the wrong reasons. Let Jeff do Jeff, while folks interested in a real movement do REAL MOVEMENT WORK.
(edited to add) I was informed that homeboy is involved with the Hip Hop Caucus. He’s on the Board of Directors.
This changes the calculus a LITTLE. He wasn’t elected to that position, and from what I see from the website, the organization itself doesn’t have elections (or flesh and blood members even). It’s like a hip-hop version of Operation Rainbow: Push, or Al Sharpton’s National Action Network–organizations that exist to give their leaders a platform from which to speak. I say it changes the calculus only a little because I still don’t think what Jeff does is important. BUT a loose (VERY loose) argument can be made that he DOES represent a constituency. And if folks are pissed off enough about it, there’s an easy solution–make him resign his post. That’s accountability.