African-American culture
3 min

Hip hop youth dialogues

Her Excellency the Governor General is off to Edmonton today to visit the ihuman Youth Society Studio Arts Centre for disenfranchised youth in the heart of the city, as well as host a hip hop Youth Dialogue on violence prevention and solidarity.

Now, I will be the first to admit that hip hop has never been my thing, or really the voice of my particular generation, especially because it often carries particular misogynistic and homophobic undertones. That said, it is the voice of the current youth generation, despite my best efforts to understand it.

But I have to give snaps to Her Excellency for this kind of youth engagement, precisely because I don’t see any other political leaders doing it. I mean, can you honestly imagine any of the party leaders in this country engaging in this kind of youth dialogue? Because I can’t. Harper has built for himself this giant faux pretence of Tim Hortons, and suburban middle-class living when the reality is that he has been anything but. Michael Ignatieff, with his Harvard education and reputation as a global public intellectual doesn’t seem the type to get hip hop when he would rather be at the orchestra. If Jack Layton went in, he’d look as strained in his trying to be cool as he is any other time he tries to fit in but never quite manages. And Elizabeth May, gods love her, would simply talk about how their pimped-out rides are going to cause the destruction of the Earth.

But Her Excellency, for all the trappings of her vice-regal position, is someone who has demonstrated the ability to transcend it in order to connect with these kinds of audiences, time and again. She’s a black woman who came from Haitian poverty as a refugee to this country, and lived in a province that has challenged the right of immigrants to exist within its borders for fear that it would destroy the Québec culture. (Yes, things are different now, but it wasn’t always the case, and she has been the subject of documentaries about the difficulties of black people in Québec).

Our political life is richer for having someone like Michaëlle Jean in it. It’s the same for the makeup of the Senate – we have a far more diverse, representative slice of Canadian society in the Upper Chamber because of its particular makeup than we do in the Commons because as it stands, our electoral politics still self-selects toward the model of the authoritative straight white middle-aged man. But rather than denigrate it like many Canadians do, we need to embrace it for what it offers us, and the way that it can help us to connect to our political culture.

Elsewhere, if you’re trying to work out the election timing calculus, consider these three factors:

1- The Liberals have quadrupled their fundraising totals over last year, and the second quarter totals have only just been announced. All those stories about the Liberals being too cash-strapped to fight another election are no longer true.
2- Word from the EI “Working Group” continues to show a deteriorating situation, with Diane Finley saying the Liberals are holding firm to their 360 hour standard and that they’re in a “fantasyland” because of it – even though they’ve given no public indication that they were holding fast t this position, but rather that they had publicly said they were willing to be flexible on it. Are they trying to sabotage things even more than the Liberals unlikely ever genuine about ever achieving an actual result? It’s a very likely possibility.
3- Harper’s new message is that an election anytime soon would derail all of the good things happening in our economic recovery from the so-called Great Recession. But one has to ask – what good is a government whose response to said recession been to ignore most of the global economic consensus, and wrap up nakedly partisan attacks under the guise of “belt tightening” (as they did with the fall economic update)?