13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival: Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest”

Hip hop, music genre developed in the 1970s by inner-city African Americans from the Bronx, New York city, consists of conscious lyrics which often bluntly address social, political, or economic issues. The nature of hip hop is explicit, authentic, and genuine, and now after decades of diffusion and cultural spreading, the art form perseveres to survive even in areas where censorship and limitation of expression run deep. On April 6th 2018, during the Panel Discussion: “Free Speech, Censorship and Protest” at the 13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, Howard University’s Dr. Msia Kibona Clark moderated a group of hip hop artists from all over the world who discussed the condition of media censorship of hip hop in the realm of social change and political discourse.

Dana Burton, a hip hop pioneer and influencer in China asserts that the supposed ban on hip hop in China was simply “fake news.” Burton went on to explain the reaches of Chinese censorship, exemplifying the Chinese ban on the ‘Free Tibet movement.’ In summary, anything that violates national integrity remains off limits in China. For example, videos which include the Tibet flag are banned and individuals are forbidden from using the word ‘Tibet’ in public or media settings.

Another panelist, MC Puos is a hip hop journalist who cofounded china’s first hip hop magazine, Bang. He discussed his upbringing in Detroit and referenced his understanding of words, communication, and censorship, and the unspoken rule of limited self-expression as a youth. A person could lose their life by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person: a realization that showcased the strength of words.

Panelist Emile YX?, a journalist, author, playwright, b-boy, and member of Black Noise, (one of the first hip hop groups in South Africa) discussed the current censorship is South Africa. As a solution to the suppression of black voices in South African Media, YX? proposed that black people create their own markets and industries. His project, Heal the Hood focusses on dismantling the Eurocentric monopolization of the capitalist society by supporting our own businesses. Overall the event was an enlightening intellectual experience.

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