The Case for Black With a Capital B



Hip Hop Activist Rosa Clemente

by Talia Whyte

Rosa Clemente was one of many presenters at the 2011 National Conference on Media Reform (NCMR) held in Boston April 8-10.  Clemente, who considers herself a proud “black Puerto Rican radical,” made it clear to other NCMR attendees that she dances to her own beat and doesn’t care who likes it.  As she mentions in the video, following House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s keynote speech at the conference, Clemente and six others in the audience got up and screamed “stop the war!”

“Nancy Pelosi is a war monger,” Clemente said on a panel on hip-hop and media reform.  “She comes here and says she supports free press, but Bradley Manning is in jail.  I had to get up and say something.  This is what I call hip-hop.”

Bradley Manning is the American soldier who was arrested last year under the suspicion that he passed on classified government files to Wikileaks.  While there was much support for Manning at the conference, Clemente openly discussed the divide among progressives, especially on race issues.  

When she became the running mate for 2008 Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney - the first presidential ticket to have two women of color on it - she said white progressive media like The Nation and Ms. Magazine never did a story about their campaign.  Clemente also said she has been invited onto “Democracy Now” 14 times, but Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader have been invited on many more times.  Clemente claims that even her hip-hop workshop at NCMR was censored because the original title had the word “radical” in it.   

She also recalled being criticized by other progressives of color. Clemente and McKinney were chastised by poet Amiri Baraka and others in traditional black media for turning against then-candidate Barack Obama on his White House bid.  Interestingly enough, it seems like Baraka has changed his mind on Obama since the war on Libya began recently.

Clemente called on people of color to take back the media in order to have real discussions on President Obama’s policies, as well as on other issues that are being manipulated by the white media.  In addition to starting her doctorate program in black studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst next fall, Clemente is starting to make her own media as a host on Free Speech TV.

“We are at the mercy of white liberals and progressives,” she said.  “People of color need to develop and control their own media so we can control our messaging.”