NEW YORK — When the latest call for a protest over the Jena Six came, it was led by rapper-actor Mos Def.
He sent out a viral video urging students to walk out of classrooms nationwide in protest of the prosecution of six black teens — initially charged with attempted murder — in the beating of a white classmate in Jena, La.
And Mos Def is not the only member of the hip-hop community speaking out in this racially charged case. When Mos Def traveled to Jena for a march last month, UGK rapper Bun B was at his side. Hip-hop soul singer Lyfe Jennings was also in attendance, and rappers Ice Cube and T.I. have lent more and financial support for the protests.
“I don’t know what motivated the prosecutors to do what they did, but what’s definitely evident to anybody who looks at the case is that he placed a bigger (punishment) upon the black man than he did upon anybody else who was involved,” Jennings said.
Perhaps it’s because they mirror the faces of rap — young black males — that it has resonated with the hip-hop community. Or maybe it reflects a growing political awareness in a genre that’s been criticized for glorifying negativity.
Author Bakari Kitwana, whose books include “The Hip-Hop Generation,” says the rap community has gotten more politically active, especially since Hurricane Katrina. Freep