Deep 'Rooted' contoversy in Pittsburgh
Over the past few weeks, potential controversy has been brewing down at the University of Pittsburgh concerning the school?s reportedly discriminatory policy against bringing in outdoor hip-hop concerts. The questions arose surrounding a failed proposal to bring in The Roots, a popular hip-hop group, for the University?s annual Fall Fest outdoor concert. The school?s justifications for th is decision made Roots supporters question whether the decision was discriminatory against hip-hop as a whole.
The show was to be in connection with The Pennsylvania Hip-Hop Political Convention, which was held at the University of Pittsburgh during the first weekend in October. Since The Roots are largely in support of voter mobilization efforts, the show was also going to be a culminating event in the movement to register young voters before the October 4 registration deadline.
An anonymous student involved with the Pitt Programming Council (PPC), the organization planning the Fall Fest concert, said that Thomas Misuraca, an advisor to the PPC, had been advised by ?experts in the field? against having outdoor hip-hop concerts due to ?risk management and safety issues.?
Advocates for the Roots concert asked to speak to these advisors in order to address and potentially ease these safety concerns, but as of yet they have not gained access to the private list of advisors involved in the decision.
The anonymous student noted that Misuraca said, ?I have nothing against hip-hop at all. I am not anti-hip-hop. It was just what I was told.? Misuraca could not be reached to verify these statements.
In describing his conversations with university officials, Khari Mosley, a head organizer of the Pennsylvania Hip-Hop Political Convention, said he was told that ?extra logistical things go into hip hop concerts as opposed to other genres? and that ?extra security would be needed.?
The question of discrimination has been raised concerning two sections of the decision to block the Roots concert.
First, whatever decision was made concerning the Roots in particular, Mosley feels it is unjust to generalize that decision into an overall policy which portrays hip-hop as an entire genre in a negative light.
Secondly, it is a significant step to single out the entire genre of hip-hop as needing extra security, while in contrast implying that other styles of music do not have to go through this extra review and preparation process. The anonymous student said this gives the ?underlying implication? that the audience members at hip-hop concerts are more dangerous than people attending other music shows, such as people in punk or ska mosh pits or heavy metal fans.
Mosley said that this was an ?unfortunate incident? and that ?in the future people should not underestimate the power of hip-hop to bring together a diverse group of young people for a positive end.?
Jack Daniel, vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean of students at Pitt, was unable to comment directly on the university?s position surrounding this particular event, but stated that ?Hip-hop culture and the music in particular ... is one of the most significant genres of the past several decades. This aspect of popular culture has gone far beyond the African-American community, far beyond suburban America, and has had major impact on the continent of Africa, throughout the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, Israel, Japan, and much of our often-referenced global village. As such, not only is hip-hop appropriate for rigorous scholarly research and teaching, but obviously, properly executed, appropriate for campus life.?