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Hip-Hop Artists Consider the Dream

January 21, 2002

Can hip-hop help fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.?

Organizers of the Hip-Hop Youth Summit, being held today in Queens, N.Y., think so.

New York state Sen. Malcolm Smith is bringing hip-hop artists including Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Nas, Queen Latifah, DMX, Sister Souljah, members of Wu-Tang Clan, Fat Joe and Reverend Run from Run-DMC together with Def Jam Records chief Russell Simmons and Source magazine CEO David Mays for the conference.

One element of the conference is an essay contest for young fans on the theme of how hip-hop can serve King's goal of positive social change achieved through nonviolent means. "There is no greater role model for our youth than Dr. King," says Smith, who is co-sponsoring the event with Hip-Hop Youth Summit founder Charles Fisher and minister Ben Chavis, executive director of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. "With this summit, we hope to instill that same sense of commitment to social justice and community that he so courageously embodied in his all-too-short lifetime."

The youth summit targets teens and preteens with anti-drug messages and a literacy campaign that will have hip-hop artists visiting schools preaching the rewards of reading. Smith says the activities, starting in New York but aiming to go national, are designed to help kids develop a sense of individual responsibility for their actions and for the improvement of the quality of life in their communities.

Today's event is a precursor to a West Coast mini-summit slated for Feb. 13 and 14 in Los Angeles.

There's debate within the hip-hop community whether King's belief in nonviolent civil disobedience is at odds with many rappers' use of violent imagery and graphic language.

Compiled by Times staff writers

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