The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

A Salute to Creative Popular Culture

Representative Major R. Owens

Mr. Speaker, some seemingly trivial items of urban popular culture are now on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in an exhibit titled "Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes, and Rage." When I visited the exposition I was most impressed by the large numbers of youth from diverse backgrounds who were viewing the multimedia displays. Their immediate excitement combined with the symbols, clothing, photographs, memorabilia, poetry, music, and clippings of urban grassroots aspiration and expressions were fresh stimulants for the mind — and also inspirational.

While human interaction and experience often generate fragments of culture, the phenomenon that grabs one's attention in the case of the Hip-Hop artists is the manner in which the components aggregate, mushroom, and continually spread across ethnic, class, and nationality lines. Beyond its image as a violent movement, perpetuated by a few highly publicized celebrities, is the fact that the majority of the participants are ordinary youth. Hip-Hop appears to be on a course to leap over the limits of neighborhoods and fads. In some cases its content moves beyond the frivolous and the trivial toward profundity. The concept of traditional culture relies heavily on the elements of universal appeal and endurance. Hip-Hop may generate a significant impact on conventional culture; it continues to spread and to last. Consider the implications; urban America has a generation that is making culture. These creators may evolve into a new set of heroes that posterity comes to respect and revere. These are heroes who are making culture, not war.

We salute the foresight and the boldness of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and its Director, Arnold Lehman. This initiative has provided us with a small window through which we may watch culture being made. The following Rap poem was inspired by my visit to this unusual exhibit.

Make culture not war! Be loud about our love, Put passion in your dove; Shoot your best shot!

Trivial sparks make profound fires,
Teenage crazes light
Big social blazes;
Tiny innovations shape
The spirit of sluggish nations;
The greatest generation
Still waits to take the stage;
Against pain and greed
Wage a new breed of rage.

Combat sneaker boots,
T-shirt uniforms —
The battlefield is everyday;
Go for the ultimate victory
Fighting the Hip-Hop way!
Be loud about your love!

Draft your hottest hormones,
Recruit ancient instincts,
Mobilize mistreated manhood,
Make rivers of sweat
But let it always be sweet.

Shoot your best shot!
Ejaculate your joy,
Pour powerful blessings
Into the womb
Of a wailing world.

Generals in heaven command:
Make culture not war!
Hitler was an artist
Painted by the past;
Graffiti hieroglyphics
Is a language that will last.

Pledge allegiance
To life abundant;
Permit simple pleasures
To be redundant.

Fly a flag of flowers;
On Babies confer new powers;
The positive pursuit
Must never pause —
Happiness is our greatest cause.

Storm beaches of despair,
Fight poison convention everywhere,
Scale cliffs rock hard
With cynical soils;
Victors bring your own spoils.

The greatest generation
Still waits to take the stage.
Refuse to just sit
On crumbling stoops and wait;
Liberating geniuses
May show up too late.

Make culture not war!
Rapping poets are warriors
Drafted by anxious angels
To conquer with their songs;
Music makes no massacres.

The battlefield is everyday;
Go for the ultimate victory
Fighting the Hip-Hop way!
Shoot your best shot!

Be loud about your love,
Put passion in your dove;
The greatest generation
Take orders only from above.
Make culture not war!

[Taken from the Congressional Record, 19 October 2000, page E1873.]