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“Rap, Race & Black-Asian Relations” with Jeff Chang and Kenyon Farrow, moderated by Walidah Imarisha

Submitted by on July 10, 2012 – 9:07 pmNo Comment

This is the video of dialogue between Jeff Chang and Kenyon Farrow, moderated by Walidah Imarisha, that I co-organized with Ajay Nair in 2006.  Chang was originally scheduled to be in town to individually present for a series on South Asians in hip hop that Nair had been organizing at the University of Pennsylvania.  Concerned with the way in which multiracial participation in hip hop, including the involvement of Asian Americans, was being invoked as proof that race relations were improving among people of color, I asked Chang if he was open to having a dialogue about hip hop and race relations between African Americans and Asian Americans when he came to Philadelphia to present at Penn.  He was and Nair was open to changing the panel to accommodate this exchange.

I knew I wanted Farrow to be part of the dialogue as he had recently penned an essay about attending a panel discussion at the Asian Arts Initiative (AAI), “Changing the Face of the Game: Asian Americans in Hip Hop.”  This essay, “We Real Cool? On Hip-Hop, Asian-Americans, Black Folks, and Appropriation,” generated a great deal of debate on listservs and blogs and among some of the Asian Americans I knew in Philadelphia, including some who had been on the panel or in attendance at the AAI event.  Artist Fred Ho, known for his Afro-Asian music ensemble, wrote an essay blasting it.  Noticeably, the numerous responses I heard and read seemed to be racially divided as many Asian Americans appeared dismayed with the essay whereas many African Americans on the web defended its points.   I had attended the AAI event with Farrow, and as I had mentioned on a listserv debating the essay, Farrow was quite gracious in his writing considering the level of hostility he experienced at AAI that night in response to the questions he raised.



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