NEW YORK — Out of a struggle against racist hate speech emanating from New York City’s nationally known hip-hop and R&B station Hot 97, a new coalition, tentatively called Hip-Hop for Social Justice (HHSJ), has emerged.

HHSJ’s membership and supporters include individual activists, community and hip-hop organizations, and well-known artists like turntablist Kuttin Kandi, Afrika Baambaata, and Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

HHSJ’s first order of business is clear — pressing a list of demands on Hot 97’s management, which sparked an outrage when its “Miss Jones in the Morning” show aired the “Tsunami Song,” which made fun of tsunami victims and used racial epithets. The show’s deejays also used racist speech on the air and advocated “shooting Asians.” In a display of unity, representatives of all races have shown their outrage.

“We came to this coalition to keep them in check,” Kandi told the World. “We have a list of demands, and a hip-hop community letter to be sent to Hot 97 as well as other stations.”

The demands include removing everyone involved in the song and hate speech; institutional reforms at the station and its parent, Emmis Communications, to prevent such an incident from ever recurring; a more accurate representation of the hip-hop community in its full multiracial form; more balance in the type of hip-hop played, so that the station does not feed the image of hip-hop being entirely dominated by the “thug” style; and more coverage of social and political debate and positive issues.

Though new, HHSJ already has several projects in the works, including a demonstration scheduled for March 4 in Union Square.

Helen Park, a member of HHSJ’s rally organizing committee, told the World, “We want to have a community event, where we’re incorporating not only members of the hip-hop community, but also politicians, youth and other grassroots organizations that are working with countries affected by the tsunami.” She added, “Also, it should be fun.”

The rally was to include speakers, but also other features designed to reflect the socially conscious fun that spawned hip-hop. “We want to have break[dancing] crews up there, deejays, people on the microphone emceeing,” Park added.

Though the battle against racism on Hot 97 is how HHSJ formed, Kandi said, “Now we know that this is a bigger thing that we’re fighting for. We’re definitely going to extend the coalition. … I would say we’re fighting to be able to keep a hip-hop watch, to make sure we keep people who put mixed messages out there about what hip-hop culture is, and who promote misogyny, racism and sexism in check.”

Coalition members said that a fundamental problem is the corporate entertainment industry, which has tried to use hip-hop to market its products, and distorted hip-hop’s original message of peace and unity of all races.

“We’ll keep in check those who target hip-hop and confuse people as far as what hip-hop is,” Kandi adds. “We’re using hip-hop as an educational tool, as a social movement for upliftment and empowerment.”

dmargolis@pww.org

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