Richard Griffin, also known as Professor Griff is a distinguished spoken word artist, and lecturer. However, you may know him best by the founder of the hip hop group Public Enemy.
Professor Griff came to Frostburg State University on February 25, 2013 to speak on behalf of Black History Month. Black History Month is extremely imperative for numerous reasons; and although we may think we are educated and give enough of our recognition, there is so much more to the story. Fortunately, those who attended were able to find out.
In his opening lines, Professor Griff had the audience repeat this statement after him, “Act like it’s impossible to fail”. This quote carried throughout the entirety of his message. Griff began acquainting himself with the audience by starting off with some background information on Public Enemy. He explained the group’s overall goal of moving people out of their comfort zone through the meaning of hip-hop. Public Enemy highlighted the reality of politics, slavery, and racism; things that most artists only mocked. Griff transitioned by focusing on the negative revolution of hip-hop and how it has affected society. Griff stated, “Rap is distorting that lens even farther”. Due to hip-hop and rap music today, society is unfamiliar with extremely important history; something that Public Enemy did their best to portray. Unfortunately, society will continue to become even more distant with history if something doesn't change. Professor Griff wants to make that change!
Along with Griff, were items from the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, founded by Khalid el-Hakim. The Black History Mobile Museum is a way to introduce schools, universities, and communities to slavery through hip-hop. Hakim curates his collection of black memorabilia in a 30’x12’ trailer. Griff spoke on the amount of racism in these items, such as Manillas; a pennanular armlet made from bronze or copper which was used to purchase black people. Not slaves, black people. Families would be auctioned off like prizes. Griff then spoke of the murder of fourteen year old Emmett Till, who was shot, beaten, and drown to his death for reportedly flirting with a white woman. There is endless history, but Griff wanted the audience to look deeper and realize that our generation is lost. Griff stated, “It is up to us from this moment forward to determine what’s going on”.
Famous artist today such as Lil Wayne are unmindfully rapping about historical moments. In the remix of his song, Karate Chop, Lil Wayne decided it was a fine idea for his lyrical content to include, “Beat that pussy up like Emmitt Till”. This shocking statement led to extreme controversy, causing a media frenzy. Needless to say the verse ended up being pulled from the song. But why are we so consumed by this music? Griff articulated on how society speaks of everything but the “real history”. Hip-hop music has diverged so far from its origin. It’s all about the money, the appearance, the sex appeal…and yet, we allow it. It’s up to us to make a change!
“We need to define our necessities”, Professor Griff.
After the presentation I spoke with a few students who had attended and asked them what they thought of the message. Jasmyn Bullock said, “I think it was very educational and informal. I learned stuff that I didn't even know about my own race”. Another opinion came from Magdala Louassaint who said, “I think it was very inspirational and educational”. My final conversation was with LaVonne Sauls who said, “It was powerful, and in depth. I like his attitude. He is easy to listen to, and so free spirited. He spoke to us on a level that we can understand”.
If you were unable to attend the event, you can always visit http://www.pgriff.info/, for more information and be sure to check out http://www.blackhistory101mobilemuseum.com/.