Conference Honors Tupac, Explores Politics

Dead Prez rapper among those on hand for event studying the late rapper's legacy.

Dead Prez rapper

COLOR="#003163">M1 and Black Panther Party veteran Geronimo

Pratt will be among those on hand for a conference celebrating the life,

music and legacy of slain rapper Tupac

Shakur.

The Tupac Amaru Shakur One Nation Community Conference — the second

installment in what organizers hope will be an annual event — will

blend a study of Shakur's life and work with workshop discussions about

social issues. Scheduled for Saturday at Fremont High School in Oakland,

Calif., the conference will feature lectures, discussion workshops and

film screenings.

"They have a multimedia workshop, they have music programming, they have

all these different workshops," said early Shakur mentor and manager

Leila Steinberg, who is helping to plan the conference's curriculum, and

will lead study groups working with Shakur's lyrics and poetry. "Just

studying his material alone is an incredible opportunity, [and the kids

will be able to study his work] with people who were there when it was

being developed."

A controversial yet influential artist in the West Coast hip-hop school,

as well as an actor, Shakur died in 1996 at age 26, after he was wounded in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting. He contributed tunes both

political and personal to the hip-hop canon, including "Me Against the

World" (

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/2Pac/Me_Against_The_World.ram">RealA

udio excerpt), "Dear Mama" and "California Love," a duet with

Dr. Dre.

Steinberg, who has taught university courses based on Shakur's work,

believes the slain rapper's writings are a proper gateway through which

today's youths can explore social issues and their own artistic

endeavors.

"We'll be studying his lyrics, his music, his poetry, and we'll be using

his material to examine our social issues, our history, and we'll also

use his material to explore our own creative writing," Steinberg said.

Steinberg is also working with Shakur's mother, Afeni Shakur (herself a

former Black Panther), to assemble a spoken-word album of Shakur's

poetry, performed by an all-star lineup that includes Pratt,

COLOR="#003163">Mos Def,

COLOR="#003163">Run of rap pioneers

COLOR="#003163">Run-D.M.C.,

COLOR="#003163">Pharcyde rapper

COLOR="#003163">Tre and veteran producer

COLOR="#003163">Quincy Jones.

Along with discussions of Shakur's music, M1 and Internet hip-hop

journalist Davey D will participate in a workshop titled "The Media and

Its Influence on Culture." Other workshop discussions will include "Set

Trippin'," about gang violence, "Male and Female," and "Building a

Movement," which organizer J.R. Valrey, 22, said will concentrate on

"concrete objectives that people can work on in their community, for the

betterment of their community."

A "Knowing Your Rights" workshop will explore the rights of tenants

facing gentrification and will tackle issues surrounding the passage of

Prop 21, Valrey said. California voters approved the controversial

Proposition 21 ballot-measure earlier this year, intended to amend the

penal code to prosecute gang members and other juvenile offenders as

adults. A town-hall meeting led by an elders council will discuss

bridging the generation gap.

Films on Shakur's life — both inside and outside of prison —

will be shown, along with film footage on the Black Panther Party and

"Palante," a film about the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican derivative of

the Black Panthers, active in New York and Chicago in the 1970s.

Last year's Tupac Amaru Shakur One Nation Conference, held in December,

included a concert by Shakur's former backing group the

COLOR="#003163">Outlawz, Digital

Underground — with whom the rapper got his showbiz start

as a dancer — and other Bay Area groups, including

COLOR="#003163">Mac Mall.

Organizer Bobby McCall — a former Black Panther who is also the

father of Digital Underground rapper Money

B — said this year's conference will aim to build a

grassroots political youth movement.

"We're not on this commercial tip," McCall said. "We're just doing this

basic grassroots youth conference in honor of Tupac Amaru Shakur, 'cause

he was straight street, he was a straight soldier. He had revolutionary

beginnings and a revolutionary background."

Several of the workshop discussions at last year's conference merged

into one, as veteran Black Panthers led a family-style discussion of how

a few street gangs changed their ways to become political activists and

formed the Black Panthers.

"You certainly are organized because you have a

movement, and that movement is called the hip-hop movement," ex-Panther and onetime Oakland

City Council candidate David Hilliard told youths assembled at the

workshop. "What you lack is any real politicization. This is an attempt

at trying to give you an expression through politics."