Russell Simmons Vows to Get Rappers Like Jay-Z, P. Diddy Involved In Antiwar Campaign

Simmons, Mos Def might release more antiwar TV ads in near future.

Music mogul and activist Russell Simmons, who has recently spoken out against the war in Iraq via a printed antiwar ad as well as a televised public service announcement, continued to press his point Thursday at a press conference he held in New York. Announcing that he’d joined the Musicians United to Win Without War coalition, a New York and D.C.-based organization through which artists have banned together to speak out against the war, Simmons promised to help keep the artists’ antiwar momentum going.

Country and rock singers Rosanne Cash, Lou Reed and David Byrne were on hand as the mogul also declared he was working actively to ensure that members of the hip-hop community would get involved in conveying antiwar messages to the public as well. He cited the popularity of rappers as the perfect reason why people would listen.

“Puffy is much more well known and liked around the world than George Bush, and Jay-Z is much more well known and liked around the world than Colin Powell,” Simmons explained. “[The] country should operate more on love and compassion,” he added.

Musicians United to Win Without War placed an ad in the New York Times earlier this week that said, “War on Iraq is wrong and we know it. Don’t let Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld drown out the voices of reason! Disarm Iraq with tough inspections.”¬†Besides listing the wide array of entertainers who have joined the organization, some of whom include Simmons, Jay-Z, Outkast, Zap Mama, Busta Rhymes, Sheryl Crow, Massive Attack and R.E.M., the ad quoted the late Marvin Gaye as saying, “War is not the answer,” and featured former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark talking about the backslash of war.

“What we are facing is a complex and multifaceted problem,” R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe said in a statement released Thursday. “Simply bombing Iraq would only create more problems, making an already bad situation much worse.”

An organization-funded antiwar print ad is expected to pop up in more publications in the weeks ahead. Simmons and company spearheaded an antiwar television PSA starring Mos Def earlier this month (see “Russell Simmons, Mos Def Speak Out Against War In New Ads” ). While nothing is definite yet, there have been talks to produce more spots with Mos and Simmons.

Although no new initiatives from Musicians United to Win Without War have been announced, a spokesperson for Simmons said that he is planning to launch a full-on media strike in the near future to try to get through to the U.S. government.

“Iraq’s been contained for 12 years,” Simmons said in a statement late Thursday. “Hundreds of thousands don’t have to die. Stand up, demonstrate, and have your voice heard.”

—Shaheem Reid

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