Black Star, Ozomatli To Rally Against California Gang Initiative

Show will benefit fight ballot measure seeking to treat juvenile gang members as adults.

Rap duo Black Star, Los Angeles hip-hop/groove ensemble Ozomatli and singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello have signed on for a benefit concert to battle California's Proposition 21, the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act.

The March 3 show, in Santa Cruz, Calif., will raise money for groups opposing the initiative, which seeks to change the state's penal code by treating young gang members as adults, exempting them from special treatment normally accorded to minors. Proposition 21 will appear on California's March 7 ballot.

"It's criminal to lock minors up along with the general population of state penitentiaries," Ozomatli bassist Wil Dog, 26, said. "It's the criminalization of a generation. They want to put 14-year-old kids away and lock them up with men for the rest of their lives, try 'em as adults, put them in prison with adults — where they're 80 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted."

Proposition 21's supporters say serious crimes need to be treated seriously, regardless of the offender's age.

"Young people who commit violent, heinous crimes should pay the same price that adults do. Murder, rape, robbery and things like that are not youthful pranks," said El Dorado County Sheriff Hal Barker, 62, co-author of the arguments in favor of Proposition 21 that will appear on the ballot. "I'm pretty protective of kids, but I think that you lose the kid thing when you get to a certain point."

Opponents of the measure say it unfairly focuses on inner-city youth.

"In the past, unjustly, African-American and Latino children, poor children, have been railroaded into this criminal justice system," Amos Brown of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said. "Any systematized measure ... that would place minority and black children at a disadvantage should be looked at very seriously, and we should come up

with something else in its place. All of the wayward children are not in the inner-city communities."

The benefit concert will be held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium; proceeds will go to the No on 21 Campaign, Critical Resistance and Barrios Unidos. Other anti–Proposition-21 events across the state have included art exhibits, dinners, precinct walks, and hip-hop and

spoken-word performances.

Ozomatli are known for their danceable mix of hip-hop, funk and Latin-groove music, as well as the turntable stylings of DJ Cut Chemist, who figures heavily in the group's song "Cut Chemist Suite" (

HREF="">RealAudio excerpt).

Ndegeocello appeared at 1998's Critical Resistance benefit to fight the growing "prison-industrial complex." Her most recent album, Bitter, was released in August.

Black Star — consisting of rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli — helped organize the upcoming EP One Four Love, which protests the killing of an immigrant by New York City police officers last year. The duo's self-titled 1998 debut featured "Twice Inna Lifetime" (

HREF="">RealAudio excerpt).