Where the Race Commission
needs to be

Intellectuals talk about it, authors write about it and journalists try to analyze it, but the subject of race and race relations is something that has always been hard to come to grips with. Last year, President Clinton set up an advisory board to talk about the issue, and while John Hope Franklin, the chairman of the race advisory commission, runs around the country trying to address the issue, one of the places his board should go and visit, but wonít go, is the club scene.

On Friday afternoon, I went by the Storyville Jazz Club in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, and all I could see was a mix of different races and people partying to the smooth listening sound of the band. White and Asian couples were at the bar bopping their heads and tapping their feet to the drum. Groups of blacks were sitting down and talking about their troubles and plans for the weekend. The thought of race relations and hostile racial confrontations were the furthest things from peoplesí minds as they intermingled with each other.

As I sat back and marveled at the scenery, I thought about the common thing that brought them together. It was the smooth sound of the jazz music, a black art form, that had the people enjoying themselves. These people were of different races and occupations, like bankers, lawyers, construction workers and secretaries. They came from different neighborhoods and different educational backgrounds, but they all had one thing in common. They wanted to relax, party and have a good old time.

The smooth sound of jazz was mellowing, as people talked amongst each other, but I wanted to feel something that would pick me up. So I left Storyville and I drove up the street to another Fillmore hangout, the Justice League, which is a hip hop and dance club. Once there, I was on hand for the record release party for DJ Honda, a Japanese hip hop DJ As the deep pounding base of the rap music went out over the speakers, a large throng of young Asian and white faces danced to the beat, waiting in anticipation for DJ Honda to appear. Although I wasnít in a club setting that I normally would have been in, I felt comfortable being one of the few black faces in the place. I walked behind the stage where I met DJ Short Kut, a Filipino DJ from San Francisco, on the wheels of steel (the turntables), playing Biggie Smalls, a black rapper, to the youthful mixed crowd.

ěI was attracted to the soul of hip hop,î said Short Kut, as he looked through his record stack. Short Kut said rap music and its culture of hip hop, which was started by blacks in New York during the 1970ís, had a major influence on him growing up. He went from being a b boy (a breakdancer), to being a DJ, and he said that through the music, he learned to appreciate black people and other people that he didnít interact with. At a recent hip hop DJ competition that Short Kut attended in New York, he was one of the few Asians in a hall filled with black faces. He was able to meet and interact with some of the early pioneers of rap music and hip hop culture like DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. ěThey gave me love,î said Short Kut. ěThey didnít look at me as some Fillipino kid. They looked at me as a kid who could rock the turntables.î

I jumped off of the stage and walked through the crowd and I bumped into Jeff Martinez, a Hispanic man, who was dancing to the music that DJ Short Kut was providing. ěThere has always been tension between races, but you donít see that here,î says Martinez. Martinez said that music, and especially rap, can break up the racial animosities that are present in everyday life. As these words left his mouth, I looked up and I didnít see any tension. People of all hues were dancing, clowning and having a good time. This friendly atmosphere is a far different setting than the debilitating and racist setting that black people often encounter in various other segments of life. This friendly club setting was a breath of fresh air for me and for many other people in the club.

ěThis is a beat that everyone can relate to,î said Martinez as he bopped to the beat. ěItís poetry in a new format with the beat on top of it.î It was now midnight as the music stopped and DJ Honda appeared on the stage behind two turntables. The animated crowd began to get quiet as the place grew silent as they watched the two black MCs, who accompanied Honda on stage, get the crowd fired up. As the music began to play, the two MCs jumped up and down and yelled, ěAre any of my niggas in the house tonight.î I looked around as a young white man yelled ěhell yeah.î DJ Honda began to play the music off his album as the crowd went crazy. This is what I call common ground. A Japanese DJ, playing black music to an mixed crowd. ěHip hop has no race,î said DJ Short Kut. ěAs long as everyone feels the funk, itís all good.î

For interview requests, questions or comments call Lee Hubbard at (415)671-0449 or e-mail him at
Look at your nearest newsstand for his profile on Latrell Sprewell in the premiere issue of the Source Sports magazine and his profile on Ishmael Reed in the April/May issue of American Visions Magazine.

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