Prosecutors May Be Raving About Jailing Hip Hoppers Very Soon
By: Opio Lumumba Sokoni, J.D.

Would you believe that there are laws being proposed in Congress that would shut down venues and jail owners and promoters of Hip Hop concerts? If something is not done now, the government will have the legal right to jail and fine innocent venue owners and promoters for some other person's drug use.

One of these laws, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, is called the "RAVE Act of 2003" (H.R. 718) - sponsored by North Carolina Republican Howard Coble and co-sponsored by Texas Republican Lamar Smith. Let me not fail to mention that Congressman Coble (who is the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security) said on a radio show last month that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was appropriate. It's no wonder that he is sponsoring this law.

There is no hip way to break this bad bill down. But to make it simple, the "RAVE Act" expands the scope of the previously passed bill often referred to as the "crack house statute." This bill would make it easier for the federal government to prosecute owners and managers of businesses and real estate if customers, employees, tenants, or other persons on their property commit a drug-related offense. Persons convicted under this new law could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, fined $500,000 and have their business or property confiscated under current forfeiture laws.

Formerly introduced in 2002, the RAVE Act came close to passing the Senate last year and might have become law if it wasn't for a national campaign led by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Tens of thousands of voters urged Senators to reject it. Business interests collected nearly 20,000 signatures on a petition that warned that the RAVE Act "is a serious threat to civil liberties, freedom of speech and the right to dance." Protests were held in cities around the country, including a protest in the form of a "rave" (a dance party with electronic music) held on the lawn of Congress. Ultimately, two of the original Senate co-sponsors withdrew their support. Supporters of the bill are determined to pass it this year.

The second bill being proposed is the CLEAN-UP Act - sponsored by California Republican Doug Ose. This is a seemingly harmless bill that provides more money and training for the clean up of illegal methamphetamine laboratories. But look deeper into the bill and you will find provisions that would make it a federal crime - punishable by up to nine years in prison - to promote "any rave, dance, music or other entertainment event" that might attract some attendees that would use drugs. Some may say, "So what - they should get popped if they let people use drugs at their spots." That's not the point. The real issue is that businessmen and women could be prosecuted even if they were not involved in drugs - and even if they took steps to stop drug use on their property.

To take it further, if these bills become law, property owners may be too afraid to rent or lease their property to groups holding dance parties, and other musical events - effectively stifling entrepreneurs who are doing the right thing. If that doesn't scare you, let's try this. These laws would also make it where anyone who threw an event at their own home (such as a party or barbecue) in which one or more of their guests used drugs, they could potentially face a $500,000 fine and 20 years in federal prison. All it takes is a snitch and a racist prosecutor - and we all know that there is no shortage of either.

I am a lobbyist for DPA (, which is the leading organization fighting this law. This organization also fights against America's drug war which has lacked reason, compassion and justice. My work has been more on "treatment instead of incarceration" ( for non-violent, low level drug offenders. I work on solutions to prevent the massive incarceration of blacks (in particular) who need drug treatment, counseling, job training and jobs versus jail.

My interest in the RAVE Act was peaked when one of my best friends, a DJ and promoter, talked extensively about how the RAVE Act would affect him. But, my research also lead me to understand how, if these laws were passed, hip hop would be further harassed by the government. So, I took a couple steps over to Bill Piper's office (he successfully fought to kill the RAVE act last year) and began asking questions about these bills.

Mr. Piper, who is the Associate Director of National Affairs for DPA, said that these proposed laws make it easier to punish people for the actions of others and could bankrupt nightclubs, arenas and stadiums and put their owners in jail. He also added that it is clear that dancing, singing, and playing music may soon become the next casualty in the War on Drugs.

To take action on this matter just click on and participate in the fax campaign to kill this bill.

Also check out The Recovery Village ratings and review

[Opio Lumumba Sokoni is a Howard University trained lawyer working as the Implementation Coordinator for DC's "Treatment Instead of Jail" initiative. He has previously worked for TransAfrica, Amnesty International and the Interfaith Action Communities. His writings have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Black Commentator and the Washington Times. He has been quoted in a number of publications including the Washington Post. Opio Sokoni is the author of an award winning children's book entitled, "I Want to Be a Lawyer When I Grow Up." He is also a Hip Hop enthusiast.]

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