Public Enemy’s Chuck D kicks off United Black World Month at Ohio State

February 5, 2014
Chuck D, also known as Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, came to OSU to speak at the opening reception for United Black World Month Feb. 3.  Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Chuck D, also known as Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, came to OSU to speak at the opening reception for United Black World Month Feb. 3.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

One member of hip-hop group Public Enemy came to Ohio State in promotion of something more important than music.

Rapper Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, better known as Chuck D, spoke Monday night at the Ohio Union Performance Hall as a part of OSU’s opening celebration for United Black World Month.

Ridenhour is a rap activist best known for his work in Public Enemy.

A crowd of approximately 200 gathered to see and hear Ridenhour speak about America’s youth, specifically those aged 18-24, and how they can change the world around them.

“We’re at a time where we’ve used youth as an excuse. Youth is not excuse,” Ridenhour said.

He added that the youth in America could make the older generations accountable for what they have done or what they have not done.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had it poppin’ at 26,” Ridenhour said. “MLK and Malcolm X were assassinated at 39.”

Ohio’s musical background was also a topic of discussion for Ridenhour. The rapper said the art of freestyle rap began in Cleveland.

He compared Ohio natives’ lack of knowledge about Ohio hip-hop to blacks and their lack of knowledge about their background and history.

“It ain’t new because you never knew,” Ridenhour said.

The Office of Student Life also welcomed the Florida-based group the Dream Defenders for the event. The group began after the not-guilty verdict was returned in July in the case of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin being shot and killed by Florida resident George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader.

Director of the Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew is a graduate of the Florida A&M University School of Business. He grew up poor in the Inglewood neighborhood of Chicago and said he lived “12-deep” in a three-bedroom house.

“I never wanted to grow up poor,” Agnew said. He said he decided to study hard, go away to school and make money at internships.

While attending Florida A&M, Agnew said his life was changed when he watched a 14-year-old boy get beaten to death by seven men at a boot camp for troubled children run by the state of Florida. When his little brother was locked up and sent to a similar boot camp, he said he knew he had to take action.

The Dream Defenders’ goal is to bring social change by training youth in civil disobedience and civil engagement and also to create a strong network of student leaders.

“It’s not gonna be one individual that will lead youth to the promised land,” Agnew said.

In addition to speaking at the Ohio Union, Agnew and Ridenhour spoke at the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center on campus in a round table discussion with OSU students and staff.

Ridenhour, who is from Roosevelt, N.Y., said he thought it was important for intelligent people to speak their minds because it was the only way knowledge could spread in the community.

“That’s the first sign of greed. When you know some real s—, and you keep it to yourself,” Ridenhour said.

One student who attended the round table said they  appreciated Ridenhour’s open-mindedness.

“I’m glad that he spoke about unification and communicating and getting on that same level. It’s something we needed to hear as a people, especially at Ohio State,” said Kamari Wright, a first year in computer science and engineering.

Ridenhour said people must first look at changing themselves before they try to change the world.

“If you can work on your crib, then you can work on your block,” Ridenhour said.

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