By Claire Trageser
Hip hop artist Jasiri X called on San Diego City College students Wednesday to speak up about the issues they care about. He was a featured speaker at the school’s third annual Social Justice and Education Conference.
The Pittsburgh-based artist is known for his songs about political issues, including “What if the Tea Party was Black?” and “Trayvon.”
He began his presentation with a rap, listing the names of black men and women who died in police shootings, including Michael Brown and Philando Castile.
“Pray to God that we never name you,” he then said.
Jasiri X told students that when he began writing songs about politics, he got push back from record labels.
“A lot of times when you do socially conscious or intelligent music, you’re told off the top, ‘oh, that’s not going to sell,'” he said. “Really it’s like, ‘we’re not going to market that,’ they have these ideas of what’s going to sell, and it’s these stereotypes that we feel comfortable with.”
Students filled the school’s theater to hear from Jasiri X as well as other speakers who talked about how to work on issues including climate change, immigration and racial justice.
Ernie McCray, a retired teacher and principal in the San Diego Unified School District, told students the time was ripe for them to get involved.
“If you believe that social justice can only rise to the stature of a reality when a citizenry embraces it and places it at the top of its bucket list collectively, if you’re down with that, then you might have shown up at the right place,” he said.