Michigan State News

September 30, 1996

"700 turn out for Black Power Rally; Souljah urges students to get involved, vote"

by Kelley L. Carter


More than 700 people gathered Friday night for the 1996 Black Power Rally, an event aimed at boosting political awareness.

Students, staff and local residents met at the Business College Complex to heed the political message of controversial rapper, activist an author, Sister Souljah. Poetry readings, dance performances and political rapping rounded out the night’s activities.

The number of participants at the Black Student Alliance-sponsored event nearly doubled compared to last year.

BSA chairperson Sydney Plant attributed the increase to Souljah and BSA’s active outreach.

"We’re focusing on appealing to more students, we’re listening to students more and learning what their needs are," Plant said.

Minutes before Souljah spoke, the audience listened to John Shapely, a former BSA president and MSU alumnus. He spoke on political issues he said directly affect Black college students.

"We’re living in some serious times now," Shapely said. "It’s time not to be afraid, but it’s a time to close the ranks, get serious and communicate."

The rally was dedicated to boosting political awareness in the MSU Black student community and encouraging students to vote.

Shapely said students need to take interest in struggles such as affirmative action, welfare and racism.

He also spoke to students about drugs and recent burnings of Black churches in the South.

"It’s not like we’re celebrating affirmative action, it’s not like we’re celebrating welfare," Shapely said. "Those aren’t the end-all be-all (issues). But we must realize that these are just attacks on our community."

During the rally, participants—many of whom spilled into the isles and lined the back walls of the lecture room—were treated to poetry from students and various campus organizations. The MSU African dance troupe, Amka Afrika and Sound Tribe, also performed.

The much-anticipated Souljah, who was educated at Cornell and Rutgers universities, began her presentation speaking on Tupac Shakur, a hip-hop rapper who died of multiple gunshot wounds in Las Vegas about two weeks ago.

Souljah, who worked closely with Shakur, said she appealed to him to try to alter his direction in life.

"For most young people, it’s very difficult (to change) after living a life of confusion, to work on a positive image," she said. "I attempted to show him the God in himself so that he could take control of his life."

Souljah said she hoped her words would change the way students live, and she encouraged them to vote.

Souljah, also an employee of Bad Boy Entertainment, a hip-hop production company, compared hip-hop music to the beating of African drums. She said the music signals what’s going on in the community.

Souljah’s political-laced presentation also challenged students on issues of African empowerment and self-identity for Black students.

"Being African is negatively portrayed by the media," she said. "The NO. 1 problem in Black America is not having any definition."