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Hip Hop is Going Green – Keith Tucker – Sentientism Ep:197

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism podcast.

Keith Tucker is founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop is Green, a nonprofit organization on a mission to support holistic wellness and transform urban communities environmentally. He has been a visionary and social entrepreneur for over 30 years. He has worked with hundreds of businesses, youth groups and community organizations and many icons in the entertainment business as a creative promoter and an ambassador for the culture of hip hop.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the YouTube video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

00:00 Clips!

01:19 Welcome

02:44 Keith’s Intro

– Founder and ED of  @hiphopisgreen4255 

– “I’m a father, a brother, a friend, a husband and currently I’m a human being living on earth”

03:19 What’s Real?

– Growing up in Seattle, raised by mother, grandmother and grandfather

– Religious grandparents

– Going to #baptist  church

– Attending strict #catholic school, taught by nuns “I remember sister Sheila – boy she was mean”

– Catholic high school in California

–  “Some rough times.” Drugs (from 13 yrs old), street-life “in with the wrong crowd”

– Grandmother and mother “I’m so blessed and fortunate to have had them in my life… gave me a great foundation of morals and values and patience and determination”

– Lending a bike and having it stolen “I’m a very giving and nice person… I have to beware… trust has its limits”

– 31 years clean & sober now

– “My values who I am today were actually both shaped by good things that happened to me and bad things that happened to me”

– “Just really good people”, not because of their religion…

– “…spiritual as well… my grandmother used to call it motherwit… I still have that today… I just get a feeling… it’s always 100% right every time… everybody has it to… some people listen to their motherwit more than others”

– “Back in the early ’70s it was a different world… in school they could paddle you in class… in front of everyone… there was no such thing as non-bullying”

– Being taught the Bible “I never really questioned anything… absorbed it into who I am… although I wasn’t following most of the Bible to be honest at that point… I was more interested in having fun and partying… not really focusing on why I’m here, who I am and what my purpose is”

– Last time used drugs. Motherwit voice spoke very loud “you may not live through this.” Attending a treatment centre, guided by the motherwit voice “it’s not luck”

– April 7 1992 “I need to change my life… I kept that commitment all the way through to today… the weight had been lifted off me.”

– Finishing treatment, moving to the Texas countryside “getting away from the environment that I was in”

– Starting to figure out “who is Keith Tucker… what is my purpose?… Baptism through fire.”

– “I am not Christian or religious today…. but I am very spiritual and I believe in god.”

– “I walk in my purpose and in god’s purpose every single day… helping people and serving people is what my purpose is”

– Watching  @60minutes  “and they had an expose on my school… priests that were molesting the kids at my school… while I was there… it really blew my mind.”

– Tracking the #catholic church abuse scandals

– Studying history “how religion was used… that wasn’t taught to me in school… we only learned a certain dogma…””

– “How religion was used to conquer Africa, conquer America… where does the Bible come from… how was that book put together… who did that and why?”

– “That gave me a new #spiritual outlook on my life”

– Christianity in hip-hop vs. JW “Christianity was imposed on most of the communities”

–  “Christianity thousands of years ago came out of Ethiopia”

– “The people that were enslaved… were introduced to the Bible… as a system to keep their minds enslaved.”

– Versions of the Bible written for enslaved people “to say obey your master… you will get your riches in heaven and not on earth” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Select_Parts_of_the_Holy_Bible_for_the_use_of_the_Negro_Slaves_in_the_British_West-India_Islands

– “Using religion to chain people’s minds”

– Generations passing religion down without access to wider information. Then Keith gets that access

– The importance of education “so important… research and study… things that you’re interested in” and the 5th element of Hip Hop

– “I’ve been involved in Hip Hop for over 50 years… even before they called it Hip Hop”

– Audio tapes from the #South Bronx: DJ Kool Herc, Funky 4+1, The Cold Crush Brothers “we didn’t know what it was”

– 1979 “Rappers Delight” by The SugarHill Gang “It was an 11 minutes song… I memorised that whole 11 minute song in a week and all my friends did too… it was like a bomb that got dropped”

– “Thus became my journey in Hip Hop”… giving house parties, meeting legends and pioneers, becoming friends with KRS-One “He taught me more about the culture of Hip Hop as opposed to rap music”

– KRS-One’s book “The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument”

– “Hip Hop is a culture and rap is what we do… two different distinct things”

– “Rappers that rap… for money… fame… girls, gold, jewellery. Then people that are in Hip Hop… they are speaking and rapping for the culture… to educate people”

– KRS-One’s 1990 track “Beef” “That song in 1990 made thousands of people pay attention… many people went vegan and vegetarian from listening to that song… that’s how important music is”

29:30 What Matters?

– Perspectives of rap as violent, misogynistic, capitalistic, nihilistic vs. Hip Hop culture

– “The issue here is ‘who controls what music is played on the radio?’… it’s the media who controls the image and the sounds that you listen to and hear and see”

– Early 1980’s “most of the music was uplifting, positive… Chuck D and Public Enemy with ‘Fight the Power’… activism… knowing yourself… Afrocentric… celebrating Black culture in history…”

– “In America, most of the times, when black people are trying to do something positive – it’s spinned as a negative thing”

– Black inventors and scientists being ignored (Jesse Russell, Granville Woods, Alan Emtage…) https://www.futurity.org/internet-history-black-pioneers-2224462/

– “Nobody wants to hear about that stuff [positive contributions]… what we want to hear about is the guy that robbed somebody or the guy that is a misogynist… that’s pumped into our heads every day… day in and day out”

– “Then the music that is selected today to actually ‘represent’ Hip Hop… is selected by people that are not even part of our community… some of the worst music… I don’t even want to call it music… it creates psychopath people… it’s psychopath music… killing, guns, misogyny… all of the worst things you can ever think of is in this music… it’s pumped into young people’s minds every day”

– “That’s how you destroy a generation… through culture… Then other people… ‘wow – look at those people over there!’”

– The negativity of the news media

– “This happened starting back in the early ‘90’s with gangsta rap… it turned from being positive to being a negative thing”

C. Dolores Tucker “battling gangsta rap on the highest level… she walked with Martin Luther King… dealing with Death Row records and Suge Knight… she was saying ‘we don’t need to call Black women b’s and h’s’… now it’s gone a whole ‘nother level past that”

– The Elements of Hip Hop culture (as opposed to rap music): DJ, MC, Breaking, Graffiti “the four core elements that we started Hip Hop with”. Then in the ‘80’s adding Street Knowledge. Beat-boxing (Buffy the Human Beatbox (of The Fat Boys), Doug E Fresh, Rahzel). Street Fashion, Street Language, Street Entrepreneurialism

– KRS-One’s “The Hip Hop Declaration of Peace” and its 18 principles “guide Hip Hop culture towards peace, unity and safely having fun” ratified by the United Nations in 2001as a global culture

– Looking through a list of “a thousand different jobs… I don’t want to be none of this… they didn’t have business-person or entrepreneur on that list… it was always working for somebody else”

– “My aspect of Hip Hop is always wanting to do something for others… help build the community… help educate people… educate yourself first”

– “It doesn’t matter what colour you are, what religion you are, how old you are… you can be part of Hip Hop culture… we embrace you and accept you for who you are… LGBTQ… whatever”

– “Being kind and considerate and being friendly is part of Hip Hop culture… but make no bones about it we’re not going to be suckers either…”

– Shark Tank’s Daymond John “He comes from Hip Hop culture… I interviewed him on my radio show”

47:30 Who Matters?

– “My generation is really the first generation of Hip Hop… we built on who came before us… civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers… our cultural foundation is built off activism”

– Extending activism to climate change and the animals and the environment

– A Green Age of Hip Hop “everything matters… sentient beings matter, the trees matter, the mycelium matters, the air matters, the water matters – everything that’s surrounding us matters… the whole system… everything has a purpose”

– “We’ve shifted the way that this system runs here on Earth… we can help make a shift back to where we’re living in balance with our universe”

– “Chicken and the beef… those are animals… minding their business… living their lives… living in balance… surviving the way they know best… and we come in and mass murder them”

– JW: How environmentalism is often still very human-centric

– Health issues among BIPOC communities… “cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke… from eating meat… I want to do something about this”

– 2009 “the first ever plant-based Hip Hop events… I would give plant-based food for free… and I would bring Hip Hop artists who were plant-based themselves and they would perform”

– A 15 year journey touring around the USA, serving over 40,000 meals

– “Most people are only concerned with survival… how am I going to feed my kids… pay my bills… You know what’s not on the list – animal rights”

– “Once I got out of survival mode my mind was free to think about other things than survival mode!”

– Hearing from the community about the Hip Hop is Green dinners “my granddaughter went to your event and she went vegan… and most people in my family are vegan now!”

– “It came to me one day that we had to make what we’re doing a part of Hip Hop culture – an official part of the culture”

– Realising the Declaration of Peace was open to “future elements”. Writing a letter proposing adding “Health and Wellness” as the 10th element of Hip Hop culture

– April 21st (now 10th Element of Hip Hop day) launch event the day before Earth Day in Harlem

– Learning about agriculture’s impact on the environment “We’re in a 6th extinction… and it’s human-caused”

– “It’s so important that the 10th Element not only be about… plant-based eating… but also animal rights… also protecting the environment… also being clean and sober… mental health… being an activist… justice”

– “Hip Hop just turned 50 years old… so what’s the next 50 years of Hip Hop going to look like?… It may look more like a movement… things need to change… I believe we’re going in the right direction”

– “We’re putting our energy into young people and the next generation”

– Parallels with punk and straight-edge “there’s a definite parallel between punk music and Hip Hop… it was out around the same time in New York”

– Moby’s Vegan Punk Rock Movie

– A potential “Hip Hop is Green” movie? “I have footage of everything we’ve done right from 2009 up ‘til now”

01:05:40 A Better World?

– Human and non-human animal justice “I think it all goes together… there is a thread that runs all the way through”

– Perceptions of the Black Panthers as a threat but… “they started the first ever breakfast programme in the United States… treatment centres… community health centres… all of these wonderful things they were doing in the community weren’t highlighted at all”

– Now “thousands of organisations around the world in Hip Hop doing wonderful things… but people don’t know about these organisations because they’re not promoted on the nightly news”

– “How we make a better world is up to every single individual”

– “Young people… they are going to shape in just a few years the direction of the planet” the HHIG Youth Excellence Programme and the tree-planting programme

– “We create relationships with these kids… they’re part of the HHIG family… some of these young people end up interning for us and working for us”

– Cherry Street Farm “This is where I’m from”. Learning gardening skills from grandmother. Turning a vacant lot into a farm

– Teaching kids to grow food and cook plant-based foods “being able to put your hands in the dirt… and grow something… good for the spirit and your mind”

– “It was like an oasis in the middle of the city… and then COVID happened”

– Having to cancel the HHIG Health and Wellness Expo 3 days before due to lockdown “What are we going to do now?”

– Finding some space and time in quarantine… “I started thinking about the farm… how can I innovate?… aquaponics, soil remediation, hydroponics…”

– “In urban communities we don’t have land… hydroponics… growing plants in a water that has the same nutrients that the soil has… you can grow vertically instead of horizontally… it’s like a big giant lab… you can grow 2.5 acres of food in one hydroponic lab… there is no winter… we grow 24 hours a day”

– Building a kitchen, planning new programmes “It looks totally different from how we started… our little pea patch garden”

– Partnering with local government and universities

– The Jimmy Videle episode re: Veganic gardening

– “Our goal is to have a Cherry Street farm in most major cities around the country” along with the other HHIG programmes

– “Goverments, especially city governments… even the federal government… they are actually stepping up to the plate”

– Vegan corporate sponsors for HHIG dinners

– Planning a Hip Hop Climate conference and concert

– “I’m optimistic because I can see where the future is going… climate change… urban environments… young people… all of those touch points we touch on”

– Kids from the HHIG programmes “some of our kids are in college right now… they’re vegan… they know about climate change… they know about systems… some of these kids want to be policy makers… that’s how we change the world”

– “I know that everyone is on that treadmill… but if there is no environment… all of us have to do something… you have to get involved… we can’t just sit on the sidelines any more”

– Atmospheric carbon tipping points and ratchets “There’s a very scary horror story… it’s really happening in real life”

– “The best thing that you can do is eat plants… we don’t want animals to suffer… be murdered… but also… animal agriculture creates more environmental damage than anything on the planet… that’s what people need to understand”

– “Consumers can control the capitalist society… if we don’t want to purchase a certain product they won’t sell it any more… if we don’t eat meat they’ll start producing plant-based meat” plus policy and “holding our elected officials accountable”

01:28:24 Follow Keith

Hip Hop is Green

@hiphopisgreen

HHIG on Instagram

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Tarabella and Denise for helping to fund this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

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Keith Tucker holding a sprig of broccoli in one hand with the other pointing towards a large boom-box stereo in front of him.

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