Pop Life

UGK Ties Cost Atlanta School-Board Candidate Union Endorsement

Circulating the hip-hop rags is a thought-provoking story about how Byron Amos, former vice-president of UGK Records, lost the Atlanta Federation of Teachers' support in his bid to sit on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education because of his affiliation with the label.

"Hip-hop is unfairly held to a different standard where the mainstream is able to separate the actor from the character in movies," Amos responded in a statement. "They don't to the same thing for hip-hop. Art imitates life, good, bad and indifferent.

The subculture of hip-hop and R&B and the reality that it represents cannot be ignored. That is the real life to many people and I have the vantage point of being on both sides of the equation and have gained invaluable experiences that I will be able to use to help move a people that have been overlooked, underestimated, and thrown to the side because of the culture they've adapted.

As Rocks Off lay awake at 5 a.m. this morning, we had not reached Amos, and were left alone with our thoughts on the matter - deadline looming. We remembered the piece we wrote in May of last year slamming the Texas State Board of Education for excluding hip-hop from Texas textbooks.

But it's one thing to have an opinion that's perhaps safe about this matter, and it's another thing to raise the dialogue to a grander level like LZ Granderson did this week, arguing that Rick Perry's rock is the least of the black community's worries. We don't know that we'll be doing that today, but Amos's situation raises larger questions about the relationship, or lack there of, between public education and hip-hop, and whether there should be one.

It would be safe to write a "UGK for Life," "R.I.P. Pimp C" " and "screw the Atlanta teacher's union" story, get 50 comments saying "right on!" and go into the weekend feeling good about ourselves, safe in the confines of UGK's hometown.

But it's another thing to put a column like that to the real test - the test of self. So we asked ourselves, if it were our daughter in the Atlanta public school system, and Amos was elected to the school board charged with governing the system that educates her, would that be good enough for our nine-year-old Grace?

That's the real question, isn't it? You can chant "Free SPM" to all your homeys, but would you let your own daughter spend the night with a convicted child molester in a 6x9 jail cell? Do you believe in his innocence that much? That isn't a poke on the forehead to SPM fans. It's just a question. You don't have to answer it to us, but to yourself.

In answering our own question, we battle with the complexities. We wonder if a former vice-president of a tobacco company running for school board would be treated the same way. Cigarettes are legal, but they kill people. That's not an opinion. That's fact. Does it make that person bad, unfit or undeserving of serving on a school board or a union's endorsement?

We think about the time former San Antonio mayor and Clinton administration cabinet member Henry Cisneros shook our hand as a nine-year old - the same age as our daughter - and how we credit that moment with changing the course of our lives.

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Contributor Rolando Rodriguez is the co-founder of Trill Multicultural.