Pitt Program Council continues hip-hop concert ban

by Ann Wootton
Junior Staffwriter

The question of whether to block or allow outdoor hip-hop concerts at the University of Pittsburgh has caused a string of debates covering subjects from hip-hop and racism to the relationship between universities and their larger communities.
In late August, students from the University of Pittsburgh and members of the Pennsylvania Hip-Hop Political Convention proposed bringing The Roots, a popular hip-hop group, to play for the university?s Fall Fest outdoor concert, which was held earlier this month.
The Roots were not approved by the Pitt Program Council (PPC), the group organizing Fall Fest, and the process by which this decision was made raised larger questions as to the ethics behind the University?s policy concerning outdoor hip-hop concerts.
An anonymous student at the University of Pittsburgh reported that Thomas Misuraca, the director of student activities at the University of Pittsburgh, said that ?experts in his field? advised him against having outdoor hip-hop concerts due to ?risk management and safety issues.?
The anonymous student said that once Misuraca had stated the university?s unofficial policy banning outdoor hip-hop concerts, the next PPC discussion ?was a very ?Why are you guys racist?? sort of meeting.?
To defend himself against claims of racism, Misuraca claimed that when The Roots and The Black Eyed Peas played a show at the University of Pittsburgh five years ago, The Roots were caught smoking marijuana and security officials supposedly confiscated a number of guns and knives from members of the audience.
When supporters of The Roots asked for concrete facts or figures to support these claims, the anonymous student said, Misuraca stated that he did not remember which security company the PPC worked with, thereby ending the discussion.
Even if these statements about the past Roots concert are true, says Chris Weber, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, it is ?completely discriminatory and without reason? to generalize a culture of drugs and violence onto hip-hop, which is a ?huge and very diverse genre of music.?
When contacted to confirm or explain the university?s policy concerning outdoor hip-hop concerts, three representatives of the University of Pittsburgh?s Office of Student Activities refused to comment directly on the Roots event. Misuraca went so far as to say that ?this matter has nothing to do with Carnegie Mellon.?
The concept of distancing Carnegie Mellon from University of Pittsburgh affairs raised concerns among several of the people involved in the Roots concert planning.
Upon hearing Misuraca?s call for a strong separation between the two universities, Khari Mosley, a leader of the Pennsylvania Hip-Hop Political Convention, said, ?It is important for us to try to knock down barriers that stand between the community and campuses in Pittsburgh.? He said that ?people at CMU should have a vested interest in Pitt and vice versa.?
In addition to the recent calls for people to work together to address these issues, there is also a history of the two universities working alongside each other in attempts to build a supportive and equal educational environment for their community as a whole.
Mosley feels that Misuraca?s remark ?reflects a fragmented view of the city as a whole.? He went on: ?When the University takes steps to isolate itself from the community, its decisions run counter to steps to make Pittsburgh more attractive and youth friendly.?
Mosley notes, though, that instead of getting lost in the ?bickering and negativity? thrown back and forth between sides, it is important to focus on the constructive ways that all of these groups can work together as ?catalysts? to move the community forward.