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Welcome to the Rock Desk, where Seattle Times rock critic Patrick MacDonald fills you in on the latest news, upcoming concerts, news releases and insider info on the rock 'n' roll beat. Music critic Tom Scanlon also contributes local music and club news.

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March 17, 2007 1:06 PM

Chuck D belongs to the world now

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

As Chuck D strolled through the Austin Convention Center this afternoon, on his way to participate in a SXSW panel on race relations, people stopped to shake his hand and have their picture taken with him.
I just stood before him, raised up both my hands, and bowed three times, to honor his contribution to rap music, his Malcolm X-like ability to grow and change, and the wisdom he brings to the endless discussion about race in this country.
He smiled at my acknowledgement, then laughed as I ended up being handed camera after camera to take shots of him and fans.
"Do you want one?," he asked, as aides told him he had to go.
I said no because, damn, I don't have one of them cell-phone cameras.
At the panel, the pioneering gangsta-rapper of Public Enemy fame expressed a tolerant world view, forged by age, experience and travel.
"Culture and music bring the one race -- the human race -- together," he said.
Music rises above governments and corporations because it's
universal, spiritual and emotional. "It's a communication with our souls," he said.
"America is as black and white as '50s television," he sadly observed, but said the larger question today is not race relations but saving the planet.
"Music, art is a powerful force," he concluded, "It's about love."
It was an emotional discussion. Moderator Dave Marsh, the distinguished rock critic and author, teared up talking about overcoming his family's racism.
Garland Jeffreys, the singer/songwriter/musician, who said he's "between the races," because he's black, Puerto Rican, American Indian and white, said, "I heard a lot of names growing up but I had to find my own way."
The mixing of races in the Greenwich Village club scene in the '60s saved his life, he said.
The discussion ranged from poverty to health problems to political activism.
There is still much to done, nationally and globally, the panel agreed, and music can be a major, international force for change.

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