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  • Filed under: News
  • 05/11/2007

Boots Riley Withdraws from Commencement

Boots Riley, the leading MC of political-rap group The Coup is absurdly active when it comes to communal action. He’s served on the central committee for the progressive Labor Party, helped build the Anti-Racist Farm Workers' Union in California, and founded the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective–a group bent on taking various organizations’ messages and spreading them on a cultural platform (namely, hip-hop).

Growing up in the already extremely communal city of Oakland (home of the Black Panther Party), Riley is quite the revolutionary force in the Bay Area. He’s become such an outspoken presence, the University of California Berkeley invited him to speak at the Black Graduation ceremony this Saturday–which would typically be right up the MC’s alley.

But Riley, alongside Danny Glover, has pulled out of the event in favor of protesting the school’s contribution to poverty wages.

Riley states, “In solidarity with the Custodian’s Union (AFSCME Local 3299), I will not be making the UC Berkeley 2007 Black Graduation commencement speech. Many ideas were talked about regarding how to show solidarity with and not get in the way of this fight. Some said that I should use the opportunity to speak to the audience about the union’s demands. However, being that the speaking theme I was given was ‘Revolution: Command Change,’ I feel the best way to embody this theme is not to give lip service to it, but to show that we must be involved in the struggles that are happening around us every day.”

According to a press release, the AFSCME Local 3299 noticed that employees in UC Berkeley, Irvine, and Santa Cruz were making $4 to $6 hourly. If that’s not a cry for revolution, what is?

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