Who We Be: Jeff Chang's Convocation Speech On Race, Rap, & America
However, he believes that today's youth (the "cultural majority" as he calls them) may spark a revolution in values. And they will do this through the proliferation of new art and media. In an interview late last year in ColorLines, Chang explained that culture often precedes politics. Hip-hop, for example, became a prominent current that propelled a new, integrationist worldview in the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century. "Art can help us move forward towards truth, justice, freedom, redemption, and creativity," Chang told the new graduates in the audience. Similar to the way that early outdoor hip-hop shows drew a wide array of people from all walks of life—and, the way the music itself fused together different melodic structures and drew inspiration from varying genres—Chang says that art acts as a catalyst for change. It propels the views of the current generation into the mainstream and changes the discussion surrounding prominent societal issues.
Chang is the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, and a respected social historian. He presents compelling parallels between the rise of hip-hop music and the evolving discourse around race and multiculturalism. In his books, and his talks, he explores the way that music, culture, diversity, and politics overlap—exploring a changing America through the lens of the pop culture icons who drive it.