Urbanite Baltimore: The Professor

Lester Spence wants to use the Baltimore Mixtape Project to encourage social change.

Spence_Stare coverJohns Hopkins University assistant professor Lester Spence is not your average bespectacled, dimpled-chad-counting political scientist. One story he tells shows why.

In 2002, a charismatic, 31-year-old state representative named Kwame Kilpatrick became mayor of Detroit. A Motor City native, Spence attended one of Kilpatrick's inauguration events—a party DJ'd by legendary beatboxer Biz Markie filled with the young voters who helped seal Kilpatrick's victory. But instead of asking Markie to turn down the music so that he could address his supporters, Spence recalls, "Kilpatrick took the microphone and started singing over the tracks ... in sync with the rest of the crowd."

It's an experience Spence has referred to as "one of the most powerful political moments I've ever been part of" and one he describes in his book, Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics. A young black man had used hip hop to galvanize his peers and win political control of one of the largest cities in the country.

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Published in: Urbanite Baltimore Magazine
By: Lionel Foster