Jamaal Bowman renews effort to block prosecutors from weaponizing rap lyrics
For the New York congressman, the RAP Act is both personal and political.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
As a bipartisan group of House members and senators last month intensified their scrutiny of TikTok due to concerns over the social app’s ties to the Chinese government and adverse impact on youth mental health, Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York convened a gathering with creators in his Cannon office to learn about their experiences on the app.
Bowman would later mount a vigorous public defense of creative expression in a press conference where he characterized calls to ban the app as an undemocratic flouting of the First Amendment.
The congressman on Thursday afternoon picked up where he left off when he joined Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia to reintroduce the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act that would protect artists from the wrongful use of their lyrics against them in criminal and civil proceedings.
The legislation adds a presumption to the Federal Rules of Evidence that would limit the admissibility of evidence of an artist’s creative or artistic expression against that artist in court. Prosecutors have used artists’ lyrics as evidence against the artist in more than 500 cases since 2000, according to the lawmakers.
Brandi Williams, civil and human rights campaign and field director at the Hip Hop Caucus, a racial, climate and economic justice advocacy group, said in a statement to Supercreator that efforts to make rap lyrics permissible in court represent a targeted attempt to define artistic expression not as art, but as an indicator of ethical character, moral deficiency, and unlawful activity in a society where Black and brown communities already consistently overpoliced, overcharged, and disproportionately incarcerated.
“Hip hop is the most transformative cultural force in the world and is a vehicle for expressing societal observations, sharing lived experiences, and imagining new realities,” Williams added. “As we recognize fifty years of influence and work to end fifty years of mass incarceration in America, it is critical that legislation supports expanding the power of people’s voices instead of stifling expression through racist policy.”
In an interview with Supercreator this week, Bowman, a former teacher and principal, said that creativity and innovation have helped humanity to evolve across generations — from the creation of the wheel to the ability to control fire to the invention of the iPad.
“The creative arts is not there just to entertain us,” Bowman said. “It’s there to educate us. It’s there to inspire us. It’s there to uplift us. It’s there to help us find a place to project emotionally where the hard math and sciences do not.”
Specifically, it was rap, Bowman shared, that raised him in New York City.
“Rap was the surrogate father helping me to gain knowledge itself over the course of my life,” he said. “And rap is mostly Black men. And unfortunately, we continue to have a justice system that targets Black men in all its forms.”
Johnson and Bowman reintroduced the RAP Act this week to coincide with Grammys on the Hill, a two-day event that offers music creators the opportunity to come together with members of Congress in support of creator’s rights and to advocate the passage of legislation that will further improve those rights.
Rapper Fat Joe was at the Capitol on Wednesday to speak out for justice in the health care system and media personality Paris Hilton joined members to introduce a bill to strengthen protections for kids against institutional abuse. (All my “Stars Are Blind” stans, stand up!) And Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and 13-time GRAMMY winner Pharell Williams were honored by the Recording Academy for their advocacy and support of music makers.
“It’s a week where we have a lot of artists here who are either impacted by the attack on rap lyrics and the attack on Black art in general,” Bowman said. “So, we have to reintroduce it. We have to continue to build momentum on it.”
ICYMI: “‘We test kids too darn much’: Jamaal Bowman’s push to replace standardized testing with more classroom teaching time”
See also:“Why is Jamaal Bowman so angry” (Kadia Goba / Semafor)
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your weekday morning guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creators and their supporters work and live in the new economy. It’s Friday, April 28: My girl Van Van is helping me cope with the passing of Jerry Springer.
IN THE KNOW
••• The Congressional Black Caucus will hold a democracy summit next month focused on the assault on voting rights and issues of racial injustice, Chairman Steven Horsford announced on Thursday. Following the summit, the CBC will launch a summer of action in communities across the country to demand stronger voter protections, police accountability and guardrails for American democracy.
••• Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia called on President Joe Biden to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to negotiate a deal to raise the debt limit and set a framework for next year’s federal budget. “Only the President can prevent this from becoming a full-blown domestic crisis,” Manchin said in a statement. “For the sake of our nation that we all serve, I urge the president to put politics and partisanship aside, come to the table and negotiate a real compromise that saves America from this impending economic catastrophe.” The White House is currently uninterested in discussing the budget until Congress pays off the bills the US has incurred, a position most congressional Democrats support.
••• Related: Republican Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia filed paperwork to run for Manchin’s seat. Justice, who was highly recruited by the GOP establishment to flip the seat in next year’s election, will have to win an intense primary first. Meanwhile, Manchin is sticking to his end-of-year deadline to make an announcement on his future plans. “I will win any race I enter,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
See also: “Joe Manchin is having a hard time” (Jim Newell / Slate)
••• The Senate failed to pass a bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex, as the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution. Two Republicans — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — joined all 49 Democrats in support of the legislation, which requires 60 votes to become law.
••• Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia reintroduced a bill to address the child care crisis. It’s called the Child Care for Working Families Act and would create three new initiatives focused on under-five child care, a grant program, and a universal pre-K program while also expanding Head Start.
••• Democratic Rep. Jasmine Crockett and Republican Rep. August Pfluger of Texas led 11 members of the state’s delegation in a bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Committee for it to allocate more funds to Americans in warm-weather states. “The current allocation of [Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program] funds reflects a pre-climate change world, neglecting the needs of Texans who face hotter summers, stronger storms, and freezing winters every year,” Crockett said. “Thanks to sky-high energy costs, low-income Texans are forced to make an impossible choice: go into debt to pay their energy bills during a snow storm or a heat wave, or go without, enduring extreme temperatures and risking their lives.”
••• Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon launched the Congressional Sneaker Caucus dedicated to the love members and staff from both parties share for sneakers. “The sneakers I wear across the Capitol represent a pathway back to my childhood and connection to the next generation. They routinely are a starting point for conversation with my colleagues,” Moskowitz, who is in his first term, said in a statement. “That’s exactly why I launched this Caucus — to use sneakers to promote social interaction between members of Congress, their staff and visitors to the Capitol.”
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris (11:15 am). Later, he will present the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy to the Air Force Falcons (2:30 pm) before departing the White House (4:50 pm) to participate in a reception for the Democratic National Committee with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff (6:45 pm) before returning to the White House (7:30 pm).
The House is in (9 am) with first votes and last votes expected at 10 am.
The Senate is out.
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