Pili X: Hip-hop goes from musical to political

Pili X, left, has been campaigning as a write-in candidate for City Council with the help of Robert Allen Mansfield, right, a local Tea Party member.

Whether read literally or politically, the Hip-Hop Party for the People and the Tea Party seem, on the surface, to be unlikely allies.

But City Council at large write-in candidate Pili X, 26, and former gubernatorial hopeful Robert Allen Mansfield say the two groups have more in common than meets the eye.

“We both believe in holding the government accountable to the people they have to serve,” said Mansfield, a retired Army sergeant, citing opposition to the citywide curfew, stop and frisk policy and lack of transparency.

Since meeting X at a Temple University panel discussion over the summer, Mansfield has been mentoring him on the ins and outs of municipal government and grassroots campaigning. “As he would say, he doesn’t give me advice, he teaches me lessons,” X said.

The Hip-Hop Party formed in February from members of the Poor Righteous Party of the Black Nation, who met at a former North Philly shoe shop turned community center to discuss local issues. “We came together at one meeting and decided, instead of complaining about politicians not doing their job, let’s endorse our own member,” X said.

They chose the party name because many members were raised on hip-hop, not just as a music genre, but as a cultural movement. “Hip-Hop, in its true essence, is about political and social change,” X said. “We felt its language and culture spoke to us best.”

While Mansfield is helping the party with its formation and fundraising, he says that X’s ideological views are his own. “I don’t want him to be a Robert Mansfield clone,” he said. “It’s not fair to live my political philosophy through Pili X.”

Young movement growing

X is part of a growing trend of young people involved in city politics, which Mansfield hopes will continue.

“I think Isaiah Thomas was the catalyst to continue the movement of young people getting involved in politics in this city,” Mansfield said. Thomas, 26, came in eighth in this year’s Democratic City Council at large primary. The top five moved on to next week’s general election.

“Whether you like their ideas or not, young people need to be brought into the system. There’s a saying, it’s better to have someone inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in,” Mansfield said. “I’d rather in­vite them inside the tent be­cause if you ignore them, they’ll be outside the tent pissing in it.”

Hip-Hop’s issues

Pili X’s campaign issues include:
Increased investments in youth education, recreational activities and job training.

Transforming neighborhoods by turning abandoned buildings and lots into marketplaces, community produce gardens, youth centers and permanent housing for the homeless by having communities take control of the properties and using funds from decreased police overtime.

Ending the police-enforced citywide curfew and stop and frisk policies.

Abolishing the School Reform Commission in favor of a community-elected school board.


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