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June 14, 2011

As an activist, who believes that the solution to America’s problems lie in us ACTING like Americans, I get lonely. Not everyone agrees with me. In fact, the majority do not. (Voting records prove this.) Instead, they choose to WATCH as some Americans make decisions which affect all of us – with impunity. I do not believe in suffering peacefully. I believe in responding to the challenges which face us, which means I choose to inspire Americans to be Americans.

In 2008 I first met the Honorable George “Rithm” Martinez. He possessed the same intense vision that I possessed: one that said the American Dream was for all Americans – no matter where they happened to reside in the Americas! I was taken aback by how BOLD a vision he possessed. It was (is) bigger than mine.  Since I believe in allowing Americans to speak for themselves, I would like to introduce you to my friend, RITHM.

RITHM Martinez - First MC elected to Political Office

Hon. George RITHM Martinez: In 2002, I became the first Hip-Hop artist elected to poIitical office in New York, and the first active Hip-Hop artist/activist elected in the country. I then became the Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Relations for the NYS Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer.  In 2006, I was appointed by the US State Dept as a Cultural Envoy to Latin America, after being recommended by the first Hip-Hop US Cultural Envoy, Toni Blackman and H2A Founder, Martha Diaz in 2006.

In 2007, I served on my first envoy mission to Bolivia, and have since traversed the western hemisphere as the leading Hip-Hop Cultural Envoy, or Hip-Hop Ambassador in Latin America, having personally conducted over 13 sponsored missions to over 10 countries. The bulk of my work has been in high crime, drug and transnational gang areas, like San Salvador within MS 13 communities or in Managua where Mara 18 dominate. My objective has been simple although the odds have been long: to Use Hip-Hop to inspire peace, unity and social empowerment. I imagine hip hop as a tool – as an alternative to drug abuse and gang violence. I use it to train local and national police on community relations, educators in the classroom and political officials around innovative approaches to community empowerment and democracy building. So far, I and those who think like I do,  have been very successful.

Towards this objective we have created the GLOBAL BLOCK.

Interestingly, while most of my fellow citizens have no idea that this type of diplomacy is even possible, in 2008, Congress approved $1.6billion for the Merida Initiative and in 2010 another $165million for CARSI, Central American Regional Security Initiative, through which some of my work has been funded.

Since 2009, Global Block Foundation® has become the hub of my Cultural Diplomacy work in partnership with the State Department, USAID, DoD (Department of Defense) and recently the UNAOC. We have since begun to expand our work to other parts of the world including Asia, Africa and the Middle East. (Global Block Collective® Ambassadors include, Jelani Mashariki, Kima Hamilton, Chris Sagayo, Victor Mangrobang, Clara Guerrero, and others)

It’s my vision to create this kind of opportunity for thousands more, sending our talented youth out into the world as our ambassadors. They’ll take with them the message that America is a force for peace and sustainable development. They’ll bring back the broad horizons and understanding of other cultures that our nation needs to maintain leadership in the global village.

Cultural Envoys

RITHM Martinez performing before Sage Francis in Anchorage, Alaska (May 2011)

 are American performance/visual artists, arts managers and educators who travel abroad for short-term residencies.  They conduct workshops (and/or master classes), present seminars, or deliver lectures. These activities are conducted in diverse fields, which include, but are not limited to the breadth of intellectual property rights.  Think film, video art, sculpture, painting, cultural preservation and heritage, conservation, museum administration, theater, modern dance, music. The goal is to USE arts management and education to build and strengthen relationships between U.S. and foreign countries.

Envoys are sent abroad in response to requests from U.S. embassies and consulates. Envoys work with the host institution for residencies of ten days to six weeks. The Cultural Envoy program enables Americans to develop lasting relationships with specific cultural inst

itutions.  They function as much more than a performer, or traditional teacher.  As specialists, they are expected to impart a combination of practical and theoretical expertise in their fields. Each program is developed in close cooperation with a U.S. embassy and consulates and a host-country cultural institution, with a focus on introducing counterparts to American artistic techniques and cultural values.”

Of course, RITHM accomplishes all this while maintain his active rap career.

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