October 30, 2019

Chuck D Wins Woody Guthrie Award

by Kurt Gottschalk

Carlton Ridenhour ’84, ’13 (Hon.), better known as rapper, writer and producer Chuck D, has been named the 2019 Woody Guthrie Prize recipient. The award “recognizes artists across media who have utilized their talents to speak for those without a platform,” according to the Woody Guthrie Center website.

It might seem a long road between Guthrie—the singer best known for “This Land Is Your Land” and honored with a commemorative postage stamp in 1998—and Chuck D, who in his 1990 breakaway hit “Fight the Power” intoned that “most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps,” but the connection is closer than it might appear at first glance.

“Woody was a fighter for the people, and Chuck D’s message has consistently aligned with Woody’s: choose a side, fight the power, and work for a better world,” center director Deana McCloud said in a statement released October 23. “We are honored to recognize Chuck’s work as he shines a light on social and cultural issues through his words and encourages us all to take action for equality and justice. We know that Woody would be rapping right alongside him as he speaks truth to power.”

Along with having fronted the groundbreaking hip hop group Public Enemy, Chuck D acts as a spokesman for Americans for the Arts Council, the National Alliance of African-American Athletes, the National Urban League and Rock the Vote. He also sits on the board of the TransAfrica Forum, an organization focused on African, Caribbean and Latin American political issues, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. In April, Chuck D returned to Adelphi for an “Inside the Artist’s Studio” talk with former University Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Perry Greene, PhD.

Chuck D will be presented with the award next month at a ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the center is located. But the recognition has already garnered a fair bit of attention, with notices in Billboard, The New York Times and Variety.

Chuck D is the sixth recipient of the annual award, joining ranks with musicians John Cougar Mellencamp, Kris Kristofferson, Pete Seeger and Mavis Staples and TV producer Norman Lear.

Read more about the Woody Guthrie Prize.


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