Sharlene Bates has been active in the community for decades and her greatest impact is in the works. Rolling out had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with Bates to learn more about her upcoming fundraiser to Break the Chains of Hip-Hop.
You have quite an extensive history in social justice and reform, what have you learned about yourself in doing this type of work? How has it changed you, if at all?
It has made me more apprehensive about how I parent, how I love, and made my appetite for history and understanding this country’s systemic racism and the reasons behind the intentional suppression of the unity of our people.
How important is it for women to have a voice in this particular field?
I believe it is gravely important, women are always at the forefront of change, even though we rarely get the credit. Historically, in hip-hop, women lyricists have been viewed as not having as much skill or talent as their male counterparts – which couldn’t be further from the truth. But women are always changing the game, and this is no different. As a Black woman specifically, we are always fighting to be heard and respected the same as men and then viewed as aggressive or hostile when we exhibit the same characteristics that would be viewed as passionate by men. Black women are also plagued with unequal pay in the workplace even when their talents are comparable to men.
Can you provide specific examples of individuals who have benefited from your work?
My work has had long lasting benefits and has created changes in policies. My nonprofit mentoring program with Breaking the Chains has increased student attendance and engagement by at least 40%. My activism work has led to APD and federal task force officers in Atlanta being required to wear bodycams since 2019. The neighborhood patrolling of the death site and protesting in the Ahmaud Arbery case led to all three men being arrested, charged and sentenced.
What are some of your goals or plans for the near future?
To help break the chains of hip-hop and the culture that doesn’t value our lives and shifting back to unity like it was before they changed hip hop to gangsta rap while filling the privatized prisons because the greatest threat to America is the unification of the melanated. First up, is uniting and making us respect each other, then making them respect us more than our spending power. Our first link up is on Dec. 3, for our community linkup and fundraiser to build our own Creative Steam Studios in the schools and come up with solutions on how to change our culture. We are inviting our family and audience at rolling out to attend for free using the code ROLLINGOUT and also accepting donations.