Local activists hoping to march alongside P. Diddy and Alicia Keys were disappointed to learn last week that Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summit Action Network had pulled out of a much-publicized August 30 rally. Back in April, the group announced plans to march during the RNC as a protest against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. “This will be the biggest hip-hop gathering ever, and we intend for our voices to be heard,” Simmons declared in a press release. “It will be the illest march in history.” But after months of planning with Still We Rise, a coalition of more than 35 groups, the network quietly backed out, citing the unexpectedly high cost — roughly $100,000 — of insuring its big-name stars. The network could not be reached for comment by press time. Jennifer Flynn, co-director of the New York City AIDS Housing Network, who helped broker the deal, said she realized the media might be less likely to cover the event, but she was also slightly relieved. “A lot of people were uncomfortable about the celebrities overshadowing the real people,” she said. “Now it's just us talking to us, working together like we always do.” [8/25]
Please note: Shortly after this item was posted, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network released a statement formally announcing its withdrawal from the march due to “safety concerns” and the “timing of the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami.” The network does plan to make a donation to Still We Rise, though the amount is undisclosed.