Modern Renaissance Man Russell Simmons was in South Miami recently to help launch the opening of the local campaign headquarters for the Obama-Biden Campaign at 6001 SW 70 St in the Valencia Condominiums building. Serving as a “surrogate” or official campaign spokesperson, Simmons had just left a rally in Liberty City and his team’s upcoming stops included a visit to Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, and the University of Miami.
The founder of Def Jam Records who went on to create a booming fashion enterprise with Phat Farm, Simmons was recently named one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities” by Forbes Magazine. He is also a multi-New York Times best-selling author who manages four not for profit organizations through Rush Community Affairs, in addition to his primary post as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications.
“I care about the whole,” said Simmons when asked what brought him to an unobtrusive corner of South Miami across the street from the post office bordering the industrial district. “Community issues are important and if I can encourage people, especially progressive people, to vote and pay attention to community issues we will be better off for it. On a national level Florida is a very important state and I’m going to encourage everybody that I can get to volunteer in this campaign.”
The enthusiastic standing room only crowd had a chance to ask questions after Simmons gave a brief talk about why he was there. “I’m here because I think every American deserves health care, and every American deserves a decent education. My number one issue is to limit the amount of money that goes to politicians, special interest groups, and corporations.
Simmons went on to explain that President Obama is getting one dollar for every 14 dollars of super PAC (political action committee) money going to opponent Mitt Romney. “The only money he’s gotten is from people who are compassionate and care about the whole. Everybody with selfish motivation seems to be giving the money to Mitt. For me this is a kind of proof and one of the reasons I feel confident that our president is the president for the people and not for corporations.”
Simmons said another reason he was there was to highlight the disparity between the rich and the middle class. He said he was out every day during the Occupy Wall Street Movement to help draw attention to this issue. “I occupied every day in Wall Street, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Boston. I went and hung out at the parks because people are frustrated. Elected officials work more for the corporations than the people and they (occupiers) understood that and so we had a national conversation about economic inequality.”
In addition to economic justice concerns, Simmons said privatization of public services is a bad idea. “Corporations should not control our public services. Basic services (education, health care) are not there to make money, they are there to help the people. To have all services become a business like the privatization of schools is a very, very bad thing for America.”
A self-proclaimed Buddhist, Simmons also discussed the virtues of veganism, his successful efforts to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws in his home town of New York through the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and problems associated with the prison industrial complex as it affects the health of communities.