12/25/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
The songs that filled her own girlhood as the daughter of a Philadelphia preacher were hymns of faith and freedom. But C. DeLores Tucker came to understand that today's African-American children are hearing a different tune when a 7-year-old niece started using phrases like "m——f——" so often that classmates were forbidden to play with her. Tucker said that the child had picked up the terms from popular music.
Such realizations spurred Tucker—a lifelong activist who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr.—to launch a passionate personal crusade against the dark and edgy form of hip hop known as gangsta rap. "Eight-, 10-, 11-year-olds are using drugs because they are told it's cool," she says. "Little boys are calling little girls 'whores' because that's what they hear."
She scored her biggest coup by buying 10 shares of stock in Time Warner (parent company of PEOPLE), the entertainment giant that co-owned one of the biggest gangsta rap labels, Interscope Records. At May's annual shareholders' meeting in New York City, Tucker, 67, delivered a blistering, 17-minute attack, calling the company "a conspirator in the denigration and destruction of the black community." Many in the audience—including board member Henry Luce III, son of TIME's founder—broke into applause. But the real mark of Tucker's success came in September, when Time Warner announced it would sell off its 50-percent share of Interscope. (The label has sued her in response.)
Some would call it a symbolic victory only: Interscope is still in business, and there has been no noticeable softening of rap lyrics. Yet Tucker, formerly Pennsylvania secretary of state and now chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women in Washington, remains resolute. "I will die," she says, "before I let rap poison our children's minds."