by Kalyana Champlain
Peltier and Mumia are still locked up -Have we all just forgotton? Truss that this aint all about hip hop. by k.champlain
KINGSTON, RI - On September 25th, I had the pleasure of speaking with over 60 college students on Hip Hop as a political tool. Passionately I reflected on Grandmaster Flash and the furious five’s the Message, Chuck D and Public Enemy’s cry to let us know we couldn’t truss it, KRS-ONE’s Stop the Violence movement, Queen Latifah’s declaration that Ladies were first, and the more current tools of hip hop being used to explore everything from the war in Iraq to Katrina, and immortal techniques attempt to use his music to help carry the words of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal (unjustly imprisoned for allegedly murdering a police officer). I talked about the urgency of hip hop back in its golden age. The time of black on black crime, and police brutality. The time of crack cocaine and the establishment of laws that helped to incarcerate black people one by one. I mentioned the school systems that treated those of color with hostility through their lack of resources and disheveled environments. I talked about the homes destroyed by “Urban Renewal” and the displacement of Latinos and African American people. But most importantly I talked about how hip hop was the voice for this all. Many walked away giving up mad props…but it was the comment of one young man that left me wondering-Have we all just forgotten?
He came up to me after the presentation and asked me to sign a paper that proved he had been there (come on – you don’t think ALL of them VOLUNTARILY showed up). While signing I asked him what he thought of it. He paused, as if he was afraid to speak his mind. So I tried to coax him, “Come on man, don’t be nervous; I need to know to make it BETTER.” And that is when he said, “It is just hard to get into it or wrap my head around it. I mean it’s not what I listen to. I listen to hip hop, but like lil wayne and stuff. I mean I listen to some Nas. ..But this is just so different. It is not what I know.”
Ok I will give him points for Nas (and I don’t know what tracks of Nas he is listening to that did not prep him for the political), but Lil Wayne as HIP HOP?
Sorry- I digress.
The point is that this tool that was once so powerful (and still is) for bringing word, sound, power to manifest – for sparking that need to fight, has now become so co-opted that we have been reduced to hollow beats that keep the head nodding like a mindless droid – and for some of us beats that leave the soul aching, at least the soul that remembers…
Remembers times of a dope beat being accompanied by a message that made you have to get HIP (knowledgeable) and HOP up and do something as KRS one would say. But more broadly, it is the fear that there is a sentiment that we think there is nothing to really fight for – or that there is no fighting to do. I mean, have we become so brainwashed that we just let the government do what it wants, when it wants?
Last weekend, I rolled out with my new dread (homie)- I call him Iry one. Me and Iry went to peep a video entitled “Traces of the Slave trade,” a film about Rhode Island’s involvement in the Slave trade. It was about the discovery by a white woman named Katrina Browne who discovered that her ancestors, the DeWolf family, was involved in slave trafficking from Rhode Island (a state this still trying to act “clean of the slave trade” when it was responsible for like half of the slaves that came in – but that is another story for another day). This woman and several members of her family decided to courageously talk about that connection, and they did this in order to bring attention to the fact that slavery was long and deep institution in the north and that we have to own our past. They did this video (and went into debt in the process) to open up a new dialogue on slavery.
So me and Iry went to enter into the dialogue.
Not only were we 2 of the only 6 or 8 black people there out of about 25 people, but we were also probably 2 of the youngest. So I ask…What’s really goin’ on? Is it just that RI is wack (ok maybe), or is it the bigger phenomenon of complacency and that we have become out of touch with our past?
After the event I sat talking with Iry on the need for awareness and figuring out a greater way to connect the youth with history. Afterwards, he smiled and assured me that I was doing all I could do and it was “highly” (or “tha bomb”). He reminded me I was planting the seed and some are ready to bloom now, and some are not. I thanked him for this reminder, as my passion and determination often makes me forget. Then I returned home and began to read my book for my class on Social Movements. I had chosen Prison Writings: My life is my Sundance, by Leonard Peltier.
Peltier is a political prisoner wrongfully accused of murdering a federal agent, who has been locked up for about 25 years of his life. That got me thinking about a recent case I read about Troy Anthony Davis, a man on death row wrongfully accused for killing a cop (notice a theme yet?)… So I found his petition and signed and sent others a message to do the same. Then onto Mumia Abu Jamal,…and suddenly I was so caught up as I remembered that 3 of my own mentors who fought for me to practice the spiritual practice that I embrace now (Tsunesaboro Makiguchi, Josei toda, and Daisaku Ikeda), were also political prisoners fighting for what they believed so that I could live today (Makiguchi consequently died while in prison). And that got me thinking of how many have reduced MLK ( Martin Luther King) to a day in January and some honorable mentions in black history month with Malcolm, and Angela Davis and Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Parks, Chavez, Mandella, and the list goes on and on of those who fought for me to be here right here, right now….
I guess that I am just concerned with this next generation. It seems that they may get amnesia (or already have it). I am not a pessimist- I know that there are those fighting everyday- I see them, I am one of them-but I just don’t want us to forget that we need to teach the next ones that it is not over. Me and Iry had hella convo on the way up and back. Deep conversation about our indigenous links and the spirit and the power of the word. Conversation that included knowledge, questioning, laughter and respect, our concerns of now, hopes for the future, and the next ones coming along. And while I know that it is lofty for me to believe that everyone can have that type of conversation (or connection), I know that it is possible and that we CAN go deeper then many of us have been, and help others do the same.
Sometimes I write these blogs and wonder if anyone hears me and is paying attention. Am I just wasting time, energy, space? Should I just start writing some shit about gossip, fads, or just add to the shit talking already going on to get readership?
But that aint my style or mission.
Lets face it. I’d rather have 3 people read that can really feel my words and want to help change the world, than 300 that just like to be entertained. Other times I sit up late and wonder if I am making a difference. Hoping that I touched someone’s soul today in a way that no one had before- and if I did not that they at least found someone else who could. I wonder “Am I continuing the legacy of those who sacrificed before me? Do I really mean what I say and do? Am I sincere? If not, how can I become more so?” But mostly, lately, the battle within me has been to believe that I am doing right now all that I can do- and to fight the despondency and cynicism that sometimes creeps up my esophagus like a bile, so that I can stand strong and say that we do care and things are changing and EACH ONE will TEACH ONE. YES!
I guess this month my article turned into me emptying out my soul to you. But I just am begging you to get involved with something today, ANYTHING. Fight for a cause, know that things are not done. Mumia Abu Jamal is STILL locked up. Leonard Peltier as well (DESPITE the lack of evidence). Troy Anthony Davis in on death row for a crime he did not commit, facing execution this month. Women are being burned in India for not having their “marriage payment” met. Workers over seas (and here)are being exploited by stores like WALMART, and in some cases as slaves were back in the day. Global warming is happening at an alarming rate- a rate so rapid we have to care because if there is no PLANET there are no HUMAN RIGHTS to worry about. WE ARE NOT DONE. We cannot forget. Please. I beg of you. Do something today.
And, most of all, believe. Believe that even if out of 500 you only get 5 that you have done your job. Because those 5 will get the next 5,and they will get 5 more-and in case you forgot….
that is what can start a revolution.
AHO and Alafia (peace). Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all related). Its all Myo-ho (the mystic law that guides us all- including the yin and yang).
“One love, one heart, lets get together and feel alright”
Things to get you started:
- Troy Anthony Davis has until September 29th- sign petition today!
- Leonard Peltier- Allow him his last days of living free!
-Mumia Abu Jamal- Its WAY overdue
- Traces of the trade: Slavery in the deep North
- Fight against child labor exploitation overseas
- Fight Bride Burning in India
-Environment and Animal rights
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