(The couch is in the picture I just took with a random UMD student on it lol.)
In 2002, I was laying on a couch in the Student Union at the University of Maryland, College Park when security told me I had to get off the couch and leave the building. They thought I was homeless. I was dressed bummy, but that shouldn’t matter. I showed them my UMD ID and they still asked me to leave. I said no. A group of College Park’s finest police officers proceeded to show up and asked me to leave in a not so nice manner. I’m not going to lie. I flexed and I told them my dad worked in the World Bank and I knew lawyers and politicians and friends in high places but that didn’t matter. I was Black. I told them I was leaving and they may have won the battle but we were going to win the war. I was going to destroy racists like them.
That was a minor incident, the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back. Being Black in this country is quite an experience. I’m reminded of Coates’ book “Between the World and Me” whenever I try to narrate it. I’ve been insulted, handcuffed and detained for no reason other than being Black and those police officers’ own particular programming and self-hatred at the moment, countless times. Police are a major vehicle through which this racist process in America is exerted but they are only part of the problem. Racism in America truly is systematic. The weight of oppression is heavy. Sometimes the hatred is as present and as invisible as the air. Avoiding the pitfalls of the prison industrial complex is a daily activity for all of us African Americans, even those, like myself, living on the right side of the law because, unfortunately, it is possible for us Blacks to get locked up for virtually nothing where a white person would skate free.
Sometimes, it takes all the strength in me not to break down and collapse. I desperately want to be treated equally and see my people liberated from this matrix. But as father says, “Just focus on your goals. Thinking about it will only bring you down.” So, I focus. But, despite Pop’s own advice, I think he would be proud if I used some constructive energy to dismantle the system trying to hold me back. So, I soldier on. Besides, what if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Huey Newton, etc, decided to just not think about it. I don’t think I would even have the right to be typing on this MacBook.
I just passed by the couch where that incident happened for the first time in a long time. I can’t help but laugh to myself about all that’s transpired in my life since then. God is great. Life is good. But, it could better. And it’s my goal to make it so for all of us, in my own little ways. Like the song by Mos Def that just played on my MacBook a little while ago. “Umi said shine your light on the world.” That’s the song that’s been playing on repeat in my heart since my mom died in 2003. And, that’s what I most certainly plan to do.
Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality and injustice caused a whole league to take a stand after President Trump called him and others like him “SOBs” and told America not to watch the game.
But what were the NFL owners standing, kneeling and locking arms with players on the sidelines for in reality? Let’s get one thing clear; The owners didn’t protest to support Kaepernick. If they were truly in support of Kaepernick’s protest, he would have a job right now instead of suing the NFL for collusion. The locking of arms was purely a publicity stunt to curry favor from fans and keep them watching. The league can blacklist Kaepernick but God forbid they lose ratings.
Players and owners locking arms to protest Trump’s statements and support “free speech” was purely political. The semblance of the league being unified was just that. It was a carefully orchestrated optical illusion. In fact, the only thing NFL owners were actually unified about is keeping Kaepernick out of the NFL. Even the players were not unified. You may have seen Pittsburgh Steelers player, Alejandro Villanueva, who came out of the tunnel by himself, raised his hand to his chest and stood for the national anthem while the rest of his team stayed in the locker room. Consequently, Villanueva’s was the highest selling jersey in the NFL after the incident.
As you may have seen recently, teams around the NBA, and even in the WNBA, locked arms during the national anthem in protest. The NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver made a statement saying he expected every player to stand during the anthem. And the players didn’t seem to be against that. No one has knelt down so far. The league’s star, Lebron James, said he would rather help the African American community off the court through charity work and civil action than on the court symbolically. As long as he follows through, that would be an admirable response.
Let’s get real, the whole reason these protests started was by Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality after he was shaken by yet another black man being murdered by police with no justice. It’s a scary thought that a police officer could arbitrarily kill me and not see a day in jail. His impulse to speak out is one that I understand. That’s why I do my radio show Pop Culture Revolution and part of why I started this blog. We need to raise awareness of this racist oppressive system in the USA.
After the election of President Barack Obama, some people actually believed we lived in a post racial society, or, at least, stated as such. Anyone with the slightest amount of cultural awareness could see through that. The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent public reaction, including the rise of overt racism across the country, totally disproved that.
To say that Kaepernick disrespected the flag or ruined America’s time honored tradition of football and take his kneeling down out of its cultural context would miss the point entirely. Kaepernick took a knee during a moment of solemnity reserved for celebrating our country to remind the country that it still has some work to do. America has always been racist, literally since its inception. Some say the NFL is modern day slavery, which I believe is a stretch. There are parallels: owners owning players’ bodies, the draft, the practice field as a plantation and the rules limiting freedom of expression, etc. The narrative almost fits, except that NFL players get paid huge salaries and fame and joining the league is a choice.
When referring to modern day slavery in the US, I would point out the Prison Industrial Complex as an example. Through this racist and oppressive system, Black and Brown people are arrested, often on minor offenses, and offered deals with mandatory minimums that have been inflated due to their race. Once in jail, these new slaves are put to work making things like pots, pans, license plates and furniture, etc, for below minimum wage. These prisons are privately owned or sometimes even traded on the stock market. Therefore, “correctional facilities” have an incentive to have more inmates. Prison labor replaced slave labor almost immediately after slavery was abolished. The 13th amendment, ratified in 1789, made slavery legal if it was the punishment for a crime. Further down the line, President Nixon’s “law and order” platform, President Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and President Clinton’s “3 Strikes” law, in addition to other policies, led to the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people working as slaves. Aside from police brutality, the Prison Industrial Complex is another thing we need to bring awareness to.
Add the School to Prison Pipeline, which is related to the deplorable conditions of inner city schools, gentrification, predatory home loans, the fact that it’s harder for Blacks to get business loans, Blacks’ characterization by the media and just the general oppression, unfairness, injustice and mistreatment, etc faced by African Americans in the good old boy US of A and there’s a lot that needs to change.
So, all of you angry people in America, who are upset that Kaepernick ruined your precious minute long national anthem, excuse me if I don’t care because African Americans’ experience in this country has been more than ruined for hundreds of years. Words that come to mind are dehumanized, traumatized, abused, raped, mutilated, murdered, assaulted and robbed when describing the Black experience in America.
We were robbed of the most precious thing of all: the knowledge of who we are, which is kings and queens of the continent with the most natural resources of all, Africa, the Motherland, and as its people we are its greatest resource. Our value could never be quantified on a slave auction block, although they tried. We are not Blacks. That is a construction. We hail from Africa. Each African is worth more than the most precious Sierra Leone diamond and the purest gold from Ghana. The African soul stretches back to the beginning of time to the depths of the universe. Everything is contained within us and nothing exists without us. The power intrinsic to our being is that of the mighty lion or a deity. The hips, thighs, breasts and womb of our women give life to us all and nurtured civilization. We are the original Hebrews of the Bible, the chosen people, with Bronze skin and hair like wool like the God, Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s why they hated us. They hated him too. And they hate us still.
So keep kneeling Kaepernick, even if it’s only metaphorically while you’re out of the league. I’m kneeling with you in spirit. I’m boycotting the NFL until you’re back on a roster. And, if anyone catches me at an NBA game, during the national anthem, I’ll be sitting down until America finally stands up for the Africans it stole. They beat us but they did not break us. All will be set right in the end.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WAS BUILT ON A LIE. “Liberty and justice for all” does not apply to all of us. Even the name “United” States is a fallacy. Quite literally, we are a nation divided and we always have been. Although Civil Rights progress appears to have been made on the surface, in reality, America continues to enslave African Americans through the prison industrial complex. America continues to oppress African Americans in ways that we all allow. It’s still more difficult for Blacks to get jobs, business loans and flat out fair treatment in all areas of American life. Some people are true believers in the American ethos, brainwashed by corporate sponsored media and sold out politicians. America is the land of capitalism and is motivated by the dollar, a mere currency representation that has garnered far too much power. Old rich racist White men, who maintain their power as a legacy of slavery, will resort to anything to keep that power. Lying, cheating and stealing are all fair game. So is killing, as we’ve seen in all the recent police shooting videos. Black lives do not matter and Blacks are not safe. Blacks continue to have the highest poverty rate. The question is “how do we fix this?” The answer is not easy or simple because NO ONE IS GOING TO FIX IT EXCEPT YOU. Unplugging those of us that are lost from the Matrix is going to take a concerted effort by all of us. There is tyranny by the majority in the US and it will take every single good soul to fight back. At this point tacit approval, sitting idly by or apathy is tantamount to tyranny. Upending this unjust American system and exposing it for the lie it truly is will take a revolution, thus my radio show POP CULTURE REVOLUTION, our small contribution to the movement. We aim to at least start discussions and raise awareness. Hopefully, with your help, we can build on this show and help create an America that finally lives up to its ideals, in reality.
For diversity’s sake, artists can only appear once.
1. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
2. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
3. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
4. Nas – Illmatic
5. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
6. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me
7. Common – Be
8. Mobb Deep – The Infamous
9. The Roots – How I Got Over
10. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Honorable mention (in no particular order):
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Scarface – The Fix
Kanye West – Graduation
AZ – Doe or Die
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Wu Tang Clan – Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele
Big Pun – Capital Punishment
If you disagree, I DON’T CARE.
Wigs and weaves are all the rage right now in Black women’s hairstyles. It’s to the point where if a Black woman wears her natural hair it’s considered to be making a statement. Pause. Hold up. How did this happen? What’s natural is now rebellious? That doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t Black women’s natural hair be widely accepted as beautiful?
The answer is simple: We’ve all been brainwashed. Since birth we’ve been bombarded with images of women on TV and in magazines with straight hair validating their beauty. Within the Black community straight hair is considered to be “good hair.” This dates back to slavery times when enslaved Blacks were trying to assimilate and appease master.
It’s time we go back to the future to long before slavery in the USA, back to when we were Kings and Queens on the Motherland, before our minds were polluted with slave master propaganda. It was a much simpler time back then. Our daughters went to get water from the well. Fathers worked the land and reaped what they sowed. Sons worked with their fathers and played with their brothers and cousins. Mothers reared beautiful children and cooked in the kitchen. And, all of our hair were beautifully nappy, curly and free. We weren’t ashamed of it. We weren’t judged for it. Being natural was so natural, there wasn’t a second thought to African natural hair’s intrinsic beauty.
I’m not saying that women need to be relegated to the kitchen. That’s not the point. The point is we need to reset and deprogram ourselves. Look in the mirror my beautiful Black sister. Know you are an African Queen. And, love yourself for all your natural beauty.
Hip-Hop is a rebel yell from the soul. It came from the Bronx, which was literally on fire back in the 70’s with slumlords burning their buildings for insurance money after the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway dropped property values. People were poor and suffering. They needed an outlet. So they raged.
Hip-Hop rages against the machine. It fights against the system and definitely shouts, “Fuck the police!” Hip-Hop is a haven for the youth and a way out for those desperately searching for one. Hip-Hop is the essence of speaking things into existence. We started with a trap house and now we’re living in a mansion.
Hip-Hop is real. It comes from a place of truth. It comes from the heart. Home is where the heart is and, in hip-hop, where you’re from means everything. Whether you’re from its birthplace in the fiery Bronx, the suburbs of Washington, DC or a trailer park in Alabama, you’ve got to rep your hood.
Hip-Hop is the never ending party and the after party at that. It’s Saturday night at the hottest club with the hottest celebs or a sweat box house party where girls in tight jeans, drinks, smoke and a dope underground DJ are salvation. It’s that moment where the MC drops the music and the whole stadium raps along a capella to his or her hit song.
Hip-Hop is most definitely BARS and dope beats, battles and beef. It’s graffiti on a subway train or breakdancing on cardboard. It’s cutting and scratching on Technics and beat boxing and rapping in the streets.
Hip-Hop is snapbacks and tattoos and fitteds and jerseys. It’s Levi’s and white tees or Yves Saint Lauren and Louis V. It’s sagging your ripped jeans just to show off your Gucci belt or wearing a crisp pair of 501’s around your waist just to keep it thorough. Hip-Hop is anything, as long as it’s authentically you.
Hip-Hop is all of the above and so much more. But, above all, it is the voice of the unheard.
One thing hip-hop most definitely is not is Pop. Hip-Hop may be a global phenomenon but, at its core, it will always be DJ Kool Herc yelling over break beats at a house party to pay the rent like that first house party back in the 70’s when the Bronx was on fire.
After President Trump attempted to equalize the White supremacist protesters and counter protestors with his words in the now famous vehicular homicide at the protests in Charlottesville, VA, I was perplexed and somewhat amused by different people’s reactions.
I was disappointed by Trump’s comments that he made from the lobby of Trump Tower but not shocked. It’s as if some people forgot that America was founded on racism and that racism is still very strong in America institutionally and socially.
Racism was written into the constitution (Blacks were 3/5 a person) and the brutal chattel slavery of Blacks was legal. The first President George Washington was a racist and upheld slavery and so did President Thomas Jefferson. So, Trump was right about one thing; If we took down the Robert E. Lee statue, we would have to take theirs down too.
As a matter of fact I would argue that all presidents were racist, even up to recent times. President Reagan was a raging racist who introduced drugs into inner cities to destroy the Black community. President Clinton locked up more Black men than anyone with his legislation with laws like “3 Strikes.” We saw how President Bush Jr. handled the Hurricane Katrina situation. President Obama might be the only exception. But, after all, he’s Black. But even he could have done more for the African-American community. And, yes, I understand he faced considerable resistance, but, I digress.
People are acting so shocked that there is a White supremacist leading the White House when there has ALWAYS been one there. Our public leaders and some of our citizens just know how to hide their racism for fear of condemnation due to our hard fought civil rights progress.
America is a racist country. There’s no two ways about it. This country was founded and built on racism. It’s about time we began dismantling this physical abstraction. It is long overdue that we build a new America that lives up to its credo of liberty and justice for all. We should be living up to morals of loving one’s neighbor as we love ourselves. We should be a land where a man is “not judged by the color of his skin but by the content of his character,” as the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said. These racist monuments are not just an eyesore, to some. To many, they are a painful reminder of promises unfulfilled and so much wrong done. As long as these monuments stand, people will stand for racism in America. So, when it comes to tearing down statues of racist confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee and racist presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, I say tear them down. Tear them all down. And let’s build a new America where there is true equality.