Open Letter To Hip-Hop: Mike Brown, Dead Dreams and Death

Dear Hip-Hop,

I am going to share something with you that is incredibly embarrassing at this point in my life. And, revealing it, I know that I will probably be clowned, ridiculed, and maybe called names I don’t want to be called.

Once upon a time, I thought we would be able to kill racism in our lifetime. Let me explain. In my younger years, Hip-Hop looked and sounded a lot different. It was the soundtrack to our lives in some form or fashion. I gravitated to all of Hip-Hop (hence the site name), but I had a real love for the rap music that represented uplifting people – particularly Black people. My favorites were (and still are) Public Enemy, KRS-One & Boogie Down Productions, X-Clan and, among others, Lakim Shabazz and Poor Righteous Teachers. Then there were others like, say, N.W.A. or Rakim, that represented their unique brands of consciousness.

At that time, Young White America was seemingly on board, and the old guard hated us, doing whatever they could to prevent this movement. But, our youthful teen spirit was all that we needed. The dinosaurs were lingering from the ’60s and earlier – you know, the J. Edgar Hoover’s of the world. The sad reality is, there’s a new crop of Hoovers these days.

Mike Brown was shot dead in the street by a White man that came up during part of the same Hip-Hop era I was reared in. One might think, because of this exposure, that he possesses some cultural progression or advanced thinking. To the contrary, and to me personally, Wilson is just another cog in a gigantic, ever-churning machine that is hell-bent on treating people of color as if their lives are meaningless. So, my dreams about the death of racism actually died before the beast itself, and the scourge of racism only grows ever more beastly. I thought Hip-Hop could do it. In our heyday, we thought Hip-Hop was stronger than the beast, but it wasn’t. We were once the force of the youth, but that voice has since been hijacked and pumped back out as some beige, muted, apathetic, ignorant life form.

In its purest form, Hip-Hop represents the most dangerous genre and counter-culture to America’s racism. It speaks truth to power, it has a back against the wall – ready to fight back. And, at its best, it continues to be the voice of the voiceless. Still, we must contend with the plaguing issue of the vultures and outsiders who dictate what is relevant, what is hip, and what voices are worth listening to…another piece of the dream that has died.

The voices of new are dying, too.

There are many, many Hip-Hop heads out here that are unwavering truth-tellers, but they cannot get a fair shake in the world. Not even by their own people. The distractions are simply too great to overcome.

I know we want to accommodate everybody, but let’s keep it real for a moment. Rap music and Hip-Hop culture started out as an artistic expression of Black and Brown youth. It was unapologetically rebellious and inherently political as it rose through prominence in the muck of the Reaganomics during the cracked-out, AIDS infested ’80s. We were out there on our own. Then a few Blacks burst into the Middle Class and thought they had made it, not realizing it was all an illusion. Most of us didn’t make it, and those short term, feel good gains would be snatched back a couple of years later. Doesn’t this sound familiar to you, Hip-Hop? Isn’t this where we find ourselves again, some 20 years later? We have to keep the eye on the real prize and keep a foot on the gas. “All we got is us,” to quote Onyx.

Other groups of people have representation in government or authority working on their behalf. They have money, power, respect – “what you need in life.”. We represent trillions of dollars in buying power, contain fires raging within our collective psyches, and bear ownership to the most powerful, indigenous music form ever created…and yet we are seemingly powerless? We don’t even use what we already have at our disposal – simple weapons like the right to vote or to mobilize peacefully. Only a choice few will step up and protect Black Life, and yet. as an illustration, the majority 67% Black population in Ferguson is governed by a small minority of White constituents. So what are we to do?

We have to go back to the basics, augment some of the tactics, and bring them to the here and now.

Support the young leaders. I love and respect the Dream Defenders, the Lost Voices, Hands Up United, Black Lives Matter, and all the people down there working for Justice, Freedom, and Equality. These are real people, not faceless looters the media contorts into animals. Biko, Autumn, Ashley, Tef, Tory, Malik, Justin, The Brown family and more have faced bullets whizzing by, snipers on roofs, and a police force that isn’t really trying to keep the peace. In the end, they’re standing for the fact that Mike Brown was a real person, an unarmed boy. This is why I will never be convinced that Officer Darren Wilson was in the right for slaying him in the street the way he did. NEVER. I don’t care now many times you tweet me, you racist trolls.

I am also “sober” enough in reality now to gather that racism will never die either. When most dreams pass on, it is normally cause for mourning, but this time, I feel better. We continue the fight for progressive action and thoughts, but we also must look inward. Teach children about their worth. Take care of yourself and others. Buy from Black businesses and companies that respect your dollar. Support those that give back. Learn how to make your money work. Vote. Make a unified plan. Raise leaders. Become a leader.

The only way to attempt to end racism is to become the power. Today represents opportunity.

The death of Mike Brown almost broke my spirit, but I still have faith in the strength of Black people, who continue to survive despite having the worst conditions thrust upon them, century after century. My early dreams may have died, but I still believe you, Hip-Hop.

The time now is the do a gut check and ask ourselves:

Are we powerful or powerless?

Are we for people or “power”?

Are we lovers or haters of self?

Are we soldiers and protectors for our families and communities?

Are we able to formulate a plan of action?

Or, do we even give a damn?

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