By Davey D
“For the past 40 years we had heard especially among African Americans that we shall overcome.
The problem was we never quite knew what over coming was nor did we know what overcoming looked like…No one set a date for the overcoming or had an itinerary for the overcoming of…”
These were the opening statements put forth by Atlanta rap star Killer Mike during the artists panel at last month’s ozone awards in Houston.
He was responding to a question I had posed which was; ‘What role do you and other Hip Hop artists see yourself playing in this year’s elections?’
Killer Mike added that he was encouraged to see the excitement around Obama’s campaign and that for many people, the possibility of him getting into the white house was an indication that the ‘overcoming’ was finally here.
We should be proud of Obama who came up from humble beginnings and like so many of us within Hip Hop and so many of our parents who struggled, he managed to make a way out of no way. However, Killer Mike cautioned that there’s much more work to be done.
In spite of all the Pro-Obama songs and videos from everyone ranging from Nas to Ludacris and in spite of all the Obama fashion wear which at times seems more numerous than Fubu or Sean Jean, Barack Obama will not get into the White House unless we follow through and actually go out and elect him.
It’s Killer Mike’s words of wisdom that I cite when asked the proverbial 64 thousand dollar questions surrounding Obama.. ‘Do you think Barack can win?’ ‘What’s happened to his campaign? ‘Have you seen the latest polls? Why is Obama losing?’ I’ve been getting hit with these types of questions ever since John McCain picked his running mate Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin.
Obama supporters have been dismayed that their guy is no longer the lead story in the news every night and even when he is, he’s somehow depicted as yesterday’s news. There are many who find it hard to believe that just three weeks ago Obama was the man of the hour, blowing up the spot when he gave his acceptance speech before a whooping 80 thousand people at Denver’s Invesco field while 38 million watched on TV.
Nowadays it’s been Sarah Palin who is sparking off all the excitement and garnering favorable news coverage. It’s gotten to the point that sometimes you forget that Obama is really running against John McCain and not her.
Maybe it’s her good looks. Maybe it’s because she’s a mother. Maybe it’s because she’s from Alaska and goes moose hunting.. Whatever the case, I knew she was gonna be a problem when I was standing on the floor of the Republican Convention in St Paul and she came out and basically got her clown game on when talking about Obama.
Her zingers about him needing to take his styrofoam coliseum pillars back to the elite Hollywood backlot he got them from (referring to Obama’s stage set during his acceptance speech) and him being ‘nothing but a community organizer‘ was met with tremendous applause. It wasn’t so much that the lines were over the top funny. I just got the sense that the crowd felt good because she was basically sending a strong signal that was putting this uppity elite sounding Harvard Law school graduate ‘Negroe’ back in his place.
With her Minnesotan/Canadian sounding accent, folksy demeanor and Tina Fey like looks it was interesting to see this relatively unknown woman immediately connect and become a household name right before my eyes.. When she was done I saw all these women wiping tears from their eyes, cheering enthusiastically yelling; ‘Sarah Sarah Sarah’. I kept hearing the guys around me talking about how cool she is and how hot she looked. The whole naughty librarian thing was working to the point that I kept thinking perhaps she was brought on to make McCain look like a winner amongst middle America males and get them excited about his campaign. The bottom line is that night the so called ‘Wal-Mart’ crowd, Evangelicals and soccer moms who have now morphed into ‘hockey moms’ had found their heroine in Sarah Palin and these were the people that the Obama forces would have to worry about now that we are in the home stretch of this election.
The Challenge-Who’s Supporters Will Grind Harder?
Reflecting back on Killer Mike’s words; ‘Barack Obama will not get into the White House unless we follow through and actually go out and elect him’, is what I kept thinking the night Sarah Palin spoke. The crowds that she ignited are the type to go home and get their grind on. They’re the types to get up on Saturday morning at 6 am and start registering people. They’re truly ’bout it bout it’ and have a proven track record of showing up doing the heavy lifting and turning out to the polls year after year, rain or shine.
Now don’t get me wrong Obama has large numbers of sharp dedicated ‘community organizing’ types who have put in serious work. In fact with the record number of people they have registered and turned out to the primaries, many have argued that they have completed redefined and re-wrote the rules for election campaigns. But those folks aren’t the problem.
The challenge his campaign will have is connecting with and motivating the folks who are prematurely celebrating. These are the folks both young and old who like to run around sporting Obama/Martin Luther King t-shirts talking about ‘The Dream’ but they haven’t taken one step to turn that dream into a reality.
These are the folks who like to sit up in church and brag about how Obama is making history, but they themselves haven’t made any moves to ensure that history. They’re not volunteering at the phone banks, they not working with or putting together voter registration drives even at their church. They’re not even working with folks to make sure no craziness goes on at the polls and votes don’t get stolen during election day.
These are the folks who are over the initial the hype surrounding the campaign during the primaries and as outrageous as it sounds actually believe Obama has already won. There’s quite a few folks who think this whole thing is a wrap and there’s no need to get amped up again.
These are the folks who belong to fraternities, sororities, the links, the elks and other social and civic organizations who are the vangarde of the community. They will paint the town red and show off their colors during a convention, step show, party or other gathering but are seemingly invisible during the campaign. These are the folks who will have their pledges show up at an event and do some sort of elaborate step drills at an Obama event where they talk in unison how they are men of honor and represent the community, but not one of those pledges or the people pledging them have gone off their campus and into the hood to register and help educate voters. (Y’all know who you are..no need to put you on blast-just step your game up) Why not make registering a few thousand folks a re requirement for membership?
These are the folks with resources, that include well off businessmen, athletes, rappers and others who we see at all the spots balling out of control, flashing their jewelry and wearing an Obama t-shirt but won’t even take Texas rapper Bun B up on his challenge to put their money where their mouth is. Bun who attended the DNC on his own dime noted that he made commitment to show up at these types of political gathering so he could go back and let his fan base and constituents know what’s happening and if given a chance he could advocate on their behalf.
When I interviewed Bun, he talked about pushing these folks to come up with some comprehensive immigration reform. He talked about how many of the Latino fans who listen to UGK aren’t in favor of the wall they have along the Texas border and that there needs to be path for citizenship. He also went on to encourage his colleagues in the entertainment industry to take some of their money and rent buses and use their celebrity to get on those buses and make sure people show up at the polls.
These are the culture vultures we used to hear our elders talk about.
These are the folks who during the hey days of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights era weren’t really riding with him. They thought he was too radical at time and kicking up way too much dust. They didn’t like the fact that he was rattling feathers. But 20 or 30 years after his death some of these very same people who opposed him are now running around claiming they actually marched with him and have been reaping all the social and politic benefits of his struggle. We’ve heard similar stories about those who were ardent opponents but opposed but 20 years after the fact now love the Black Panthers.
Killer Mike referenced these types of people in his remarks at the Ozone Awards when he noted that it was people in that room who got behind Obama early on and started making songs and videos for him.
He noted that many of older folks were hating and saying he wasn’t Black enough are now on board, but will they step up and do the work that’s needed?
It’s not enough to wear an Obama t-shirt or even show up to one of his speeches if all you do is leave and not put in any work, but sadly I caught glimpses of that in Denver where way too many people turned the DNC into a ‘Party and Bullshit‘ occasion and not a place to seriously think about and change the balance of power. And I’m not just talking about blindly working for and following the Democrats inlockstep, I’m talking about really grabbling with what role you as an individual or organization will play over the next 5, 10, 20 years in the reshaping of this country no matter what party your riding for…
This is About Power-Hip Hop Don’t Get Knocked Out
Four years ago right after the John Kerry‘s defeat, fellow journalist Adisa Banjoko wrote a stinging and sobering essay titled ‘Welcome to Politics Hip Hop: U Got Knocked The F!@ Out’.
At the time it seemed like he was hating and jumping on the bandwagon with all those TV pundits who where sarcastically asking ‘Where was the Youth vote?’ They were referring to P-Diddy‘s highly publicized ‘Vote or Die‘ campaign. The truth of the matter is that the youth vote did show up, The goal was 20 million and 21 million showed up and wound up being the only demographic to vote in the majority for Kerry. However, unlike the gleeful pundits who really didn’t wanna see success from the Hip Hop generation, Adisa was speaking to a larger issue of how we engage power and more importantly how we see ourselves in the struggle for power. He wanted people to understand that some cute slogans and a few concerts was not going to get the job done.
Maybe now people will understand that Hip Hop alone- will NOT save America. It won’t save the world. But it can be an effective organizing tool for those with a STRATEGY…..Oh no!!! Not the S word!!! Yes y’all, say it with me- STRATEGY. It’s defined as “The science and art of using all of the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during times of peace or war.
” But see, our so-called “Hip Hop nation” had no strategy!!!!
Adisa, a trained martial artist went on to talk about how we should take ourselves seriously enough to develop a game plan and not enter into no arena especially the political arena half cocked and ill prepared. This is serious business and folks on the other side-like all those people at the RNC who were laughing and cheering to the undercutting and oftentimes racially tinged remarks of Sarah Palin, Rudy Giulini, John McCain and others are really truly about snapping necks.
In the 2004 article he wrote;
“The Republicans were OLD SCHOOLERS in this arena and they had a SOLID strategy. If you don’t have respect for Karl Rove, or if you don’t know who he is- get familiar. Yes, Bush himself, is not that smart. But his team is RAW. His team has money and his team does their homework. After they do their homework they do extra credit. That’s why they won. To win we will have to do better.
Now in many ways we have done better. The success of the Obama campaign is not due to him sitting in a room by himself coming up with all the plays. A significant part has been us. All the new media stuff and blogging and innovative social networking strategies that have brought people out has been us. We’ve also seen people in our generation step up their political game by actually running for office.
Shout to Kevin Powell who boldly ran against Ed towns a 26 year incumbent in Brooklyn. Kevin lost a hard fought battle but has already announced and started laying down groundwork to run again.
Shoutout to 32 year old Rev Markil Hutchins outof Atlanta.
earlier this year he took on Civil Rights icon John Lewis and although he lost he shook things up and forced the longtime Congressman to switch his allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Obama. That was one of the key points Hutchins challenged him on. But as we head into the home stretch we still have challenges and have to put down our collective shoulder and grind even more.
Folks from our community are already starting to build a base outside of the Democratic Party which they feel takes us for granted and doesn’t adequately address our key issues.
You have Hip Hop activists like Jared Ball who ran in the primaries for President under the Green Party ticket He dropped out to support Cynthia McKinney who is also running.
We have Cynthia’s running mate Rosa Clemente who is a longtime fixture in the Hip Hop scene. Clemente talks about the importance of reaching out to the millions of people who are not registered, finding out their concerns and working to build a solid base that will last for years to come.
Also in the Green Party fold we have longtime Hip Hop activist Kalil Jacobs-Fantauzzi who recently announced he is running for Mayor in the city of Berkeley, california. Like Clemente he is determined to build a base and while he is running for mayor this election cycle his goals are long term. It’s about reaching out to those who have yet to be engaged.
Reaching Out to Those Who Are Not Engaged
For those who don’t know here’s what’s on the table. We still have large numbers of people who simply have not registered in spite of the record turnout. There are some reports that are showing that only 1 out 14 are registered who are Black and Brown and not college educated. In a place like Houston over a million people aren’t registered with an estimated 500 thousand being from our hoods and barrios. It’s been noted the one of the reasons Texas has been a stronghold for Bush and those who like to support his right wing Red state of mind, is because those 500 thousand people simply stay home on election day.
Currently there is a plan underway involving all sorts of members of Texas’ Hip Hop community to change the situation. The case they are making is that its not just about putting Obama in the White House, but instead its about getting rid of the local politicians, district attorneys, sheriffs etc who have been wrecking havoc on their day to day lives.
In Houston many of those folks have been down with the GOP.
Folks are still suffering from the shady dealings of former House majority leader Tom Delay who who while in power came up with some scandulous redistricting scheme that resulted in Black and Brown communities losing significant influence and the GOP gaining several new seats in Congress. Folks are hard at work to correct that legacy and put to rest the horrid legacy of Bush and his Boys.
Determining who will rep you in Congress or on the City Council may be the deciding factor as to whether or not you get pushed out of your neighborhood by some fat cat who wants to build a new condo that you and your folks can’t afford.
Determining who is on the school board maybe what ultimately results in your kids being taught lessons that are relevant to their lives as opposed to getting a rehashing of how George Washington cut down a cherry tree.
Weighing in on the district attorney race may get you someone who is trying to fight real crime and not some fool who trying to make apolitical name for himself by persecuting everyone over the most minor and non violent offenses.
How this may ultimately connects to Obama’s campaign is at the very least he can hopefully set a tone that supports the voting directions of the people on local level. If he or any nationally elected official sees that there is significant political influence being enacted locally, it may move them in that direction.
Ideally it maybe reflected when he goes to appoint the 2-3 Supreme Court judges who will sit on the bench for life.
Perhaps we can get someone in there who won’t be hating on every move we make like Clarence Thomas or Anthony Scalia.
When we go to the Supreme Court and wanna overturn some Draconian drug law or push back on some rich developer who wants to use eminent domain to take over our property or use the courts to put some constraints on out of control police, we’d have a more receptive ear with judges appointed by Obama versus John McCain. It’s not just the Supreme court, but its all the federal court judges who get appointed under a particular president that will impact our lives positively or negatively for the next 30 years. We won’t even get into what McCain and his people have in store for Roe vs Wade.-They wanna get rid of it. And they wanna privatize social security.
Here’s the bottom line to all this…Mississippi rap star David Banner said it best when I ran into him at the Ozone Awards. He emphatically warned us to not make Barack Obama the savior. He said if he gets into office fine, but either way the climate in this country is such that we will have to work hard. We have to look out for one another and be responsible for one another. The predicament that Banner and others found themselves after Hurricane Katrina underscored those assertions. He said an Obama presidency will put an end to any excuse one may wanna have for not doing the things within our reach. His success will mean that no one will give us a pass so folks have got to get ready. We gotta get ready to elect and we gotta get ready to hold him accountable and we gotta get ready to take the necessary steps to set forth our own political future and get power. Simply put-This is not a game, this is not a joke, there won’t be no time to be dancing in the streets-This is real. We are past the age of being cute and innocent time to stand up and TAKE our seat at the table.
Just so you know, this is why you wanna pay attention to whats going on. This man’s views were typical of the of what we encountered while at the Republican National Convention..