This week I watched the new documentary film, “” by Eugene Jarecki, that highlights the impact that the War on Drugs has had on economically marginalized communities. Although I was thoroughly impressed with the film, it is not the only documentary out there that has dealt with this issue. The documentary “Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and The Crack Generation” by Ice-T is another powerful film that has also examined this topic.
The New Jim Crow, a term coined by legal scholar Michelle Alexander, describes the oppressive segregation that has resulted from the war on drugs, mandatory minimum sentences and the continued criminalization of African-American communities. This film features Hip Hop legends such as Chuck D, Rakim, Raekwon, RZA, Pepa, Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg), Too Short, B-Real and others. A number of leading scholars contribute to the film such as, Michelle Alexander, Todd Boyd, Paul Butler, Nelson George and more. There is also powerful commentary from two former drug dealers, “Freeway” Rick Ross and Azie Faison along with stories from individuals, who experienced crack cocaine addiction themselves. Planet Rock weaves all of these stories together through the lens of Hip Hop, the urban American phenomenon that emerged in the South Bronx in the 1970s.
The film highlights how Hip Hop has responded to the War on Drugs and the introduction of crack cocaine into our communities. The film discusses the Hip Hop community pre-crack cocaine, the influence of the film “Scarface“, the efforts of Hip Hop to combat crack addiction and economic realities that pushed many into the drug trade. This film definitely tells a sobering and nuanced story that will help us all realize the tremendous devastation that crack and the war on drugs have had on our community. We need to continue to raise awareness and encourage action to combat the New Jim Crow, the most pressing civil rights issue in our nation today. Let’s share, comment, connect and keep building!
Proper Education Always Corrects Errors
Tonight I had the fortune of watching a documentary about one of, if not the most, significant issue facing our society here in this “Land of the Free”. The title of the documentary I am referring to is “The House I Live In” by Eugene Jarecki which based solely upon the cast and executive producers makes it a most see for every citizen of this nation and any concerned world citizen. The films executive producers are Danny Glover, John Legend and Russel Simmons, none of whom are featured in the film. The documentary includes candid contributions by many people most notably, Michelle Alexander, William Julius Wilson, Charles Ogletree, and David Simon to name a few. The film also covers the story of many people within the periphery of our society, individuals actively involved in the drug trade, those who have been victimized by the War on Drugs and mass incarceration and those fighting against the War on Drugs, many of whom are behind the shield, gavel or prison walls and know first hand the cruel and unjust human cost that this war is inflicting upon the masses from historically oppressed communities.
It needs not be a secret or an obscure reality that the War on Drugs, most recognizably instituted and enacted by the Nixon and Reagan administrations, has resulted in both a de facto (matter of fact) and a de jure (law based) system of racial and class oppression that is destroying the fabric of urban and rural America.
This film outlines the political, social/cultural, racist, classist and economic histories of the War on Drugs in great detail, providing viewers with a deeper understanding of the realities on the ground in our society. This film sheds light on why we as a society are so blindly complicit with millions of humans being systematically oppressed by the legal machinery that has effectively instituted a New Jim Crow in this third the beginning of the millennium of the Common Era.
For all lovers of justice, humanity, peace and good conscious, this is a must see film. The scholars in this film are top notch and the narratives of those beyond the margins and enforcing the margins are tremendously honest and shockingly vivid. If after watching this film, you are not better informed and motivated to take action no matter how seemingly infinitesimal, than you are existing a life on the wrong side of truth and history.
I am encouraging everyone to see this film, disseminate its message and take interest and action to rectify this inexcusable and intolerable injustice. Lastly, I would ask that you move forward in life with a greater sense of purpose and passion for ending mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and the criminalization of economically disadvantaged communities. As one of the documentary’s contributors eloquently stated, “you don’t treat pneumonia by treating the cough,” but you treat the actual inflammation of the lungs, which is causing the coughing. I have also heard it explained that throwing police and prison at the drug problem in the United States is akin to throwing ambulances at cancer. This is in effect what has been going on in the United States since the 1970s and the resulting crisis in African American, Latino and rural communities has been no less problematic than cancer and arguably worse. The solutions to the United States’ drug problem do not lie in the criminal justice system as we currently know it but rather lies in abolishing and amending current legal codes related to the sale of narcotics. The cure also lies in truly recognizing the humanity of marginalized communities and individuals by creating dynamic educational programs that empower members of these communities to know the historical narratives at play in their lives and realities and provide them with tangible access to livable and gainful employment. I do not have all of the answers but I am willing to think on possible solutions, share my ideas, dialogue and connect with others committed to this “the most pressing civil rights issues” of our time.
Below is a trailer for the film and a link to its website that has information about where the film is begin shown. I want to thank the creators and cast members of this film for there service and for raising awareness regarding the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. I am a fan of the Maya Angelou quote that, “when you know better, you do better.” I trust that this film will result in us all collectively DOING better.
Proper Education Always Corrects Errors
Article Written by Christopher Emdin
The first day I heard about the mass shooting of Sikh worshippers in Wisconsin I was moved to write a piece detailing the range of emotions I felt as the details of the shooting emerged. As reports described the religious background of the worshippers, the history of the gunman and the callous way that innocent lives were taken, I felt as though the event would raise the ire of the public. I thought the shooting would invoke an awareness of the connections between this event and others across the country where lives have been lost for no justifiable reason.
However, it’s been over two weeks since the Sikh shooting in Wisconsin and the coverage of the story has quickly vanished from the general media rotation and the event seems to have been erased from our national consciousness. While many sympathize with the victims and their families, they justify their lack of emotion with the idea that the shooting was merely the act of a lone crazed gunman. Unfortunately, this general perception is flawed.
We live in a nation that prides itself on being inclusive to all. However, at the same time, we tout slogans and belief systems about the “American way” and “American dream” that is anything but inclusive. Our history tells us that people from across the globe who come to the United States have changed their names, are forced to lose their accents, others deny where they’re from, some change the way they dress. For many, this process has been a formula for success; America has been inclusive to them because they have chosen to conform.
Images Courtesy of TurbanInc – Get Your Turban On
On Friday, August 17th of 2012, as I watched my Twitter timeline, my eyes were drawn to a tweet by Bakari Kitwana (@therealbakari) that read, “we spend 2 much time in mainstream national discourse letting racists define what racism is. those who know, call it what it is #noapologies.” Mr. Kitwana prefaced and followed this tweet up with a number of links to a recent MSNBC political discussion regarding controversial comments made by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney’s comments and the ensuing discussion can be viewed here.
MSNBC contributor, Touré, of post racialism fame, and co-host S.E. Cull, engaged in a brief, heated and racially charged debate. Mitt Romney’s comments that were called into question are as follows, “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like…Mr. President take your campaign and division and anger and hate back to Chicago…”
MSNBC co-host, Krystal Ball then stated that these comments “seem loaded” and she elicited feedback from the panelists. Touré then provided his assessment of Mr. Romney’s political rhetoric; “That really bothered me. You notice he said anger twice. He’s really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama, the ‘otherization,’ he’s not like us. I know it’s a heavy thing, I don’t say it lightly, but this is ‘niggerization.’ You are not one of us and that you are like the scary black man we’ve been trained to fear.” Touré went on to explain how the use of the descriptor, angry in reference to the President was antithetical to “No Drama Obama’s” political methodology, training and philosophy.
Co-host S.E. Cupp took offense to Touré’s assertion that Romney’s statements were a veiled attempt to niggerize President Obama. In making her point, Ms. Cupp alluded to Vice President Biden’s recent “Back in Chains” comment, which Touré called “divisive.” She continued by posing questions regarding a double standard, “…because he [Romney] used the word ‘angry,’ now his is the racially charged comment. Do you see how dishonest that is?” Touré clarified that he did not call anyone racist while S.E. Cupp continued to assert, “Certainly you were implying that Mitt Romney and the base will respond to this dog-whistle, racially-charged coding, and hate Obama, the angry black man?” She completed her assault of Touré’s assessment stating matter-of-factly, “that is so irresponsible Touré.” At this point Touré begins to lay out some historical allusions as to how the GOP (the Grand Old Party a.k.a. the Republicans) used racial coding going back “perhaps as far as Nixon.”
I want to end the synopsis about the discussion here, and add that racially coded language is a cornerstone of American politics, history, culture, life and reality. Furthermore racially coded language does more than date back, “perhaps as far as Nixon.” Racially coded language has been in play on both sides of the popular political discourse in these “United” States for as long as her creation, and that may in fact be what truly unites us.
I recently read an article entitled “It’s a hip-hop planet” by Akala, an award-winning Hip Hop artist and the creator of the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company from England. In this article, Akala discusses the global impact and importance of hip hop music and culture explaining how Hip Hop serves as “a news network of the downtrodden, oppressed and the socially conscious across the globe.” This article was so well wrtiten and spot on in its analysis of the meaning and significance of Hip Hop that I had to find out who wrote this compelling piece. I saw the profile picture of the author, sporting a matter of fact no nonsense expression in his profile picture and a powerful Afro that expressed very similar sentiments.
Upon further investigation, a click on his profile picture, I was forwarded to another page with link to the Akala’s own website akalamusic.com. I quickly shuttled to this page and saw a YouTube video posted there entitled “Akala – Fire In The Booth” and naturally my curoisity led me to click play. I apprehensively waited to hear this Hip Hop generation writer and educator get busy on the microphone, hoping that I was not going to hear a mediocre rap that would lessen the esteem Akala had garnished from the article I had read just moments earlier. As I listened, I was blown away with the nearly nine minute lyrical and politically charged rap. Only 45 seconds into the rap, I was convinced that I was going to watch for the entire nine minutes of the video. I was not disappointed in the least! On this one track, Akala spoke on issues like discrimination, self-hatred, for-profit prisons, lynching, Marcus Garvey, African history, false patriotism, consumerism, racism, education and the list goes on. These subjects, which are so often dodged by mainstream Hip Hop artist and the media, were championed by MCs of the “golden era of Hip Hop.” Akala has definitely not forgotten about the roots of Hip Hop and he has proved he is here to drop Hip Hop’s most potent formula on a world desperate for change.
Akala – Fire In The Booth Video
In the vocal booth and on the written page, Akala tackles “race, politics, self-deception and social conditioning.” Akala’s official bio clearly states that the goal of his art is “breaking down the culture of cliché and stereotype that smothers the genre he loves…” Not to mention, Akala is no rookie in the Hip Hop world. This brother has been turning out singles since the early years of the new millennium and he has released his third album, Double Think, this past year. Below is Akala’s Fire In The Booth version with the lyrics, in case you wanted to get every single jewel he dropped. It is clear that Akala is going laying down the foundation to become a legendary name in Hip Hop, not only due to his lyrical ability but for his commitment to uplift the consciousness and social condition of oppressed people and youth worldwide. It definitely is a Hip Hop planet and Akala is definitely what this planet needs right now!
Akala – Fire In The Booth w/ Lyrics
I recently watch the film Skin (2008), directed by Anthony Fabian and staring Sophie Okonedo. Ebert called this “One of the best films of the year. Sophie Okonedo is Magnificent.” This film is an incredibly powerful story of love, hatred, selfishness, forgiveness, humanity, oppression and triumph. It won 19 international film festival awards! I was moved by this film and I trust that you will be too. You can find the DVD offered on Netflix for those with accounts! You won’t be disappointed! Watch the trailer for the film Skin below.
I ask this question because i want to know what you all think about hip-hop and its affect on young people especially young African Americans and Latinos…
In my opinion Hip-Hop is the dominant youth culture or the dominant form of cultural expression for most young African Americans and Latinos in the Unites States. Hip Hop in itself is fine as a form of expression, the problem here is whether hip-hop brings constructive, positive, and progrssive ideas to our youth?…Then that question must also be linked to who controls what expressions of hip-hop will be marketed to the masses as authentic hip-hop? Are those who have that power from the Hip-Hop community and are they working in the best interest of the Hip-Hop community?
With these questions in mind it is not suprising that the key images of young African American and Latino brothers and sisters in Hip-Hop and the media in general are usually cast in a criminal, promiscuous, immoral, inarticulate, uneducated, hyper-athletic, hyper-sexual and steretypical manner.
I hope this discussion can generate constructive self reflective dialogue that can help formulate ways to improve the lives of our youth….
- A Critical Film on Hip-Hop – Beyond Beats and Rhymes (amilcook.com)
Bring Your A Game, released in 2009 and directed by Mario Van Peebles, is a motivational documentary about the realities facing America’s inner city youth. The great thing about this documentary is not that it features the likes of, Geoffrey Canada, Lupe Fiasco, Ice Cube, Sean Combs and others, but that it provides constructive solutions to the problems facing America’s inner city youth. The solution is bringing your A game through education. If you work with young people, or are a young person yourself, take twenty minutes to watch this film and be inspired.
AfroLatinos is a stunning new documentary coming to viewers in 2012. This film is going to highlight the presence, history, experience, cultural impact and problems facing AfroLatinos. Many people from the United States and the other places, including myself, never realized that so many Africans were brought to Latin America during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade era. I find it remarkable that we in the United States have known so very little of our African relatives in Latin America.
- Brazil – Discovering My Other Southern Roots (amilcook.com)
- Henry Louis Gates on Black in Latin America (repeatingislands.com)
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Black In Latin America (huffingtonpost.com)
- Afro-Descendants Forum in Caracas (Haiti Comm. and Solidarity Fund Established) (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Fourth International Forum of Afro-Descendents held in Caracas (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)
- Danny Glover Visits Cuba To Support People Of African Descent (harlemworldblog.wordpress.com)