This song is included on my latest release, a free sampler mix pulling together some of the songs I’ve written that are most important to me. Big Cats produced the original version (here), and Graham O’Brien produced this one, which mashes up two verses from that song, a third verse from another song, and a hook from yet another song. I like the overall effect, and love this beat (especially the outro– listen to the whole song!)
My “political” writing tends to be pretty specific– a song about sexual politics, a song about whiteness in indie hip hop, a song about language & bullying, etc. At first glance, this song might seem like a departure from that, more of an all-purpose “conscious MC ‘political’ song.” And there are elements of that in here, but I wrote this song to make another fairly specific point: that change comes from organized struggle, from everyday people working together to build the world that they want. It isn’t just about electing the right people, or hoping things will inevitably work out; it’s about actively shaping history through intentional activism and solidarity.
“Marching around with signs doesn’t really change anything” is such a shallow analysis of what “marching around with signs” represents. Of course, on a literal level, a single protest doesn’t change the system. But protest organizers know this. A march is never about magically fixing everything; it’s about a range of tactical considerations: plug-in points for new activists, media coverage and narrative-shaping, a public show of force to foreshadow future electoral (or extra-electoral) power, a space for solidarity and emotional release, a jumping off point for even more intentional organizing inside & outside systems, etc.
The same could be said for social media– a hashtag along doesn’t change the world. But it can be an incredibly useful tool for raising awareness, coordinating multi-city efforts, shifting the larger narrative, and building a movement. Movements are, after all, complex machines, with gears of many different sizes turning simultaneously to accomplish different functions. It’s personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the real world has reflected this idea quite a bit lately. A few good links:
“The #BlackLivesMatter movement is already making a difference. We’re clearly nowhere near where we need to be, but these recent cases played out differently than they would have a year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago because of all the work and all the noise that young people have been making while we keep saying that they don’t have a plan.”
Jay Smooth is the best. I think a lot of people know that already. But this video in particular is super important, in that it recognizes how much still needs to done while affirming that the work being done right now is already starting to bear fruit, that “that mountain is moving.” More proof:
Lynette Holloway at The Root:
40 New State Laws Sparked by Michael Brown’s Death in Ferguson
“Who said protesting is ineffective? Since Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo., was shot and killed Aug. 9, 2014, by white then-Officer Darren Wilson, lawmakers in nearly every state have proposed changes to the way police deal with the public, according to the Associated Press.”
“Yet, the refrain I hear far too frequently is, ‘Protests don’t produce change.’ Technically and practically, this just isn’t true. First and foremost, offline protests are a way for people of like minds to join together to express their shared pain and frustration. This solidarity is wildly significant but is too often dismissed, mainly by people who don’t protest, because they don’t haven’t experienced it to understand its value. Online, tens of millions of people are now better connected with one another and with the issues around police brutality in ways that are markedly different than anything we saw in 2013 or earlier. While it’s despicable that every person killed by police ends up as a hashtag and trending topic, the reality that people killed by police are often the No. 1 trending topic in the world signifies a sea shift in solidarity and awareness of the issue.”
Andy Cush at Gawker:
Here’s Proof That Black Lives Matter Protests are Working
“Those who argue that forceful demonstrations only serve to entrench people in the positions they’ve already taken are wrong. People are changing their minds. Just like it did for the suffrage movement 100 years ago or civil rights in the ‘60s, public protest is working in 2015. Now all we need is some meaningful policy change.”
Julia Craven, Ryan J. Reilly, Mariah Stewart at Huffington Post:
The Ferguson Protests Worked
“What’s sad is it often takes a tragedy,” Oates said. “What happened in Ferguson wasn’t unusual — which is awful, but true. The response was unusual, and the depth and breadth of the protests was unusual. And you could kind of see it coming from Trayvon Martin … This rising awareness [about] race and unfairness, and this real question about what was really going on.”
…and if you’re looking for a super concrete example, check out this story by Scott Heins at Okayplayer. A lot of people shared this because of the Kendrick Lamar angle, but I think there’s a bigger story in this quote:
“Today after the ending of the convening as everyone was walking down the street CPD arrested a 14 yr old,” wrote uploader Blake Piffin. “While everyone was demanding his release an officer pepper sprayed the crowd and further escalated the situation. In unity and solidarity everyone was demanding that he be released, and we stayed and protested until they released him!”
Again, no one is arguing that the struggle is over, or that “marches and rallies” alone are all we need. None of the new laws being passed will end police violence. But this is what movement-building looks like. Here in the Twin Cities, the Black Liberation Project just organized a successful #SayHerName solidarity action, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (one of the most active, effective orgs in the community) are raising money to literally rise from the ashes, and there’s more coming from #BlackLivesMatter Minneapolis, Voices for Racial Justice, Communities United Against Police Brutality, TruArtSpeaks, and countless other organizations and individuals are doing good work. As always, it starts with knowing what’s going on, then plugging in and getting involved.