So, not a great year, in general. But I was able to be part of some cool stuff, and am endlessly grateful for everyone who helped make that possible. Here’s a quick recap (and you can find my other end-of-year recaps here) of some of the stuff of mine that people may have missed:

1. My TEDx Talk:


Read more about this here.

2. Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood (Video)

Read more about this (including full credits, lyrics, and more) here.

3. How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist (Video)


This got posted on both YouTube and Facebook (via Button Poetry) and became a very useful tool for performances and dialogues all year. Read more about this here.

4. A Furious Vexation (Mixtape)

Read more about this (including ALL the lyrics) here.

5. Dust (Video)


The Japanese American Citizen’s League asked me to write a piece for the 2017 Day of Remembrance (the day in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was signed, requiring internment of all Americans of Japanese ancestry), connecting it to current issues regarding xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate. Read more here.

6. Some Writing
A few essay-style pieces here, but I’ve also been trying to focus my online writing a bit more, zooming in specifically on resource-sharing posts.

7. Also, I’m on Instagram now
Just a few years too late. But it’s a good record of some other stuff from this past year, from performing at Eaux Claires, to the CU-Boulder planetarium, to a former NASA centrifuge, to A Call to Men’s national conference, and beyond. As always, feel free to get in touch to bring me to your school, conference, whatever.

As for the future, I’m working on a new book now. TruArtSpeaks‘ #BeHeard18 Youth Poetry Slam Series is right around the corner. I’m trying to connect with organizers in MN, WI, IA and beyond about creative ways artists can support progressives running in midterm elections. And a million other things. Thanks for reading.

A few months ago, Button Poetry asked if I might be interested in doing some more in-depth write-ups of a handful of poems going up on their channel. It felt like a good opportunity to shine a spotlight on some other artists, as well as share some basic critical analysis tools with Button’s (considerable!) audience. Spoken word video has, after all, really blown up over the past few years, with millions of people watching poems online, sharing them, and beginning to participate themselves. I believe this is a good thing.

What’s maybe missing, to some extent, is the space to develop some critique skills that go beyond “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” We do this in classes, workshops, and writing circles, but not everyone has access to those. We do this in informal conversations with one-another, but again, not everyone has access to those. And since there aren’t really a lot of big spoken word-focused blogs, podcasts, journals, etc. (in the same way that there are for, for example, Hip Hop, or traditional page poetry), this felt like a niche we could start to fill.

Because that process– of figuring out why we like something, or analyzing what makes a particular poem work, or being able to identify the tools and techniques being used– is bigger than just poetry. That’s about cultivating curiosity and critical thinking. Ideally, more people will begin doing this, both through Button and on their own.

For now, here are the write-ups that I’ve done. Note: Button posts a new video pretty much every day, so I’m not writing up every single one– just the ones they send me. I hope these are interesting and/or useful. Feel free to post your own thoughts, disagreements, and observations.

Dave Harris: To The Extent X Body Including its Fists Constitute “Weapons”

Sam Sax: Written to be Yelled at Trump Tower During a Vigil for The NEA

Bianca Phipps: Stay With Me

Donte Collins: New Country (after Safia Elhillo)

Hanif Abdurraqib: Watching A Fight At The New Haven Dog Park

Javon Johnson: Baby Brother

Blythe Baird: Yet Another Rape Poem

Hanif Abdurraqib: At My First Punk Rock Show Ever, 1998

William Evans: They Love Us Here

Jared Singer: Silence

Ariana Brown: Ode to Thrift Stores

Mitcholos: Cacophony

Alysia Harris: Joy

Carmen Gillespie: Blue Black Wet of Wood

Olivia Gatwood: When I Say We Are All Teen Girls

Franny Choi: Split Mouth

Billy Tuggle: Marvin’s Last Verses

William Evans: Bathroom Etiquette

Talia Young: While My Love Sleeps I Cook Dinner

Bao Phi: Broken/English

Soups: The Dark Side of Being Mixed

Ashaki Jackson: The Public is Generally Self taught and Uninformed

Rudy Francisco: The Heart and the Fist

Hieu Minh Nguyen: The Translation of Grief

Isha Camara: Loudest Burial

Bianca Phipps: When the Boy Says He Loves My Body

Suzi Q Smith: Bones

Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo, and G. Yamazawa: Unforgettable

Bernard Ferguson: Love Does Not Want This Body

Muna Abdulahi: Explaining Depression to a Refugee

Kevin Yang: Come Home

Danez Smith: Trees

Guante: A Pragmatist’s Guide to Magic

EJ Schoenborn: Controversial Opinion: In Defense of Cargo Shorts

(to be continued)

Here it is. If you want a summary, the talk is basically about how the relationship between art and activism is so much deeper than just art that happens to be about activist stuff, that there’s a further connection in terms of process. The questions that artists ask themselves often mirror the questions that activists ask. The steps that artists take from idea to concept to art often mirror the steps that activists take from value to principle to action.

***Update (11/7/18): another poem, plus a consolidated list of activist resources, here***

My biggest worry is that the title of the talk might insinuate that it’s “for” artists or people who are already deeply engaged in activist work. And it’s not, really. This talk is for anyone who knows the world is messed up, and wants to do something about it. Just a few notes:

1. The talk opens with a revised version of my poem “Quicksand.” I’ve always liked that poem, but have also always worried that it’s too easy to misinterpret, to read it as a basic critique of slacktivism, or a call for action-for-action’s sake; for me, it’s something more nuanced. It’s my own fault as a writer that that isn’t more clear, but this talk gave me a chance to dig into the poem a little more.

2. The full text to that poem can be found here, and it’s also included in my book. As for the text of the full talk, I’m working on a highly-reimagined version of it for my new book, but I’d be happy to email anyone requesting the text for accessibility’s sake. The little verse at the end is from the Sifu Hotman (which is me, Dem Atlas, and Rube) song “Matches,” something I’ve found myself performing more and more over the past year.

3. The talk also plays off the zine that me and Olivia Novotny made this past year; I’m currently working on a revised/updated version of that as well. Feel free to share!

RE: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Charlie Sheen, Tony Cornish, Louis CK, Dan Schoen, Donald Trump, and far too many others.

In my ongoing quest to break out of the thinkpiece cycle (where things happen in the world, and my first impulse is to write an essay to let people know “here’s what I think about THIS,” because there are plenty of other/better people doing that already), I figured I’d try to share something practical. What follows are some poem/videos, links, and resources for people trying to teach about consent, healthy sexuality, and dismantling rape culture. Feel free to add more in the comments.

One initial note, just something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the links/resources that “work” for people who already agree with us aren’t always the ones that will “work” when trying to convince others. This is especially true with poems, which are sometimes designed to get the already-sympathetic audience to make noise. That is not to say that preaching to the choir is bad (it isn’t), or that it’s everyone’s responsibility to always be educating others (it isn’t), or that there’s a clear line between audiences who “get” it and those who don’t (there definitely isn’t). It is to say, however, that it’s important for us to be intentional when we’re trying to figure out what tool might open up a space for dialogue and growth in a particular setting.

1. Poems
Clearly, “here’s a poem” isn’t going to be the best approach for every audience in every situation. But I think these videos are valuable because they focus on narrative– people telling their stories and attempting to reframe how the larger culture tends to approach these issues. A poem, followed by dialogue, can be a great entry point for deeper understanding. These poems are not my choices for “the best” poems on this topic; they’re poems that do specific work that may be useful in educational spaces; find more at my database of poems on various issues.

  • American Rape Culture by Desireé Dallagiacomo & FreeQuency: This poem may be useful as an entry point into this discussion because of the sheer volume of its examples, and how it moves from those song lyrics into an exploration of the larger culture that both drives, and is driven by, those specific examples. The poem addresses the cumulative impact of rape culture, which is an important concept for people to grasp as they begin to learn more.
  • Friend Zone by Dylan Garity: I’ve always appreciated the work that this poem does, how it seems to genuinely be written for the people it claims to be speaking to. The first half of the poem “humorously” explores the “friend zone,” before the second half of the poem dismantles it by really digging into what that concept represents in terms of male entitlement, ownership, and rape culture.
  • Pigeon Man by Jamila Woods: This is a poem that addresses street harassment, but also does a masterful job exploring the idea of power, and how gender violence is rooted less in sex and more in power– and powerlessness. By talking about something very specific, the poem is able to build a case for a much bigger idea.
  • Unsinkable by Anna Binkovitz: In my experience having conversations about these issues with men, one hurdle that comes up over and over again is our inability to understand “violence” as anything less than literal, physical harm. This poem, through both personal narrative and extended metaphor, shows the danger in that.
  • Action by Guante: I wanted to write a poem that did two things: first, it’s a challenge to men to talk to other men about sexual assault, proactively and preemptively; second, it’s a poem that implicates all of us– rape culture is so much bigger than victims and perpetrators. It’s about how we all draw from, and contribute to, gender violence. It’s also about the power that we have– as a community– to do something about it.
  • Consent at 10,000 Feet by Guante: Specifically, the second half of this poem, which attempts to directly address the questions that come up in conversations about consent– the whole “what if” stuff and “grey area” stuff. My hope is that the metaphors help drive home what a healthy zero tolerance policy for gender violence (which includes rape, but also includes things like catcalling and other forms of harassment) might look like.
Of course, there are many others. These are just a few that I’ve used in facilitated discussions. Feel free to add others in the comments.

2. Other Resources
These aren’t poems, but are resources that may be useful as supplementary materials.

  • To get it out of the way right away, here’s that “Consent/Tea” video that seemingly everyone uses. I think there are limits to its usefulness, particularly when it’s just shared with no followup. It may work as a first step to a deeper conversation, though, or even as a “so what was good and not-so-good about that video?” discussion starter.
  • Let’s Talk About Consent: a three-minute overview (made by NYU students) about what consent really means. It doesn’t use any clever metaphors, but it’s brief and straightforward; potentially a good followup to (or replacement for, depending on your audience) the tea video.
  • The Rape Culture Pyramid: I’ve usually seen this visual used to make connections between “small” acts/habits and the larger reality of gender violence. That’s an important connection to make, but this visual can also be a great way to begin to talk about solutions. In the same way that small acts/habits sustain rape culture, small acts and changes in habit can begin to disrupt and dismantle it.
  • Listening to What Trump’s Accusers Have Told Us by Jia Tolentino at the New Yorker: This piece is about Trump, but can very much be read as a piece about powerful men in general, and the many obstacles women face coming forward with stories of assault and harassment.
  • This Is What a News Cycle That Holds Sexual Predators Accountable Looks Like by Stassa Edwards at Jezebel: Explores the common response of “I’m just worried this might become a witch hunt.”
  • Dear Men: It’s You, Too by Roxane Gay at the NYT: On the importance of men taking responsibility for shifting the culture.
  • Mariame Kaba on Democracy Now: Makes the connection between domestic violence and mass violence: “We… tend to minimize private violence and focus on the spectacular examples of public violence. But if we don’t address that private violence, then we are going to continue to see public violence in the ways that we have.”
  • Voices of Men’s “11 Things Men Can Do:” I recently performed at their annual event, and am struck by how robust this collection of links, videos, and resources on a range of action items is.
  • From #MeToo to #WeConsented: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Consent by adrienne marie brown at Bitch Media: This is a great read, drawing together recent events with a larger exploration of consent and consent culture.

Again, there are many other good links and resources; feel free to add more in the comments.

RELATED POSTS:

It may go without saying, but let’s say it: if you’re frustrated about our political reality on a national and international level, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to engage on a local level. Our city council and mayor (and Parks Board!) have real power to affect people’s lives. Additionally, local elections aren’t just about candidates winning and losing; they’re an opportunity for all of us to get more plugged in, and start paying closer attention to the level of government over which we have the most control. This post focuses on Minneapolis, but the same is true elsewhere. So what follows are a few resources:

1. For Those of Us Who Need More Information
Voices for Racial Justice, Pollen, and Rhymesayers collaborated on this fantastic voter guide. The guide features fairly in-depth candidate profiles, and those candidates’ answers to a range of good questions (at least for those who bothered to answer). It also has links for you to find out what ward you’re in, and how/where/when to vote. A perfect entry point, especially for new voters.

2. For Those of Us Who Haven’t Used Ranked-Choice Voting Before
As I prepare to go vote, I’m going to be sure to not just have my top choice for mayor (for example), but my top *three* choices in mind. In Minneapolis, we get to rank our top three candidates, ensuring that we can vote for whom we really want to vote, while still having fallback options. One note– this can also be used to strategically “block” candidates whom we don’t particularly like. So if there are two mayoral candidates you’re excited about, two you really dislike, and two you’re “meh” on, it may be worth choosing one of the “meh” candidates to go in your #3 slot, if only to block one of the others.

3. For Those of Us Looking for More Perspectives
Yes, there are a lot of candidates for a lot of different positions. These links may be helpful for people during their decision making process:

  • Our Revolution MN Endorsements: Some endorsements, along with brief write-ups of the candidates and links to their websites. A good place to start.
  • TakeAction MN Endorsements: TakeAction MN does a lot of good work, and their voter guide includes some picks not just for MPLS, but Saint Paul and Duluth as well.
  • MN Nurses Association Endorsements: This is just one example. If all the names on the ballot mean nothing to you, you can look up people you trust– whether that’s a politician like Ilhan Omar, a union like the SEIU, or another source.
  • Give a Shit MPLS: collective of local organizers working to get more people engaged– they have some public events coming up too, for people looking for opportunities to plug in.
  • Parks & Power Campaign: Because these Parks Board races matter, and undoubtedly won’t receive as much coverage or attention.
  • A TC Daily Planet piece from January highlighting seven candidates “because they bring, in terms of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, an unprecedented level of diversity to the 2017 elections.” 
  • Local writer Naomi Kritzer’s blog: I don’t agree with everything here, and this is just another random person and their opinions (like me), but these write-ups of all the races are deep and nuanced. They also link to more info, and bring in quotes from the various debates/forums too. Definitely worth a look, at least.
  • Wedge Live on Twitter: again, I don’t always agree with everything this account posts, but for people looking to just be more engaged with local politics, they’re worth a follow. They also sometimes live-tweet candidate events, which is always helpful.

A Personal Note
As a ward 1 resident, I’ve already publicly endorsed Jillia Pessenda, felt great about it at the time, and actually feel even better about it with every passing day, watching this race play out. I’m definitely encouraging my neighbors and friends in the ward to check out her platform and vote.

In the other races, I could give a million shout outs, but I feel like the endorsement links above are pretty clear as to which way a lot of progressives are leaning. Jeremiah Ellison‘s campaign has been inspiring to watch. Andrea Jenkins is a local legend. One campaign that didn’t get as many endorsements but should be on people’s radars is Ginger Jentzen in ward 3; I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of that race, but I know Jentzen has done some great work. But I said I wasn’t just going to list shout-outs; sorry. Lots of good people running, all over the city. Which is exciting, and doubly exciting in a city with ranked-choice voting.

As for mayor, I’m still learning about the candidates and digging into their platforms. I know Ray Dehn will be a top choice. He’s had– at least from what I’ve seen– the best answers to the questions in the voter guides and at live forums. I also really respect a lot of the people putting in work for him; and with local elections, relationships matter. I’ve also heard a number of people lately praising Nekima Levy-Pounds‘ affordable housing plan, which is worth a read no matter how you plan on voting.

We have a few weeks (or less, if you plan on voting early) left. If you’re just diving into this, I hope these links can be useful. If you already know how you’re voting, I hope you can get involved with a campaign and support your people. Feel free to add other thoughts or resources as comments.

(share image)

EDIT: the fundraiser was successful! Thanks to everyone who pitched in. Stay updated here.

image credit: hclou | #hclouart


MPD150
is a community-based initiative challenging the narrative that police exist to protect and serve. By researching the Minneapolis Police Department’s history, reviewing current practices, and mapping responsible alternatives, we are committed to pursuing a police-free future. 

With that headline, I’d imagine that the people I’m in touch with will have one of two reactions:

  1. “Cool; I’ve been looking for more opportunities to support this work in a concrete way.”
    (or)
  2. “What? We need the police; I agree that reforms are needed too, but that’s too much.”
For the former, thank you. Please donate between now and 9/18; this group is gearing up to do some great work, both on a research/policy level and on an arts/narrative-shifting level, and every dollar counts.

For the latter, please read the “Frequently-Asked Questions” section on the website. These FAQs do a lot to address the most common arguments as to why police abolition is too radical, too unrealistic, or too dangerous. Of course, you may still have questions or disagreements after reading it; that’s good. The website also has a great resources list, featuring free, immediately-accessible readings that dig a little deeper into the concept.

This campaign isn’t just about researching and pushing specific policy points related to budgets and community resource allocation; it’s also about asking all of us to think bigger. To ask more critical questions. To imagine something better. I don’t expect everyone to know to jump on board 100% right away; I’m just asking people to have an open mind. Explore the website, dig into the readings, and get involved, if you are so moved. There’s more on the way!

EDIT (8/5/19): This was originally posted in 2017 and was focused on Charlottesville, but I’ve since added even more resources to this list, and broadened the scope to disrupting and dismantling white supremacy in general. That’s work that has to happen early, and teachers can play an important role.

Confederate statue in Durham torn down; image from here.

At the top of this week, the Washington Post published this piece by Valerie Strauss: The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help.

Update: a couple other good links:

Those links contain more links to resources, readings, and lesson plans, and may be a good place to start for educators who know that current events matter, and that not talking about Charlottesville makes a statement to your students that’s just as loud as any conversation or critical exploration.

In that spirit, and because my background is in using spoken word as a tool for narrative-building and opening up spaces for authentic dialogue, I wanted to share a few poems that have been on my mind lately. As always, list-making is tricky. This is not a list of the “best” poems about this topic, or even a list of just “poems about racism.” This is a list of poems that might be useful for educators looking for artistic work that can prompt some critical thinking about hate, white supremacy, and the recent events in Charlottesville.

I’m also thinking about this list in terms of what work needs to be done in educational spaces. Understanding the motivations of– and contextual factors that cultivate– white supremacists is one angle, but so is making connections between the explicit hate espoused by neo-nazis and the more subtle, implicit ways that white supremacist ideology pops up in everyday life. I think these poems, in different ways, explore those connections. Maybe we shouldn’t need personal, human stories to create empathy, to illuminate that other human beings matter. But they can be tools for that, when it’s called for. These poems also use metaphor, symbolism, narrative, and other tools to push the listener beyond the notion that racism is just “people being mean to each other because they’re different.”

Of course, not every poem is appropriate for every audience. Be sure to review before presenting, both in terms of language/accessibility stuff and relevance. Also of course, “talking about racism” is a first step, not a last one, and we should challenge ourselves to find ways to embed anti-racist approaches and policies into our schools and institutions in more concrete ways as well.

Joseph Capehart – “Colorblind”
This poem uses humor to open up space for a powerful critique for the very common idea that “not seeing color” is the answer to racism. “You want to strip me clean; bleach away the parts of me that make you uncomfortable… when you say ‘colorblind,’ you are asking me to forget.”

Storytelling can communicate information in ways that facts and statistics can’t. In this poem/TEDx Talk, Jared Paul simply tells five stories from his life that illustrate how whiteness works in context, even for people who would not consider themselves privileged.
Guante – “How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist”

I wanted to write something about how “white supremacy” is bigger and more insidious than just literal white supremacists marching around with torches. But this is also about highlighting the *connection* between those people and the everyday acts/attitudes/policies that make them possible. Pushing back has to happen at multiple levels too– denouncing and disrupting specific acts of terror, but also uprooting their worldview in the classroom, the office, the church, the comment thread, the home, and everywhere.

Patricia Smith – Skinhead
A classic poem that seeks to explore the motivations of hateful bigots, without ever making excuses for them. There’s so much in here about empathy (in a critical sense), perspective, and what lenses people use to see the world.

Kevin Yang – “Come Home”
This poem is warm, funny, and approachable, using empathy-generating personal stories to make a larger point about xenophobia, the refugee experience, and finding home. “Call me Hmong before you call me American, because Hmong is the closest word I know to home.”


This poem is heartbreaking. Sad poems can be useful when crafting activities or discussions focused on walking in someone else’s shoes. “Year after year she makes flowers bloom in the hood, petals in the face of this land that doesn’t want her here.”

Talking about racism involves *talking* about racism, and this piece has always been a favorite of mine because of how it illuminates how those conversations so often go. It’s absurdist, and even funny, but it points to something deadly serious and can be a useful entry point for talking about how we talk about racism.

Anthony McPherson – All Lives Matter (1800s Edition)
I can’t think of a better deconstruction of the excuses and rationalizations that white people use to distance themselves from white supremacy. Obviously, this won’t work for every audience, in every situation, but it can be a very powerful exploration of how rhetoric can be used to mask racism.

Another piece that uses juxtaposition and humor to highlight the absurdity of how white supremacy is, and isn’t, talked about in the US.

William Evans – “They Love Us Here”
Students sometimes struggle with the notion that tokenism, “positive” stereotypes, or other forms of “benevolent racism” are harmful. Even well-meaning people can contribute to a white supremacist society. This poem can be an entry point into that conversation.

Carlos Andrés Gómez – “12 Reasons to Abolish C.B.P & I.C.E”
So much white supremacist terrorism takes root in xenophobia and anti-immigrant hate. This poem can be a first step toward interrogating that.

Denice Frohman – “Borders”
Yet another poem showcasing the power of storytelling; this is a poem that might have different things to say to different audiences- but they’re all valuable.

Aamer Rahman – “Reverse Racism”
I’m cheating here since this isn’t a poem; it’s just really good. One reason we talk so much about “racism” in the US rather than “white supremacy” is because racism can be (incorrectly) framed as attitude. And anyone of any identity can have a bad attitude. But white supremacy is about power. It’s about history. And this short video illustrates that perfectly.

    Hope those can be useful; feel free to share more in the comments. 

    Of course, these are all for sparking dialogue, because dialogue matters. But action also matters. Whether it’s a classroom full of high-schoolers, a book club, a discussion group in a church basement, or some other setting, what matters is how we translate these discussions, these epiphanies, and these feelings into action. That’s another post, but hopefully, there’s something here that can be a useful start.

    Recorded, engineered, and arranged by SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE at Luv ‘n’ Dedication Studio. 

    New project: it’s one 15-minute track, but it’s a bunch of songs. Free download. A few notes:

    This is a kind of quick-and-dirty remix project, featuring a collage of previously-released songs and guest verses performed over jacked beats– a Hip Hop tradition. For what it’s worth, I do have two other new projects in the works (both featuring original production and all-new lyrics); I made “A Furious Vexation” really just for fun. It’s a summer project, recorded over a handful of hours in See More Perspective’s studio.

    I mean, that being said, there’s also a more serious side to this. As “political” as pretty much all of my work is, I haven’t posted/talked a lot about this president. Part of that is because I know that my audience, or at least the vast majority of it, is already on “my side” when it comes to him, and I try to engage with political issues from an angle of challenging the audience, or encouraging critical thinking from new angles, blah blah blah. And this project is a bit more straightforward. But I think that’s okay. Sometimes you just have to add your voice to the chorus.

    I know that the references here are messy and weird. The title and the vocal samples are from Fury Road. The album art is a cropped image of Akira sitting on a throne of ruins. The songs include references to Game of Thrones, Lovecraft, vampires, and other sci-fi/pop cultural things. And of course, none of that stuff really goes together. But then again, it kind of does, especially in the context of this particular president. That’s one reason why Hip Hop–specifically– is so important: it gives us space to sample, deconstruct, and recontextualize, to make connections that aren’t always obvious, to be both blunt and subtle, both direct and subversive. And in times like these, I think that flexibility is important.

    And as always, channel that rage into action, whenever/wherever/however possible.

    So yeah, check it out. It’s a good length for a quick workout, a drive to work, or sharpening your sword. Find all of my albums here. Here are the full lyrics for this project:

    Guante: A Furious Vexation

    Someday, we will crack you open
    sticky and sweet on the concrete
    We will stand and watch as you wash away
    while the world rotates underneath our feet
    And someday, was never a plea, it was more a threat
    It was less a prophecy and more a promise
    a hurricane twisting in every breath
    We know the best songs are always sad songs
    even when they make the pain last longer
    running syrupy thick through our veins
    so that our hearts must learn to beat stronger
    And we do not have any money
    We do not own the land that we walk on
    We are not set to inherit anything but the setting sun
    which is almost all gone
    So what do you do when you can’t do anything?
    What do you eat when you’re starving?
    We are not ashamed of what you have made us
    We are not sorry
    We are not far from the ground you have run to
    We are not far from running out of mercy
    We don’t drink blood because we like it
    We drink it because we are thirsty
    And we are waking up in our caskets
    We are chewing through our handcuffs
    We are breaking out of our straight jackets
    We are telling audiences they should put their hands up
    We are walking through the steady summer rain lighting matches
    We are the dead laughing
    We are licking our lips in the pitch blackness
    We are shadows on the wall, we are dancing, and
    We are blasting our music
    as we drive by your beautiful homes
    We are finding new ways to drift in the darkness and move through the cold
    So used to the road
    A traveling funeral show, a hearse with two turntables perched on top
    We are standing still for the first time since you ordered us to stop
    Consider this the calm: We are coming for every drop

    I’ve bled a little bit in all fifty states
    left my art in the dirt for life to imitate
    left a mural of my fingerprints on the border fence
    (Yes) left my DNA dancing down the interstate
    left my heart border-less, drownin’ in the air
    left a song in the atmosphere soundin’ like a prayer
    soundin’ like a spell, soundin’ like a curse, left without a word
    represent left wing ‘til i’ve left the universe
    let’s sing… even when the words never come
    a body drained of blood is still a drum
    So stretch my skin over something solid
    and beat upon it ‘til every wall is demolished
    I promise; it’s not very minnesota nice
    but that’s alright, I’m from wisconsin
    They say save the last round ‘cause you’ll need it
    I spent mine in ‘07 shavin’ the tentacles off a demon
    and been fightin’ ever since, curse on my lips
    padlock wrapped in my fist, no chance for a win:
    so this is for my spoilers
    who’ll slap a millionaire, his bodyguard and his lawyer
    even if it’s their elected leader or employer
    or messiah, yeah i’m preachin’ to the choir
    but singin’ isn’t something that we do where I’m from
    just for the pretty tune I’m livin’ proof we do it for love
    but also do it for blood, I don’t believe that the song
    is all we have to offer, I believe the singers are strong
    I don’t believe in allies, only actions
    I don’t believe in blood ties, just people I’d bleed for
    I see more where others see coincidence
    I believe our power is infinite, let’s get it, no givin’ in
    …’cause I know it ain’t just my listeners who are listenin’

    To everyone we have lost
    To everyone we have gained
    Someday we might lose
    But today is not that day
    To everyone we have lost
    To everyone we have gained
    Someday we’ll all die
    But today is not that day

    When I’m dead, find the richest man in Minneapolis
    and poison his dinner with my ashes
    But save a pinch and mix it into perfume
    and dab a little on your neck when you go out dancin’
    When I’m dead, submit my epitaph to every rap blog
    and watch me go viral as I vanish
    Let every MC who I was better than
    write a crappy song to commemorate my passin’
    That ain’t a shot at nobody
    some of my best friends are nobodies, so full of passion
    I know MCs you’ve never heard of
    who are twice as talented as every one you have and
    they’re mad but damn it, you don’t have to believe me
    neither validation nor permission, nobody’s askin’
    It’s just a mission to transcend these limits
    We can’t be blacklisted from scene we never visit
    Right? So do the math
    map out the path you run through, like
    if a hundred thousand scum-sucking scenesters love you
    then don’t nobody really love you
    And when i’m dead, maybe they’ll claim to love me too
    I hope it’s winter, it’s a blizzard, and it’s cold out
    so they can wait in line for my First Ave funeral
    my first time as a headliner and it’s sold out

    To everyone we have lost
    To everyone we have gained
    Someday we might lose
    But today is not that day
    To everyone we have lost
    To everyone we have gained
    Someday we’ll all die
    But today is not that day

    What’s a hundred grand to a dead man?
    What’s a diamond to a corpse?
    Every car in my entourage has a casket in the back
    How about yours?
    How about force feedin’ you every quarter that you owe us
    All american, you’re arrogant and forced to take a bonus
    like that’s “just how the system works, kid”
    but you can’t slap a system and you’re sittin’ right here cursin’
    It’s so imperfect, so unfair
    I know, I know, I know: “not all billionaires” right?
    Not all men, not all white folks
    repeatin’ it as you’re leavin’ in the last life boat
    The titanic was too big to fail too
    so your driver, your cook, that kid in the mail room?
    Shout to every iceberg sweatin’
    It’s a threat and it’s a promise the atlantic in my pocket and it’s cold
    I don’t condone violence
    but what I do and don’t condone doesn’t matter, ‘cause I hold no control
    over the overflow, over the open road
    leadin’ up to rome, vandals with me, tryin’ to go for broke
    ‘cause going for rich, corrodes your soul slow and
    all of my heroes were broke, but never broken
    So why the hell do we glorify wealth
    when every fortune is made on the pain of someone else?
    Who’s that on my evening newscast
    frontin’ like the noose ain’t connected to the bootstraps
    You pull up the latter, they pull up the former
    present a counternarrative: the judge calls for order
    present a counternarrative: fail the assignment
    present a counternarrative: the police shoot
    present a counternarrative: it’s not american
    although the counternarrative’s the only narrative that’s true
    America the beautiful
    a golden parachute, a golden coffin at your funeral
    a golden boy, a golden destiny second to none
    But it ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, my inherited wealth
    is just a story and a song, a message, a fight
    so when you ask what the name on my ballot is
    I voted for donald trump……’s head on a pike
    Rich man tryin’ to buy his way to heaven
    with a head start cruisin’ but losin’ the momentum
    If it’s class war they want, we’ll bring ‘em armageddon
    Solidarity drippin’ from our lips like venom

    This place is a prison and these people aren’t your friends
    Ain’t no postal service when it’s always sunday in your head
    Letters unsent, burnin’ that candle at both ends
    in the breakroom ready to break…
    Halfway to broke, halfway to broken down
    This job makes you nauseous, you try to hold it down
    and they will take every opportunity to comment on your luck
    ‘cause in this economy you gotta be like bottom’s up
    even when you know it’s poison, yo: you feelin’ well?
    like a body that’s so hungry it begins to eat itself?
    Bootstraps so tight you can’t admit to needin’ help
    on the real, feel like hell and you want it to all stop:
    Jackass manager makin’ smalltalk
    Try to stay focused, you casually glance at your watch
    and see that you are halfway, to being halfway
    to being halfway done with half of half of your day

    Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
    It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
    they tell you to “follow your dreams”
    as your alarm is going off, wake up

    All of my life I been lied to
    just found out my boss makes 500 times what I do
    and still wants to cut my hours back
    to 39 and three quarters ‘cause 40 gets you a health plan
    And I got a feelin’ I’m a need it
    Losin’ feelin’ in my knees and my lower back
    and I’m going back, trapped like a lower class clown
    Hold a rat down, so we kill each other over cheddar
    keep us hungry so we never organize for nothing better
    Just make it through the day, make it through the week
    make it through the month, make a millionaire another couple bucks

    Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
    It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
    they tell you to “follow your dreams”
    as your alarm is going off, wake up

    So if you got a dollar in your pocket, put your hands in the air
    Ten dollars in your pocket, put your hands in the air
    If it’s a hundred or a thousand that’s fair
    but there’s no such thing as an innocent millionaire
    If you got a dollar in your pocket, eat a taco
    Ten dollars: buy some peanut butter and some bread
    If you got a hundred or a thousand you can stock up
    but a million may as well be human flesh
    I said a million may as well be human flesh

    If you got a dollar in your pocket, drink some water
    Ten dollars: you can have a beer with your lunch
    If you got a hundred or a thousand, you can dig your own well
    and for a million you can drink all the blood you can suck
    That dollar in your pocket is an insult
    Ten dollars in your pocket ain’t enough
    The reason that so many of us are have nots
    is that the haves have way too much

    I’m not racist but…
    is usually how racist people start sayin’ racist stuff
    And self-proclaimed allies get side-eyed
    ‘cause the same idea still relates to us
    and look: I got no advice to give
    no wisdom to share, no answers to be laid bare
    Just my experience, my fear and perseverance
    all my insecurities and every value I believe in, like
    Whether poison berries, wildflowers or crops
    everyone plants seeds whether they know it or not
    so I’m just tryin’ to look out at my garden
    and be more intentional about the life I wanna harvest
    And as always, that is not enough
    It’s a start, but a match in the dark is not the sun
    And tears of guilt, tears of realization, either way:
    they are no substitute for rain
    You don’t beat racism by bein’ a better person
    You beat it by destroyin’ the system that undergirds it
    This decision to see past the surface
    is not the last step, it’s the first, it’s a trade of
    all my good intentions for a patch of wet earth
    ‘cause it always comes down to the work
    And maybe we are all lost, all imperfect and unworthy
    but we can all get our hands dirty

    One airhorn means we’re back
    Two means we’re under attack; armor up, red alert again
    CDs are shuriken, sharpen all the mic stands
    XLR swingin’ from your right hand like a whip
    That’s hip hop: improvisation
    makin’ do with whatever you got to make music
    or make war, so if a pen’s all they give you
    you better make damn well sure you can use it
    Gimme a snare like, lucifer crackin’ his knuckles
    Gimme a kick like a kamikaze passin’ above you
    Gimme a bassline like a tripwire
    and a room full of people movin’ like they’re on fire
    Hell or glory, they smell the same
    and both covered in the graf of our elders’ names
    who held the flame, songs in the silence
    like even if we never win we’ll never stop tryin’
    Stop me if I’m lyin’, literally: stop me
    no other recourse rather be another corpse than a zombie
    But first I’d rather be alive
    if only out of respect for all my people who died, let’s go
    My target audience is dead folks
    ancestors, martyrs, ghosts in these headphones
    Rep those: and if you’re feelin’ it too
    that’s just a little bit of them creeping out of you
    Every song is a seance, true that
    give me a Wu-Tang beat and loop that
    like where my goons at? With heartbeats like boom bap
    just put a fist up until the sky is blue black
    I’m not religious, I just pray a lot
    and I ain’t talkin’ to god I’m walkin’ the long road between the cradle and coffin
    and y’all already know, the way we break outta dogma and find god in a poem
    Thermometer fallin’ below zero
    We’re so cold we bring minnesota wherever we go, yo
    Y’all know it’s bigger than rap right?
    silver bullet ballpoint, wooden stake graphite
    and every set is an exorcism
    Every word sets fire to the breath we’re given
    so let’s breathe: my top five emcees:
    war, death, famine, pestilence, and me
    I play the wall like I’ve taken the black
    and watch the nightlife facin’ the facts
    You can die for nothing, or get to livin’ for something
    You better weaponize kid, winter is coming

    (horizontal image for sharing)
    Where the beats came from:
    • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: In the Hall of the Mountain King
    • Gorillaz: Dirty Harry (Gorillaz/Danger Mouse)
    • Jidenna: Long Live the Chief (Best Kept Secret)
    • Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Mark Ronson)
    • Birdman/Clipse: What Happened to that Boy (The Neptunes)
    • Method Man: Bring the Pain (RZA)

    photo by @_scotify

    Just getting back from performing at Eaux Claires. Definitely one of the most unique (and best) experiences I’ve had as an artist. This is not related to what this post is really about, but a quick shout out to the staff, who was beyond nice and very professional; the festival really does have a vibe that’s different from a lot of other big events. I also got to hear “California Stars” live, which was cool.

    I did two hour-long shifts in the Escape installation, a “tiny house” where 4-7 people would come in for five minutes at a time to hear a couple poems. I also got to participate in a handful of pop-up performances on other stages (both solo and along with John Mark Creative‘s crew), performing for a few hundred more people.

    I mention those numbers because this was also the weekend the Yanez decision came in. Being at a festival like Eaux Claires, I can’t say that I didn’t have some stereotypes or preconceived notions in my head about just how much people would want to talk about that. Thankfully, everyone seemed a lot less in the mood for escapism than I would have thought. I opened every performance I did with this poem, and had many powerful conversations with people about the dissonance of being at a music festival while friends and family were protesting, getting arrested, and/or just hurting.

    Obviously, I don’t have any answers or profound things to say here. I’m just appreciative that people were willing to engage, and that many other artists (though it could always be more) were willing to take time out of their sets to make sure we say Philando Castile’s name. It’s a small act, of course, too small, but still worth doing. Activism can’t just happen in “activist spaces” like rallies and social media bubbles; it’s also about how we intentionally integrate an activist practice into every facet of our lives– from the things we do for fun, to our workplaces, to our schools, and beyond.

    Another theme of the past few days has been thinking about the many different ways that people process: grieving, expressing outrage, marching, donating to organizations, making vows and commitments, just *being* with loved ones, etc. It’s all valid. For me, I find strength in sharing resources, especially for people out there who do feel powerless (as we all do sometimes). So a few links to inform any potential next steps:

      Feel free to add more in the comments.