By Jineea Butler
In light of all the racism mounting up around us I put myself in Harriet Tubman’s shoes. Her mind had to be ready for war. What made her believe she could be free? Where did the courage come from when all displays of aggression were met with discipline? If you knew that your opportunity to be free was on the other side of the woods 900 miles on foot in clear and present danger, would you go? If you said yes, then why are you still a slave?
KRS-ONE taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life in 1989 on his album Ghetto Music, “You Must Learn.” He said it so firmly, so forcefully, that I had to take notice. I trusted him, as the young people trust artists of today. There was a time where we had trusted ‘Teachas’ in the Hip Hop community, a time where we were actually seeking freedom from chaotic living conditions. Every artist wasn’t in his or her purest form but we had a balance of concerned and responsible lyricist who had enough knowledge to educate us on our future direction. I shouldn’t have wait two years for Common to make an album to be refreshed.
The question that has everybody stumped then and now is: If they let us go free, will we know how to act? Based on preliminary data it doesn’t look favorable. Look what happened when Hip Hop started making millionaires hand over foot – we start shooting up radio stations, clubs, invading high profile neighborhoods with loud parties, giving friends keys to cars and houses so they can run dog rings etc. etc.
Does that give anyone the right to hinder our growth because we may misappropriate good fortune? Of course not. Remember we are the byproduct designed to build the infrastructure to this country but never supposed to enjoy it.
For us to experience a glimpse of the ‘Good Life” where Kanye West said people had to die. I think about Harriet on the crusade selflessly risking her life never losing a passenger. I think the powers that be think they have given us enough time to get ourselves together provide for ourselves and recover from the trauma they put us through. Now they want to revoke our freedom pass. I think the real reason they want to eradicate our people is because they know how inhumane they treated us and see how inhumane we can sometimes act and they feel that we are better off in cages or dead. Because of what they did.
Somebody has to be at the bottom. Somebody has to populate the jails and prisons. Somebody has to work the low-paying jobs. Only a handful of us are competing and those who are competing are competing against one anoher for top rank positions in leadership of Ego Land, the make believe world of illusions and status which only exists in the minds of Black America. While the rest of the world is competing for land, oil and water resources, we are trying to one up each other and sabotage anything that makes sense for the sake of keeping the illusion alive.
I haven’t seen another community that cripples one another outside their traditional beliefs.
We have to think economically at all times. We need you to be successful. How are we going to upgrade our pay grade, if we downgrading those around us? How are we going to stop people from being senselessly murdered, if they don’t see other options? We obviously can’t wait for someone to do it for us. We are nearing the 60th anniversary of 14-year-old Emmett Till/s murder, yet we are still dealing with the similar situations.
When the United States wants to disarm somebody, we attack the economics. We tell our allies, don’t do business with the country in question. And then and only when the country decides to call our bluff, we bring in the muscle. Why are our tactics any different? Even in the streets beef erupts when you play with someone’s money. So what are we waiting for? The right person to tell us stop giving our money away, stop being willing participants in the prison industrial complex, to use our education and class as a weapon. We don’t have time to be tired, scared and distracted. Yes, I put Harriet Tubman’s shoes on. I think about that rifle she carried. A song about her says “I know your feet are tired, I know you getting weary, but I don’t like cowards, so I put a gun to your head, do you wanna die by the white man or would you rather die by me instead.”
Do you hear me?
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.