Remember when our elders used to chastise us for using the N-word. They used to say “People died for you not to be called a N—–.” And we could never really identify with what they were saying because it felt like we had it so good. Our argument was this is a different time, I’m not saying Ni–ER, I’m saying Ni–A. It’s funny how history repeats itself.
We have seen the resurgence of bell bottoms, daisy dukes, and skinny jeans in old forms but with a different twist. Now, we are experiencing a blast from the past no one wants to revisit; excessive force and abuse of power from the hands of the police yet again. We are seeing pictures surfacing on the Internet of police vs community standoffs that you can’t determine whether its 1964 or 2014.
One has to wonder what the common denominator behind this real life re-enactment of the civil rights era. In a lot of ways I say that’s what we get for not listening to and heeding the warnings of our elders. Now, our generation is faced with having to fight for our right to co-exist peacefully in this society. Our predecessors have been begging us to pick up the torch and carry out the mission. We got cocky and ran off without applying the principles and values that many have died for us to have. Now, we have become first-hand witnesses and victims to the hate and injustices we could only read about.
The Hip Hop Dilemma is the common distasteful physical, emotional and/or mental trauma people experience when coming in contact with the Hip Hop culture. I am beginning to think that this diagnosis should be classified as a disease. People are being adversely affected by individuals who resemble stereotypes in the Hip Hop community. Emotions and experiences have been festering within their minds and hearts and there is no outlet for people to voice their concerns and distaste. Every time someone criticizes the Black community, the opinion is met with the race card. So people have learned to repress and internalize their thoughts and feelings which is causing this sickness. The police are first-hand victims to the Hip Hop Dilemma because many are biased, have mixed views and spend their days watching what they hate. Therefore, it is easier for them to lose control and release their repressed energy.
I AM A CITIZEN is a campaign that the Hip Hop Union launched in 2009. Recognizing that Dr. King’s last campaign, I AM A MAN, was incomplete because of his untimely death, Jesse L. Jackson Sr. carried on the message with I AM SOMEBODY. We are now identified as men and women of this country, but we are not recognized as citizens. To take it one step further, as members of the body of the Hip Hop Community, we have been labeled as classless and destructive individuals. I AM A CITIZEN has a two-part message. To inform the Citizens of the Hip Hop Community that we are in fact Citizens of the United States and with that comes a responsibility we must uphold. And to notify everyone else, including the police, elected officials and the president that we are in fact Citizens of the United States regardless of our lifestyle choices and we need to be respected as such. Just as we refer to people over 65 as senior citizens, we are Hip Hop Citizens.
Too often the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has let us down. We didn’t ask to be here in this country, but we have adapted. The African-Americans who live in this country are descendants of the survivors who escaped and endured the countless torments of what I call classless people.
Now, that it is our turn to step up lets change the ending to our story. Let’s change the path in which we seek victory. I was proud to see the Citizens of Ferguson County hit the streets in outrage. It echoed Michael Garner’s last words “This is gonna stop today.” It shows we hear each other and that through all our internal problems we, can come together and stand for one another. Let us continue to be outraged at any death in our community, not just those at the hands of the police. Let us confront our streets and our mental health with the same vigor and anger we spew at the law. Let us shout, I AM A CITIZEN and mean it and become it. Let us remember that our ancestors paved a path that built a foundation; it is our job to take that foundation and build a new community in which we can all thrive and be respected. Anything else is just not acceptable.
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 email@example.com or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.