An Open Letter to the Hip Hop Community About Immigration
by Adisa Banjoko
original article-April 20 2006
Below is a speech I gave in Watsonville, CA on April 17th 2006. I was invited to come down and speak by the Watsonville Brown Berets. Fred Hampton Jr. of the P.O.C.C. and Immortal Technique also represented HARD that day.
It was an amazing display of racial, political, religious and Hip Hop unity. There were b-boy circles, tons of performers, spoken word poets and vocal performers. Mexican, Black, Asian, White, Arab and Native Americans all came together in peace. There was no violence and no threats of violence. I must commend the Berets on making everyone feel welcome, secure and for running an efficient schedule. I dont have the official numbers but I estimated about 700 people to have been in attendance.
With me representing the west, Fred Hampton Jr. representing the Midwest and Immortal Technique repping the east- it was an unprecedented display of nationwide unity on the issue of justice for immigrants and justice for the youth. I was honored to have been a part of this event. I hope more people do their homework and research on the Brown Berets, the Black Panthers and why unity between Black and Brown is so important in this these times. My speech was entitled Keys to the True Unification of Black and Brown Peoples. Big shout out to Anas, JR, Mike Perry, Tomas, Scape Martinez and my man Apakalips from the Universal Zulu Nation. The beauty and power of this day will live in my heart forever, inshallah.
As Salaam Alaikum,
My name is Adisa Banjoko. I am the author of Lyrical Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion. It deals with Black and Brown unity. It deals with a lot of political and social issues that we face every day. I speak in a lot of places. Some times its prisons, sometimes its universities. Today I am honored to be here with the Brown Berets. I am honored to be here with the beautiful people of Watsonville.
I came today to talk about peace and unity. Peace and unity is something that we absolutely have to have in this moment, dealing with the Bush administration and the things we face today. The Black people of America cannot do it alone. The Latino people cannot do it alone. The Arab cannot do it alone. The Muslim, the Christian and the Jew cannot do it alone. The Buddhist cannot do it alone. We have to be unified in this moment.
Peace and unity are both byproducts of knowledge. Meaning that when I fist got into knowledge of self, as an African American, I was only focused on that. It took me a moment to learn about the beauty of the Mayan people, of the Aztec people, of Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta.
I had to do that to be a true humanist. You have to read about humanity! If all I read about is me, and all I care about are the struggles of the Black man- then Im going to have a very small window [to see the spectrum of life through].
We have to take the time to defend one another. We cannot be afraid to defend one another. I am here defending you. Defending what you stand for. Defending your rights. This is your land. I wont pretend that its not. I stand here today as a descendent of slaves. I descendent of SLAVES.
I am Muslim. But the Dali Lama was here in the Bay Area just the other day with Hamza Yusuf from the Zaytuna Institute. They built upon the peaceful nature of both of these faiths. My faith has been demonized by the press.
Since 911, many people from Saudi Arabia, many people from Pakistan, many people from Palestine, Iran and Yemen were harassed. They were sent to prison and abused by this Bush Administration. This was because of their faith, because of their race.
We must make America live up to its words on paper. Not just for my sake. Not just for your sake. Its for the sake of all people who walk on this soil. We deserve this justice. We are not asking for anything that is not already on paper. We are not asking for anything we dont already know that belongs to us here. It belongs to us here!
When you look at the ghettos across America, were very lucky to be on the west coast. Out integration levels are much higher than in other places like NY. The Blacks and Latinos dont always mesh [out there]. Thats tragic.
But thats why the Bay Area is so special. Thats why we have to seize this moment right now. Thats why we cannot hesitate to defend one another in this moment. My father is originally from New Orleans- from the Magnolia projects. My mother is originally from Monroe Louisiana.
But when my father came to the Bay in his youth, he grew up in the Mission District. As a young boy I was always around Delores Park. I was always around 24th and Mission. I was always around my Latino peoples.
I dont have another frame of reference for Latino peoples than my brothers. I have no other frame of reference. Its the first brotherhood I knew.
Whether you are Mexican, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Brazilian, Puerto Rican- we are all in the ghetto together! Oppressed by the same people. Struggling to get the same knowledge- that they hide from us in the schools. Struggling, to not be abused by the police. Struggling to find work and provide for our families, for our children and be safe.
Unity is the key. Arab unity. Black unity. Latino, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist Jew. The realest of us. THE REALEST OF US! We are all attacked by this administration. But there is another enemy.
Before I get to the other enemy I must mention that these people who attack usWho dont like events like thisThis is why todays event is so important. These people dont respect our history and they dont want our children to know it. They dont want your children to know their beautiful history- of Aztlan. They dont want my children to know the beautiful history of Africa.
But this other enemy- they are people within BOTH of our cultures. We have to work against the people who look like me- but they are against Black and Brown unity. We need to work against the people who look like YOU- but they are against Black and Brown unity. Because they can hurt this more than the Bush Administration, more than right wing republicans. More than any of them! We need to cleanse our own people, of the bigotry, and the fear [that causes distrust in our hearts].
I will take it on, on my side. But I need you to take it on, on your side so we can be truly united. I spoke just a few weeks ago at San Quentin Prison. I was on the exercise yard and I spoke to every group of people on the yard. Two minutes after I left there was a fight on the yard between Black and Brown. This is unacceptable.
I was just talking to them right before it happened. I said Yall need to be going back to the Brown Berets and yall need to be going back to the Panthers. Understand that I was speaking on the same soil where George Jackson and Jonathan Jackson were killed. We need to get back to that [ way of living together].
But a lot of the conflicts that do happen between Black and Brown happens because of drugs. It deals with crack, it deals with meth, it deals with ecstasy. It deals with things that dehumanize both of our people. Drugs have been used to destroy Black and Brown people.
We have to keep our children out of gangs. We have to be dedicated to that. We have to keep our children knowing that there is more beauty in knowing about Aztlan than knowing about the blunts. We have to let them know there is more beauty in then knowing about Africa, than knowing about crack, and thizzin and going dumb. We need to get smart in this moment.
We need to get smart in this moment! We need to fight in this moment! We cannot be afraid in this moment!
Cesar Chavez, Delores Huerta the Brown Berets the Black Panthers are better than any drug they can try and feed our children.
We have to be open enough to learn about other faiths. I do my best to read about other faiths all the time. I am a nonviolent man of God. I follow a Prophet of Peace. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. But I am not afraid to die for this. Im not afraid to die for anybody in this room. Im not afraid to die for the truth that Malcolm, that Martin that all of these freedom fighters before us- [loud applause roar]. If they did not do it, WE would not be here today. Lets be honest about that.
But yo, nothings going to hold me back, or block me. They gonna have to pop me to stop me. This is why Im here.
The corporate media machine does a great job of brainwashing our children. Of having our children wish that they were in jail. Of having our children on dope and violent against one another. They make it easy for them to fight against one another. We have to start taking the time privately and publicly to start squashing that.
An organization that I represent is called Project Islamic H.O.P.E. Its based in LA and led proudly by Najee Ali. If you go to www.islamichope.org you can see that hes working with the Mayor of Los Angeles to host a beautiful Black and Brown unity conference (June 3rd 2006).
I hope everybody goes to that. One day will not solve this. We have to make sure we are working tomorrow. We have to make sure we are working next month. We have to make sure that we are reading and reaching out.
I was just talking to my brother, Anas, on the way down. He said Look we have to utilize the internet. All of the organizers before us never had the ability to use the internet as a tool to organize. Just to find out our respective histories, let alone have direct contact. We have to use all levels of technology and all levels of online and offline strategies.
But you know brothers like Davey D promoted this event real hard. He was one of the ONLY people who went down to LA and supported yall in that march. Im sorry that more African American leaders from the old guard havent supported you. I dont know whats going on with them. I dont know what it says about their original intent that more of them did not step up and openly support you in Los Angeles.
But I am here. The young Muslim leadership is here. The young Black leadership is here. This is our time and I am with you. My people are with you. I promise you that. My man Apakalips from the Universal Zulu Nation is with you. Shamako Noble from the Hip Hop Congress is with you. Artists like Paris, T-Kash, Aya De Leon, Immortal Technique, Dilated Peoples, Nate Mezmer, Self Scientific. Follow those artists! Support those artists! They love you. They are rappin for you right now. You must support them.
Dont let your kids watch BET. Dont let your kids sit down in front of MTV. We have to be honest about this. Right now my man D Labrie from East Oakland is gonna spit this piece called Black & Brown. I told him I was doing this event, he kicked it to me over the phone and I had to have him come down and let you hear this. Thats my time. ALLAH U AKBAR! God is the greatest. May God bless ALL in this room so we can unite and fight every day.
Adisa Banjokos next lecture is entitled Lyrical Warfare: Hip Hop,Religion and Politics in the New Century, at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania on Monday April 24th @ 7 PM. Rapper One Be Low will be ripping the mic at the close of the lecture. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org .