The ‘outrage’ over rap star Common‘s appearance at the White House for a Poetry event is one that all of us should look at and take a long pause. It’s not so much that the Sean Hannitys and Fox News crowd went reaching for an old standby tactic-Demonize a Black person or some or some sort of cultural expression to get ratings, bring attention or distract from an issue. Thats been done for decades and with each deployment there are scores of willing participants who are eager to engage these clowns in a feeble attempt to go toe for toe…
What gets lost in the sauce is our collective attention to other issues that really impact our lives. As radio host Skyy Brewer from Skyyhook radio reminded us, ‘we stopped talking about Congressman Paul Ryan‘s proposed Draconian budget to go all out on this issue around Common’.
Baltimore artist/activist Labtekwon in a recent Facebook posting chided us for being gullible.He urged us to stop being so quick to drink the Kool Aid of propaganda. He raised the question: ‘Full grown adults are actually idignant over whether a rapper goes to the white house and when a RIGHT WING pundit is against it, then its an issue worthy of discussion?’ Translation: Why are we taking what Sarah palin has to say so seriously?
It might be a bit shortsighted that so many of us engaged this debate on terms favorable to the far right.. We reacted to Sarah Palin. We reacted to Sean Hannity.. We reacted to out of touch police officers.. We continued the troubling tendency of reacting to their words, their definitions and the angles they bring up.
What many of us have NOT done, is use this conversation to connect to larger more insidious dots that impact us all on a daily basis.. It’s easy to have a discussion about rap lyrics.. We’ve done that for the past 30 years and to be honest, that’s gotten old. It’s harder but needed now more than ever, to move that discussion to a point where it unearths the political and social agendas at hand.
For example, the other night one of the cable news channels dragged out a police officer who whined and cried about how Hip Hop was thug music. He asserted that Common was a thug and the whole world is falling apart at the seams because of Hip Hop..It was laughable.
Bottomline is officer, Dave Jones of the Fraternal Order of Police in New Jersey was upset that Common over his 20 year career, did a couple of songs/poems addressing police brutality…songs I should add, that most people if queried would be hard pressed to name…They were ‘Letters to the Law’ and ‘A Song for Assata’.
Ask a high school student or most college students if they heard either song or play them with any sort of regularity and the answer would be ‘No’. In addition, most never even heard of Assata Shakur . The few that have, know her as the Godmother of the late 2Pac Shakur. Perhaps we need to be arming younger generations about the Black Liberation struggle so it extends beyond the words of a few artists. Perhaps we need to be having more high profile discussions about political prisoners and all the demonic things that were done to those fighting for equality and liberation in the 60s and 70s.
What’s happened around this Common controversy is too many of us fell into the trap explaining to an uninterested audience the virtues of Hip Hop. Too many of us tried to explain Common’s body of work and defend it.. Our collective response should’ve been a big ‘F$%k You to to Dave Jones and other critics of Common’s visit to the White House…
We should’ve responded by telling these folks to come hollar at us when their police brethren are willing to hold accountable the police ‘thugs’ who are rarely punished for their egregious transgressions. We should be up in arms insisting that those officers who went bursting in the home of 7 year old Aiyana Stanely Jones and killed her as they showed off for a reality TV show, be brought to justice. . We should be asking the FOP to tell us what’s being done about officerJoseph Weekly who is accused of shooting and killing this precious child?
We should’ve been demanding to know what sort of accountability and steps were taken to insure more seven years old like Joshalyn Lawton don’t have guns drawn on them by thuggish officers because they are in the back seat of a car crying during a routine traffic stop..
This tragic incident happened a few years ago in Pittsburgh, PA and believe it or not, the mother Pamela Lawton, was charged with disorderly conduct when she screamed in horror and tried to protect her daughter. Nothing happened to officer Eric Tatusko threatened to shoot the 7 year old if she didnt stop crying.
Officer Dave Jones was beyond hypocritical when he called Common a ‘nitwit’ while ignoring the dimwitted and fatal behavior of his fellow officers. Last I checked Common hasn’t pulled guns on any officers nor anyone else for that matter… and even if he did a song suggesting such actions, so what? Its high time that such critics get over it…It’s not like Common was at the White House performing questionable material. Just like our former Governor Arnold Swarterznegger wasn’t sitting in the Capitol pulling out guns resurrecting his Terminator character.
Incidentally Arnold has killed cops in his movies and been accused of groping women in real life, but of course the FOP was nowhere to be seen when our former Governor was invited to the White House which was just 3 weeks ago..
Many were quick to address the supposed outrage over Common. However, it was sad to see that so many while defending Common, ignored the cries of police accountability from fellow Hip Hop artists like Paradise Gray of the legendary group X-Clan and Jasiri X of One Hood, an artist/organizer who puts out weekly songs addressing pressing issues impacting the community. Both artists have been on the ground dealing with outlandish case around Jordan Miles.
All of us should be up in arms over the horrific beating of unarmed Jordan Miles a 17 year old honor student who was invited to play violin for the our First Lady Michelle Obama and other First Ladies of the World. Last year, Miles was beaten to the point of being unrecognized by his own mother by a group of martial arts expert police officers known as the Jump Out Boys.
Miles a shy young man who formed a pact with his friends to achieve ‘As’ in all his classes class a task he’s thus far suceeded in, was enroute to his grandmother’s house when undercover officers jumped out, didn’t identify themselves, but demanded he hand over his money, drugs and guns.. Jordan who lives in a gang plaqued neighborhood, fearing he was being robbed, ran only to be quickly subduded and viciously beaten.
While his head was being smashed on the ground, Jordan attempted to say the Lord’s Prayer. Officers hearing this, pummeled him harder and ripped out his dred locks..The picture we posted says it all…
The Feds recently declined to persecute the officers and Jordan was told by the Pittsburgh Chief of Police not run from officers in the future. Many feel the decision to not go after the officers on the federal level was to keep police unions at bay come the 2012 election.. Paradise of X-Clan recently gave an impassioned speech about this incident.
We all need to be upset about that sort of miscarriage of justice. We need to be upset that we rarely see the Fraternal Order of Police speaking out condemning these sorts of activities amongst their own… There was no condemning or apology for what happened to Jordan Miles, Joshalyn Lawton, Aiyanna Jones, the murder of unarmed Oscar Grant or the recent scandal involving police in San Francisco beating, robbing innocent people and spying on non-profit groups.
The outpouring of support for Jordan has been far and wide throughout the city of Pittsburgh, but virtually ignored by many of us who quickly responded to the criticism launched at Common. That’s a big time failure on our part to not connect those dots.
This discussion goes way beyond some lyrics to a song. Trust me, whatever words Common has rapped, police have heard far worse. In addition, as public officials they are paid to deal with it..It’s part of the job..Public official get criticized and lambasted everyday. We have sitting lawmakers and radio hosts who said some of the most vile racially charged things about our President ever heard and he seems to be able to deal, so why are peace officers being so thin skinned? Dave Jones had no business being on TV crying about a rapper like Common of all people.
Moving on, here’s two things to consider.. First while it’s great Common got support from bloggers and writers, my question is where were his fellow A-List cohorts?
The police and Far Right are well oiled machines who have PR firms pushing their message.. Where were the Jay-Z‘s, P-Diddys and others Hip Hop moguls who seem to continuously remind us how they have long money?
Ideally it would’ve been great if they got their PR hacks to set up a press conference and addressed the issue as a unit so that it deaded future attacks or at the very least changed the tone of future debates once and for all?
I only make this suggestion knowing that the far right is still upset that President Obama used Hip Hop and cultural icons skillfully to his victorious advantage in ’08. Their game plan is to marginalize and demonize that potential support in 2012.
By smashing hard on any and all artists who attempt to weigh in in 2012, the far right hope to suceed on two fronts.. One they hope to limit the impact and public interaction between artists and the politicians they support. They want candidaters running away from artists not too them..
Second, they hope to get potential businesses to reconsider endorsing these artists for fear of right wing attacks because of a song no matter how obscure.
Its for these reasons that A-List artists from Will I Am on down to Ludacris should’ve been using their firepower and resources to shut down this Common controversy immediately..
We should be looking at this incident and asking where was Common’s label-Interscope Records which is home to an estimated 70% of the rap stars from Black Eyed Peas to 50 Cent? I been in this business long enough to know and have seen that if label head Jimmy Iovine wants a story killed he could make it happen at least in mainstream outlets.Where were they to kill the negative noise around Common? They have the resources and clout to make that happen.
As for the rest of us, it’s important that we continue staying the course, addressing issues of injustice and not getting sidetracked. In short if we were gonna address the Common controversy at least be sure to remind our respective audience of the day to day unresolved incidents of police brutality and terrorism visiting our communities far too often..
Something to Ponder…