Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

LBTV :: More Blatherings On Hip-Hop

I’m in the ether right now getting ready for the Born In The Bronx conference at Cornell–stay tuned for pics and highlights sometime next week after the elections.

In the meantime, here’s another vid. Of course, I can’t promise any more coherence in this one than the Bloggingheads one below. But you knew that already…

Thanks to Justin!

posted by @ 8:35 pm | 1 Comment

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Bloggingheads :: Eli Lake and I Debating Hip-Hop & Politics

Here’s Eli Lake and I from today’s Bloggingheads TV:

Eli and I talked about the Vibe cover story, Ice Cube’s aspirationality, and debated crime policy and the Clipse, Bill Ayers and Too Short, and a lot more.

Not sure I was the most articulate dude in the face of Eli’s ridiculously broad and deep intelligence–which ranges from Pakistan and nukes to SoulStrut.com and the Rawkus catalog–but I tried to hold my own and it was a very enjoyable conversation…

posted by @ 5:44 am | 0 Comments

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Musical Interlude :: Meters Drummer Rocks "Obamagroove"

Inspired by Barack Obama’s speech in Denver, where 3/4s of the Meters played at a New Orleans benefit, legendary drummer–really the best drummer of all-time–Zigaboo Modeliste decided to funk up his own tribute to the man in “Obamagroove”

Here’s the bonus house remix by Zig’s son, Kelly “Spy Boy” Jones. It’s got a NOLA-meets-Baltimore-inna-Manchester-stylee vibe…

Download the songs at www.obamagroove.com and Zig will personally send half the proceeds to the campaign.

10 days. Keep on marchin’!

posted by @ 8:44 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Voices of The New Majority :: A Southern Son Finding A New Life


Nov 27
Photo Courtesy B-Fresh Photography

You look up and this cat is smiling at you. He’s wearing a red shirt and his eyes are hidden behind shades, another rapper on the grind. He’s here now in Las Vegas, where gaudy wealth and brutal poverty exist side-by-side, and a million simulations of the American dream are on sale around the clock. He’s got a CD, and it’s called “My America.” He introduces himself. Some rappers name themselves after heroes, villains, cartoons. His name is a simple fact. Nov 27, his date of birth. It’s the only thing he’s sure of.

He was born James Price, in Little Rock, Arkansas, 28 years after nine African American students desegregated Central High School, 21 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. When he was born, when Bill and Hillary Clinton were still in the State Capitol and Little Rock’s civil rights traumas were about to give way to gang-land traumas.

Nov 27 grew up all over town. “I didn’t really have a stable home from time to time year to year,” he says. His parents were still trying to live the party life. So he moved all over town to stay with grandparents, aunts, other relatives.
“When you’re not in a stable environment, you can’t adapt fully. You can never feel like you’re safe.”

He adds, “I was kinda homeless for a little bit, I had to deal with surviving on the streets when I was young. That made me learn how to survive through my mind. That’s where rap comes from—surviving from the mind.”

Some of his kin were Bloods, so he was too. Then, at 14—the year he began thinking of rapping seriously, the year he started hearing Cash Money and Busta Rhymes and Snoop and Dre in a whole new way—he found himself at a new school on the north side of town, the Black Disciples’ and Gangsta Disciples’ side of town. It was, he says, “the beginning of my troubles.”

Wearing a red cap sideways to school one day, he was surrounded by 30 cats in black or blue. They told him they didn’t like the way he was wearing his hat. He wouldn’t back down so he got beat down.

“That’s just some of the stuff teens go through out here on the streets,” he says.

“It’s like, you can’t surrender, you don’t want to be considered a punk because these cats want you to throw your rag down or abide by their rules cause it’s their side of town.”

After two years of banging, he says, “I came to the realization I got to do something better. I can’t indulge in this nonsense to where it could lead to the end of my life. There was times when I was like the only one representing for the gang that put me down. And I got these so-called homeboys? They weren’t down. So it was like, what’s the use? I got no backup.”

His family sent him to Austin, Texas to cool out for a couple of years. And he did. But when he returned to Little Rock, back this time to a Blood neighborhood, trouble still seemed determined to stalk him.

“I was at a security job at Pacific Railroad. Friday night. I was gonna go holla at my homeboy. Something was telling me just stay home. I guess that was my conscience. ‘Just stay home, just stay home.’ ‘Naw man, it’s Friday I’m trying to see what’s up with the night.’”

“I’m walking down the street. I see six cats over there approaching me like, ‘What up?’ I didn’t say nothing to ‘em, I kept walking. They surrounded me. I’m thinking I’m gonna have to squab with them cause they around every angle. I’m trying to get ready, see who’s gonna make the first move. Then I hear clink-clink, paw-paw-paw-paw.”

Bullets pierced his stomach and his arm. As he lay on the ground he wondered, “What did I do to deserve this?”

His wounds weren’t fatal. But his emotions were a riot. “I went through my pain with that, my anger, my frustration. Listened to my conscience. I didn’t retaliate because that just would have been another dead person on the street.”

He shrugs.

“That’s pretty much what Little Rock go through, man.”

The violence didn’t end. A short time later, a group did a drive-by on his house. He was 20, had been shot 4 times in his own neighborhood. He knew he had reached the bottom.

“So I just went to sleep, and I woke up. That was a sign. Like, hey I’m still alive. After that, that was the turning point. I was like, ‘I ain’t finna be around here in this death trap.’”

He left for Austin for good. Got a job, rented an apartment, got back on his feet. Started rapping again, made contacts in the industry. He joined up with a group called Mafia Mob. He was searching for something.

Nov took a job as an elections clerk and was awed by the intensity of the Democratic primary caucuses. He started noticing how his neighborhood on the east side of Austin was becoming gentrified. He got interested in community events. He was going to one—a Department of Justice hearing on community policing—in the fall of 2007 to give a statement when trouble found him again.

As he was crossing the street, two whites stared him down and starting shouting at him. He stopped. They got out of the car. From behind his shades, Nov 27 told them, “I’m not trying to fight but I’ll defend myself.” They started scrapping.

When the police came, they took the two white men aside. They slammed Nov faced down on the asphalt. The men told the police Nov had thrown rocks at their car and challenged them to a fight. But when Nov tried to say that was a lie, they handcuffed him, pulled his shirt over his face, and took him to jail, charging him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

But this time, the trouble ended up different. Nov landed an attorney, Kenavon “K.C.” Carter, who took the case. After watching the police video, the judge offered to dismiss the charges dropped if Nov would stay out of trouble for 6 months. That wasn’t going to be a problem this time. Carter took Nov to more community events, brought him to Las Vegas for the National Hip-Hop Political Convention.

So now this cat is standing in front of you. He’s told his story. Behind his shades, his mind is spinning. He is meeting people he never would have met before, he is seeing possibilities he never would have seen before.

“In my raps, I try to tell people we don’t have to blame nobody for our oppression because that leads to hating. That’s where rap plays a role, it can relieve tension and bring people together,” he says.

“Change can be a positive thing,” he adds. “Bullets went through me but they didn’t kill me, man. It’s like I’m resurrected, a new me now.”

Behind his shades, it seemed clear he was getting closer to what he was looking for. A tribe. A cause. Something to believe in, something that might last past tomorrow.

posted by @ 2:23 pm | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Angry Black White Boy The Play Opens Tonight!

Please come out tonight for the opening of Dan Wolf’s theatrical take on Adam Mansbach’s Angry Black White Boy at The Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco’s Mission District.

You can also join me and Hard Knock Radio’s Weyland Southon on Saturday night in welcoming Adam Mansbach his own angry self for the show and a special discussion afterwards.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the play continues through November 16th. Come on through!

posted by @ 10:59 am | 1 Comment

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Voices of The New Majority :: A Hip-Hop Activist In Search Of Answers


Carlo Javier Garcia
Photo Courtesy B-Fresh Photography

In August, crowds gathered every day in the streets of Denver to protest at the Democratic National Convention.

On the day before the Convention opened, one in the crowd was a 22 year-old Puerto-Rican, University of Colorado student named Carlo Javier Garcia. He wore Swiss Army sunglasses, red and black Adidas, a red and black kaffiyah, camo shorts, and a black “Recreate ’68” t-shirt. He marched alongside anarchists.

At that same moment, two of his brothers were in Iraq, one on his second tour of duty. Another brother was at home after being wounded in combat in Afghanistan and awarded a Purple Heart. His father, an Army Lt. Colonel, had also done a tour there, and was still working part-time in the reserve in Miami.

Carlo was clearly from the black bloc of the family. But he saw the protests from a different perspective than many of his companions. His family’s service to the country, he said, inspired him to be there.

“There’s a warrior ethos in our family,” he said. “I was in ROTC for a year. The more I thought about it, the more I read and learned in college, I was like, I can’t be a part of this illegal imperialist war. You come to realize you don’t need to be a soldier in the army to be a warrior and fight.”

He spoke as the anti-war marchers and riot police stared each other down in front of the State Capitol. “This”, he said, “is me being a warrior and fighting.”

As an argument broke out among the marchers over whether or not to confront the police, Carlo and I spoke some more. He had helped organize the rally earlier that morning for Recreate 68, which had featured Green Party candidates Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente and Dead Prez.

“You think of what happened in the DNC in Chicago 1968. There were police riots, there was a police state. Look at it now,” he said, pointing to the lines of riot cops facing down the activists, “they are storm troopers going to battle. All the bad things that happened—no, that’s not what we’re trying to recreate. What we’re trying to recreate is the spirit of activism and unity that was so prevalent back then. Now it’s 2008, it’s time for us to reinspire everybody.”

I asked Carlo if he planned to vote. He had more surprises. He said that, unlike many of his fellow marchers, he did. And he was voting, as he had in the previous election, for the Democratic candidate. “Barack is an inspiration,” he said.

Why was he helping organize a protest at the DNC, I asked him, if he was voting Democratic?

He chuckled. He’d heard the question before. A lot.

He explained that his dad was a “yellow-dog Democrat”—an old term Southerners invented to describe voters who would vote for a yellow dog on a Democratic ticket over any Republican.

“Your vote isn’t necessarily significant. I voted in 2004 and 2006 and I’ve been disappointed both times,” Carlo admitted. But he felt the protesters played a crucial role in influencing the Democrats.

“We could go to the RNC and protest all we want. We could have the police state attack us and destroy us at the RNC—it’s not going to make a difference to John McCain and the rest of the Republicans. But we can come here to the DNC and potentially have Barack Obama see us in mass force, see the people movement, and inspire him for change.”

He added, “We have to hold them accountable. In 2006 we elected a Democratic Congress on the platform that they would end the war in Iraq and cut funding for the war. There’s been a troop surge. We’re still at war. My brothers are in there now on 15-month tours. This is my family. These are my problems.”

At that point, the activists seemed to have settled on a decision. They retreated and marched in the other direction toward downtown. The police dispersed. Garcia left to join the marchers.

Later that week, we caught up with each other at the Iraq War Veterans’ demonstration. He had been arrested the previous day, and because he had been on probation, he was facing potentially serious charges. Despite his concern, it seemed as if he had to be at this protest; it hit the closest to home.

He marched to the Pepsi Center then left for Boulder to help set up a Public Enemy concert, sponsored by his hip-hop collective, Mad Society Project. It was a good day—the War Veterans demonstration was the peak of the week for the street demonstrators and the Public Enemy show was a success.

But in general, the protests in Denver hardly matched the fervor of the ones in St. Paul at the Republican National Convention, let alone the outpouring of emotion that greeted Obama’s acceptance speech.

Since then, the economy has become the nation’s most pressing issue, but the wars rage on. In the last month, there have been 10 American and over 130 Iraqi civilian deaths.

A couple weeks ago, I emailed Carlo to check up. He wrote back, saying that he had as his court case loomed, he had thought a lot about what he and the Denver activists had called their “Days of Resistance”. He wasn’t entirely sure they had worked.

“The day of the large scale protest is dead,” he wrote. “I realized our protest wouldn’t change policy before it all went down, but I hoped it would inspire others, and to tell you the truth, ain’t shit changed. We gotta figure out a different formula to inspire the people who need to be inspired.”

He was still searching for answers.

I thought back to something he had said on the streets of Denver: “The Bronx was burning. That is us now. Our country is burning and there are people who are speaking out against it. Your average hip-hop head now should be an activist, should be going out and doing something.”

For more Voices of the New Majority, pick up the new issue of Vibe on stands now or check Vibe.com’s Politics page.

posted by @ 9:52 am | 0 Comments

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

How Anti-Muslim Bigotry Pushed Powell To Obama

From Maureen Dowd’s powerful piece in today’s Times:

Colin Powell had been bugged by many things in his party’s campaign this fall: the insidious merging of rumors that Barack Obama was Muslim with intimations that he was a terrorist sympathizer; the assertion that Sarah Palin was ready to be president; the uniformed sheriff who introduced Governor Palin by sneering about Barack Hussein Obama; the scorn with which Republicans spit out the words “community organizer”; the Republicans’ argument that using taxes to “spread the wealth” was socialist when the purpose of taxes is to spread the wealth; Palin’s insidious notion that small towns in states that went for W. were “the real America.”

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.

“I stared at it for an hour,” he told me. “Who could debate that this kid lying in Arlington with Christian and Jewish and nondenominational buddies was not a fine American?”

posted by @ 8:09 am | 0 Comments

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Tipping Points :: Early Voting In Swing States

As this long campaign enters its final two weeks, attention has turned to massive get-out-the-vote efforts, especially early voting.

Since this year’s election could bring one of the highest turnouts on record, especially at precincts in communities of color and around colleges and universities, both parties and nonpartisan organizations like the League of Young Voters have already begun bringing people to the polls.

Early voting could very well make the difference. Nearly a third of all voters are expected to cast an early vote.

Polls show that Obama may be capturing sizable leads in the early vote. In part this may reflect the enthusiasm gap between the parties over their candidates. The Gallup Poll reported last week Democratic voters were 20-points more enthusiastic than their Republican counterparts about voting this year.

But the difference may also reflect the party’s diverging tactical decisions. While the McCain campaign seems to have been concentrating on fighting “voter registration fraud” and laws that ease voting restrictions in the courts and on the airwaves, the Obama campaign has been dedicating big resources into galvanizing the early vote.

In Ohio, perhaps the key swing state, many who lived through the last two elections won’t easily forget the long polling lines they faced. Some voters in 2006 waited in bad weather over 12 hours to cast their vote. Interest in early voting has been high, and not just among voters. Earlier this month, Republican officials unsuccessfully challenged the early voting laws. Ohio’s early voters have favored Obama over McCain.

For the past two days, Senator Obama has been in Florida, the other crucial swing state, which began early voting this week. The Obama campaign also has early voting outreach efforts up in the important battlegrounds of Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Montana.

In North Carolina–once a solidly red state–the Obama campaign has been putting together a particularly massive effort to encourage “1-stop voting”. North Carolina law allows voters to register and vote by absentee ballot at any county polling place right away. These efforts seemed to be paying off. Over 200,000 have already voted in North Carolina and Obama may be leading by as many as 30 points over McCain.

In all, thirty-one states allow unrestricted early voting. For information on early voting rules for your state, check the Early Voting Information Center website. To check on where you can cast an early vote, check GoVote. And for voter guides put together by other young folks in your area (or to put one together yourself), check TheBallot.org.

posted by @ 8:21 am | 0 Comments

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Rest In Power ED RICCO

Sad news about the founder of Sedgwick & Cedar…

posted by @ 11:47 am | 0 Comments

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

McCain Lost Me

With watery red eyes that had him looking as if he’d just smoked a bowl of medical marijuana, Senator John McCain might have made me feel sorry for him.

I’m far from a conservative, as far as the suburbs of Honolulu are from the streets of Brooklyn. But this year I was willing to give John McCain a fair hearing. “Change is coming”, he had said in St. Paul and, weary of politics as usual, I was genuinely interested to see if he and the Republican Party were willing to back it up.

But last night I finally gave in. I broke. I was stomping around the house, scaring the kids, yelling at the radio and the television, and generally not digesting my dinner.

Here’s why. We’re now past silly season and into shitty season. Falling down in the polls like Michael Douglas, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin have gone negative, unleashing fear out of their little box of horrors.

McCain argued last night that he has “repudiated every time someone has been out of line.” But he continues to allow his VP nominee—someone CNN’s Leslie Sanchez once said was “a vice president for the rest of us”—to insinuate Obama is not like the rest of us. He continues to flog non-stories about ACORN, a federation of community organizations working for poor people led by a woman of color, and Bill Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical who now is a respected voice in education.

McCain and Palin are betting that those who believe Obama is Arab or Muslim—and please so what if he were?—will also be scared of community organizers in poor communities and communities of color who have registered over a million new voters. Just for perspective, the false registrations—which afflict every voter registration campaign—represent less than half of one percent of all the new registrations—a pretty good rate, if you ask me.

McCain and Palin are betting that those who believe Obama is down with terrorists—because he actually lived and went to school in Indonesia once and what’s up with that middle name?—are still scared of 60s activists who have become distinguished professors and respected community leaders focusing on improving education for poor, inner-city students. Why focus on the real issue of how to fix the educational system for the nation’s future, when you can draw people back to the spectacle of battles that are 40 years old?

Full disclosure: I’ve knocked on doors and phone-banked for ACORN. I’ve written the Afterword for Bill Ayers’ new book, and I was honored that he asked. So call me a domestic terrorist threatening to destroy the fabric of American democracy.

But I don’t think I’m alone.

Voter registration fraud doesn’t mean that Mickey Mouse will show up and try to vote on November 4th. Voter suppression, however, is an active Republican strategy that’s been in place since the 1964 Voting Rights Act expanded enfranchisement. Is there any wonder why election protection groups feel they need to be in communities of color, working-class people, immigrants, and not in, say, Salt Lake City?

And if we want to talk Bill Ayers, let’s start with education. Ayers has quietly done important work in Chicago and earned the respect of the best education leaders in the country, liberals and conservatives alike.

McCain, on the other hand, asserted last night that the country had finally arrived at equal access to education, apparently unaware that school segregation has climbed since the Reagan era to levels unseen since the eve of Brown vs. Board of Education.

In his effort to push vouchers, he confused them with charter schools and lied—with a big smile—about Washington D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee’s position on them. McCain simply doesn’t seem to have as much knowledge or passion on education and higher education as he does about Obama’s supposedly scary relationships.

And here is the thing. No one really cares about my friend Bill Ayers and no one really cares about ACORN except for the right-wing nuts and racists in the party, the kind of folks who show up at rallies to yell “Kill him!” when Obama’s name is mentioned. Instead I think most voters, like me, want to know how the war can be ended, the economy be turned around, and the education system be fixed.

But McCain, despite his “I’m not George Bush” zinger, seemed more intent upon bringing back the ideas of the past. At times, he sounded like a GOP greatest hits compilation.

When the discussion turned to abortion, for instance, he said, “We have to change the culture of America,” he said. It was a conscious echo of Pat Buchanan’s famous 1992 culture war speech, the singular text of the right-wing backlash.

McCain tried to paint Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal, a throwback to the days when the elder Bush made Michael Dukakis ashamed of the “l-word”. And he revived Reagan-era disses—”class warfare” and “spreading the wealth”—to describe Obama’s economic plans.

Of course after four decades in which the wealth gap has yawned and a month in which government has set aside nearly a trillion dollars to bail out Wall Street, class warfare and spreading the wealth don’t sound so bad to lots of middle-class and working-class voters.

No, Senator McCain, you’re not George W. Bush. Yes, you’ve been a warrior and you remain ready to fight. But you don’t look like you’re fighting for the future. You look like you’re still fighting the past.

posted by @ 11:02 am | 1 Comment



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