Tag Archives: justice

Pushing the Tracks: “Beefed Out” by Sacramento Knoxx

BEEFED OUT

If you follow this publication at all, you’re more than likely familiar with the work of producer/MC Sacramento Knoxx. Born and raised in Detroit, Knoxx incorporates hip-hop into his work as a community organizer and activist. For the last three months Knoxx spent time in Oakland and San Francisco, California as an artist in residence at the School of Unity and Liberation and the Arab Organizing & Resource Center.  As violence between Israel and Palestine intensified this summer, Knoxx’s work to address anti-arab racism, speaking out about the injustices of the Israeli Apartheid and teaching youth from a social justice lens became even more crucial .

Today we feature “Beefed Out,” from the recently released The Trees Will Grow Again, the culmination of Knoxx’s summer in California. As he explains:

“Beefed Out” speaks to the increased militarization of U.S. police in our communities. We call on our communities to continue fighting back and resisting state violence and repression. Understanding prisons, borders, surveillance and policing as tools of global repression is critical to building and maintaining powerful movements for liberation.”

Behind the heavy and frantic war drums of DeathStar Kic’s Dustin Haffner, Knoxx successfully sums up the plight of the hood at home and abroad. He does this with lines such as, “Feeling like I’m facing King Koopa/ They quick to shoot ya/ That violence, repression, that new old message” and “De-fund activities with the police/ War on terror, war on drugs, border security/ R U phvckin kiddin me?/ This is the land of the free.”

The entire The Trees Will Grow Again project is another reminder of how hip-hop can be to unite people and raise consciousness when used to speak on the social, political and economic platform. As events continue to unfold in the United States, the Middle East and around the globe, our hearts and minds are with those continuing to do battle against oppression.

More information, the link to the song and instrumentals, are here: http://sknoxx.bandcamp.com/track/beefed-out

This was produced along side fellow DeathStar Klic producer, Dustin Haffner. www.soundcloud.com/dhaffner

 

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The Happenings: Talib Kweli and the Hip-Hop Defense of Palestine

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By: Daniel Hodgman

“Let’s get free just like the Palestinians!” –Black Star “RE: DEFinition (Live at Club Nokia 9/22/2012)”

Let’s Get Free Just Like the Palestinians

The quote above is a reworked bar from Black Star’s song “RE: DEFinition.” Playing to a packed Club Nokia in Los Angeles in September, 2012, Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey switched things up during their live set of the song and pronounced to the crowd, “Son we way past the minimum, entering millennium/ Let’s get free just like the Palestinians!” (The original line is: “raps will hold a gat to your back like Palestinians”). It was, in one swift and dominant showing, one of those “bigger than hip-hop” moments, and with two of the most conscious MCs out there in Talib and Bey—not to mention Beat Junkies creator and mastermind J Rocc behind the 1s and 2s that night—the message was clear that hip-hop was at the defense of Palestine.

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Nique Love Rhodes

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By: Gus Navarro

About three weeks ago, Dan and I attended the ULITT hip-hop conference at Michigan State University. In its third year, the ULITT conference presents a unique opportunity to learn, collaborate and network with artists, educators and community activists that incorporate hip-hop in their work. We met Nique Love Rhodes after a session hosted by Sacramento Knoxx. She came right up to us, introduced herself and handed us each CD’s of Against All Odds, her album from 2012.

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The Great American Racial Divide and the Dishonoring of Native American Culture

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By: Daniel Hodgman and Gus Navarro

On Saturday, October 19th, in the midst of college football frenzy, ESPN and College Gameday took part in the public mockery of Native American culture. Was it all in good fun? Or was it just insensitive and racist? The featured video is below, and the Bonus Cut creators share their thoughts.

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The Constant Pressures of Working in a Racist Environment

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By: Daniel Hodgman

Often times I look at the environment in which I was raised and the environments in which I’ve taken part in throughout my life. I look for contributing factors related to behavior, I try to study examples of nature verses nurture and I assess correlations between overall behavior and normalcy of individuals within a certain institution. I do this to not only understand regional differences, but also to learn more about myself and what I am still yet to learn.

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All Eyes on Us: The Zimmerman Aftermath and Our Need to Organize

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By: Daniel Hodgman

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” –George Washington, September 19, 1796

With the recent verdict and acquittal of George Zimmerman regarding the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we have once again been thrown into the twirling ring of “true America”. Although the concord of the United States has proven itself at times in this country’s young history, we live in an age where George Washington’s grave prediction of a “frightful despotism” is hard to shake off. It’s not just the Zimmerman trial that has caused an eruption and desecration of our country’s whole either. Rather, it’s been a multitude of tragedies and events for centuries. At this point, how can we have a country where the government doesn’t trust the people, the people don’t trust the government and the people don’t trust the people? Why do we have to live in a constant divide? Now, of course America is not alone in this regard, but if we want to solidify our world as a whole (because our government thinks we should police this planet), we can’t be living in a country with blatant injustice thrown before our feet. The result of this injustice is the separation of our country, whether it’s regarding race, politics, religion or gender, and the suffering from this divide is immense.

The story revolving around Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman has represented so much depending on how you see it—this goes without saying that most people see this story representing multiple facets of its overall blueprint. For most, it’s been an issue about race, civil rights and racial oppression. For others, this story represents everything from the country’s legal system, to gun control laws and mainstream media, and if anything is to come out of this case unhinged from the start it’s that we are still a grossly divided nation: those fighting for Trayvon Martin, his family and justice in America are opposed by those who firmly believe Zimmerman acted in self-defense and nuts like Ann Coulter; those fighting for stricter gun laws and background checks are opposed by those who stand by today’s gun regulations and most likely own many firearms (three out of the six jurors in the Zimmerman trial are gun owners); and those fighting for blue states are opposed by those fighting for red ones.

To put this into a perspective that makes more sense these days, Unreal News Online has reported that last Sunday (24 hours after the Zimmerman verdict) Facebook experienced more blocking and un-friending than any day in its history. Says Mark Zuckerberg:

“Everybody had something to say about (Saturday’s) verdict. Charges of racism were thrown around at everyone. Tempers flared and a lot of connections and ties were severed. It was even worse than the day the Casey Anthony verdict was announced. It really makes you wonder what would have happened if Facebook were around in 1995 when the O.J. Simpson trial reached its conclusion.”

Although this is a small sample of the big picture, it nonetheless shows how we are at the core. Our division amongst each other and our government not only hinders the country’s ability to progress as a whole, but it clinically showcases our flaws. Most of the time, we as people tend to bash on the things that we hate rather than promoting what we love. I think, to speak realistically, we’re all susceptible to this flaw and it truly affects our overall being.

And yet, through all of the division and separation, anger and sadness, our country continues to amaze me.

If there’s a positive I can take from recent travesties such as the Trayvon story, the Oscar Grant shooting (Fruitvale Station is now out in theaters), the Marissa Alexander conviction, the highly unreported slaying of Jordan Russell Davis and the thousands of other stories that go unreported, it’s that these events have spurred the congealing of people from all backgrounds and cultures unified for a common cause. Just when I think the division among the people of this country has come to an all time high, rallies and protests in response to these tragic events have calmed me down, subtly reminding me that the good always outnumbers the bad.

Regarding the George Zimmerman verdict, much like the protests that spurred an investigation in the first place, people from all over the country have come together to resist the forces that continue to separate the people.

On Sunday evening in New York City, thousands gathered as part of a nation-wide movement to fight against injustice in the legal system and racial oppression.

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New York City via AP

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New York City via AP

Like New York City, protests all around the country connected thousands.

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin via AP

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Detroit, Michigan via AP

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Seattle, Washington via seattlepi.com

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Jacksonville, Florida via AP

The Trayvon Martin blackout protests and million hoodie marches have further shown me that our country is still a wondrous entity. For times I have forgotten just how immense and absorbing we all are. But to this I must ask why it takes a tragic or monumental event like this to bring us all together. A year from now, if things haven’t changed, will we continue to march upon the steps of Washington with words of protest? Or will we, like so many times before, step down until another saddening event throttles our emotions? Is this just human nature?

If we can take something like the Trayvon Martin story and demand change for our legal system and call for justice, we must learn how to do this without the wake of such an event. To continually fight means to never succumb and forever persist, and it’s with this where we must stand.

The common result among our country has been that one of the biggest injustices is that of the separation of our country, whether it’s among racial, religious, political, sexual or cultural grounds. From the Trayvon Martin story to the NYPD pat down service to the ridiculous bills being passed that are further trying to chip away at women’s rights, the core institution of the United States has divided us instead of celebrating the uniqueness everyone brings to this great country. We have, as citizens, joined together to fight these injustices and demand change, but we need to be more frequent. By doing this, our voice will constantly be heard, and we will never fall beneath the abyss. By doing this, we’re not only demanding change, but we’re shaping the future of our country and the way it’ll speak for generations.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

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One Step Forward, One Step Back: DOMA and The Voting Rights Act

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By: Gus Navarro

This past week the Supreme Court voted by a 5-4 margin on two cases that will have a lasting influence on future generations. On Wednesday, June 26th, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996—as unconstitutional. This was a monumental victory for the LGBT community as DOMA prevented same-sex couples, whose marriages were recognized by their home state, from receiving the same benefits available to other married couples under federal law. Wednesday’s decision did not legalize same-sex marriage across the country, but it is an important step in the direction of marriage equity. The Supreme Court was praised for having the fortitude to make this decision (to see the absolute joy on people’s faces from images taken that day shows the magnitude of this decision for people all over the United States). As someone who has close friends that are a part of the LGBT community, the decision by the Supreme Court was long overdue. Hopefully, we will soon reach a point in our society where love is not a political issue.

However, on Tuesday, just one day before, the Supreme Court declared parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as unconstitutional. It was voted that sections 4 and 5 be taken out, removing much of the staying power behind the bill. These sections were originally WRITTEN into the bill specifically to combat the legalized apartheid found in the south directed primarily at the African-American community following Civil War Reconstruction; otherwise known as the Jim Crow Era. Before this legislation was passed, voter discrimination was rampant across the United States.

The Voting Rights Act, and specifically sections 4 and 5, were put in place as a way for the Federal Government to determine which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place or redrawing electoral districts. These sections were extremely important, then and now, as discrimination can still be found around the polls today.

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It appears that the main reason sections 4 and 5 were removed is because it is thought that they no longer apply in today’s society. Basically the court is saying what they teach in schools; racism ended with Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. It takes minimal effort to see that this is not the case and that racial prejudice continues to this day. According to a report done by The Brennan Center For Justice, If Section 5 Falls:  New Voting Restrictions, there were eight states that passed restrictive voting laws in 2012 and nine states that introduced restrictive voting laws in 2013. Some of these states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. In the report there are multiple examples of recent attempts by state and local governments to implement discriminatory voting changes. For example:

In 2001, the white mayor and the all-white Board of Aldermen for the small town of Kilmichael, Mississippi attempted to cancel an election shortly after black citizens became a majority of the registered voters. DOJ objected, finding the cancelation was designed to weaken African Americans’ voting strength. The town refused to reschedule the election until DOJ required it to hold one in 2003, when the town’s first African-American mayor and three African-American aldermen were elected (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

The city council of Fredericksburg, Virginia was preparing to adopt a redistricting plan in 2002 that would have dismantled its only majority black district. The council abandoned the idea when the city attorney warned that doing so would violate Section 5 (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

In 2006, DOJ objected to a decision by a Houston-area community college district to no longer conduct joint elections with several coextensive school districts. As a result, voters would have had to travel to two separate polling places in order to cast their ballots. The change also reduced the number of polling places from 84 to 12, which covered an area greater than 1,000 square miles and served more than 540,000 voters. In its letter objecting to the shift, DOJ noted the assignment of voters was “remarkably uneven,” as one polling site for the school board election with the smallest proportion of minority voters would serve 6,500 voters, while the most heavily minority site would serve more than 67,000 voters, 80 percent of whom were black or Latino (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

In 2012, the city council of Roxboro, North Carolina was considering a proposal to change its body from having two-year non-staggered terms to having four-year staggered terms. This would have made it more difficult for minorities to elect candidates of their choice by reducing the number of people on the ballot at each election. But after local advocates suggested the proposal would not survive Section 5, the city abandoned it, instead adopting longer, but non-staggered terms (Perez & Agraharkar, 2013).

Even this past week, on the same day as sections 4 and 5 were struck down as unconstitutional, Texas announced their decision that a voter identification law, that had been blocked, would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps would no longer need federal approval.

There are those who believe that with this decision, The Supreme Court has given Democrats a present in that it will encourage members of the African-American and Latina/o populations to frequent the polls like they did in 2008. New York Times writer Ross Douthat concludes his editorial by saying,

Liberal demagogy notwithstanding, voter ID laws aren’t a way for Republicans to turn the clock back and make sure that it’s always 1965. But they are a good way for Republicans to ensure that African-Americans keep voting like it’s always 2008 (Douthat, 2013).

Eventually, this could turn out to be the case, and if so, that would be outstanding. However, this viewpoint ultimately misses the mark. Issues of race are still clearly prominent in this country; racism did not go away the minute after the mass movements of the so-called Civil Rights Era. If racist policies had vanished, there wouldn’t have been the War on Drugs, countless “Urban Renewal” projects that disproportionately affected African-American and Latina/o communities and the state of Arizona would not have banned the Mexican-American Studies Department in the Tucson Unified School District. If racist policies didn’t exist any longer, there would be no school to prison pipeline, and Michelle Alexander would not have written The New Jim Crow, condemning the prison system in the United States. Issues of race continue to play out in education, the work place, in voting and social situations everyday. Despite what some may say, the election of a biracial president did not end matters of race in the United States.

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With the DOMA and voting rights decisions, the Supreme Court has given and taken away. On Wednesday there was immense rejoicing, as there should have been, all over the country. It is time to celebrate this monumental step towards marriage equity. However, before we celebrate, we must also consider the decision made just the day before. Are we actually making advancements in the realm of social progress, or are we taking a step forward and a step backward? Why are we praising the Supreme Court when both verdicts were reached by a 5-4 margin? Why was the removal of sections 4 and 5 not as publicized? Is it merely a coincidence that the Supreme Court announced the DOMA decision the day after, attempting to suppress the negative press that was surely to come? In what ways do racist/prejudicial ideologies persist in the United States and how might we combat them? Finally, as residents of the United States, how much longer are we going to sit around and accept the slow churn of politics before we do something about it?

All over the world, in places such as Brasil, Egypt and Turkey, people are taking to the streets to express their frustration over their country’s social, economic and political concerns. In Brasil, a country synonymous with soccer, the situation is so dire that protesters were willing to give up their chance to see Brasil win the Confederations Cup in order to make their voices heard. In the United States there are things such as healthcare, eight-hour workdays and weekends because of a huge labor movement that spanned for decades. In the case of the Voting Rights Act, the only reason it was ratified is because a generation of activists came together against all odds, demanding social, political, economic and racial equality. The government of the United States has never given anything to its citizens voluntarily. The freedoms that we enjoy are a direct result of ordinary people doing more than just listening to one news station and voting. It is a result of past generations educating themselves and seizing what was rightfully theirs. In a matter of minutes, five justices took that away. I hope Ross Douthat is correct and that the decision regarding the Voting Rights Act will somehow turn out to be a good thing, motivating people to make their voice heard at the polls. However, I am hoping for more than that. I hope that people across the country, regardless of race, religion, social class, gender and sexual orientation can take to the streets celebrating the defeat of DOMA, while also denouncing the verdict regarding the Voting Rights Act. We won’t get anywhere taking one step forward and one step back.

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All Eyez on Me: The George Zimmerman Trial and Hip-Hop’s Defense of Trayvon Martin

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By: Daniel Hodgman

All Eyez on Me

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In the 17 days since the beginning of the George Zimmerman trial, I have tried to keep in touch with everything that has been going on. Like millions of Americans, I’m invested in this case. From the very start of the Trayvon Martin story we’ve delved deep down into the rabbit hole of topics that range from race to national gun laws to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Out of all these topics—which are all important in their own right—I still can’t get over one simple thing: George Zimmerman, after being told not to follow someone he deemed “suspicious looking,” decided it was in his best interest to continue pursuing his target, which ultimately lead to a 17-year-old black male with Skittles and Arizona Tea dead on the grass with a bullet in his chest.

And yet, the more I think about this story, the more it isn’t surprising.

I’m sorry for such a pessimistic view on the nature, but if we look at some things—more specifically the slayings and unjust nature against young black youth and minorities in America—how are we at this point surprised by these events when our country is yet to progress? Need I mention Oscar Grant? Or what about Nicholas K. Pert’s riveting story about N.Y.P.D. behavior against black males in New York City? In a day and age where we are almost 50 years removed from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963), it seems that our progression as a whole doesn’t even come close to what civil rights activists in the 60s had hoped for in a 50 year span.

So with that, this is why the George Zimmerman case and Trayvon Martin story are important. And although it’s far from being the only one worthy of discussion—it’s amazing how mainstream media will invest everything into a certain story without focusing on others as well—it’s the closest America as a whole will get to understanding the core issues of civil rights in the 24 hour news cycle.

Stakes is High

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Maybe it’s because we’re in an age of technological advancement and online everything, or maybe it’s because news outlets realize the magnitude of this case, but everything in the George Zimmerman trial is being taped and broadcast. This itself is a beauty, because we as a nation don’t have to take a reporter’s word or script to pass judgment; we can literally sit at our television and watch this unfold. And maybe, just maybe, this will ease the aftermath.

See, the Casey Anthony case was stunning, and the Kermit Gosnell trial was frightening and just, but the George Zimmerman case is extremely important in that the verdict will extend far beyond the reaches of the courtroom. Whatever verdict is decided at the end of this trial, it is a guarantee that this won’t signify the end of the story. If taping the entire trial for people to follow and judge for themselves as it unfolds helps ease some, then this is needed. More importantly, getting this first-hand look at the trial gives us a sense of actually knowing the story from witnesses and accounts.

The trial itself, at least through the first 17 days, has been patchy on both sides. From the jury selection, to the opening statements, and to the witnesses, both the prosecutors and defense team have gone through each and every ring a case could possibly throw.

At the end of the jury selection, it was decided that six women would consist of the jury with four alternates (the jury only has six members because second-degree murder cases in Florida only call for six jurors). Five of those women are white, and one is Latina.

Now what does it matter if the six jurors are women and that five are white and one is Latina? Why should there be questions asked? Well, for one let’s look at this case: first, the Trayvon Martin shooting has and will always focus mainly on race, because the details behind the altercation make it so (George Zimmerman was a Latino and Trayvon Martin was a black teenager; Trayvon looked like a “punk” and was “suspicious”). Beyond this, the jury selection was chosen for the benefit of both the prosecutors and defense: the prosecutors agreed upon this jury because to them, women have that instinct that Trayvon was just a kid, and that this would stir feelings of “that could have been my son.” On the other hand, the defense team agreed upon this jury because they wanted to emphasize the fact that Trayvon was a black male wearing a hoodie, and that he looked “suspicious,” trying to evoke feelings in the jury that this kid could have been trouble if they were in the vicinity. From the very get-go this trial continued to play on stereotypes, no matter how big or small they were.

As the actual trial started to commence, it looked like the prosecutors were gaining the upper hand. The defense team began their opening statements with a distasteful “knock-knock” joke, and the opening statements made by assistant state attorney John Guy directly used George Zimmerman’s line he said on the phone that went like this:

“Fucking punks. Those assholes, they always get away.”

Guy later went on to say:

“Those were the words in that grown man’s mouth as he followed in the dark a 17-year-old boy who he didn’t know … Those were the words in that man’s chest when he got out of his car armed with a loaded semi-automatic pistol and two flashlights to follow on foot Trayvon Benjamin Martin, who was walking home from a 7-Eleven … Those were the words in that defendant’s head moments before he pressed that pistol into Trayvon Martin’s chest and pulled that trigger.”

After day one, it looked like justice would be swift and vigilant. It looked, at least during that very moment, that George Zimmerman was doomed for what he rightfully deserved: second-degree murder.

And yet, as the trial wore on, things started to get shaky. The prosecuting team’s witnesses thus far have failed to fully bring the information they were hoping for that would pin George Zimmerman. This is especially true with Rachel Jeantel, the 19-year-old friend of Trayvon Martin who was talking to him that night. Not only was it hard to understand her on the stand, she was also caught with providing misleading information and wrapping herself up in contradictions. Comparatively, other witnesses have only bolstered Zimmerman’s case for self-defense, claiming that Martin was throwing punches and Zimmerman was pinned.

So as we stand, 17 days later and still in the midst of this trial, here’s what’s important:

  1. No matter what the verdict of this case is, remember: George Zimmerman was the one who decided to follow Trayvon Martin, even after being told not to by authorities. We still don’t know who started the initial fight, but this fact is important to retain.
  2. Despite the prosecuting team’s disappointing run of witnesses thus far, remember Zimmerman’s quote from opening statements: “fucking punks. Those assholes, they always get away.”
  3. At this point, it looks like a lot of the evidence is pointing towards a worthy case of self-defense by Zimmerman. Even more disheartening is that the chances of him being convicted of second-degree murder are slim. If anything, he will get charged for manslaughter and will likely get a reduced sentence. His chances of walking are still high.
  4. Most important, no matter what happens, we as a community stand behind Trayvon Martin, his family and all of the similar injustices that plague not only our country, but our world as well.

Which leads me to this.

Anthem Inc.

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If you can remember way back towards the very beginning, you’ll remember that Zimmerman wasn’t even taken in for a crime. In fact, it was Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law that actually shielded him from such an event. It took protests, petitions, “million hoodie marches,” demonstrations ,vocal output and action to actually bring authorities around to arresting Zimmerman and charging him for second-degree murder.

One of the biggest groups behind Trayvon Martin and the calling for social justice was the hip-hop community. Not only were there demonstrations and peace talks, but also artists and MCs (both high on the spectrum and underground) were making dedication songs to a story that is all too familiar in the hip-hop realm.

In an article with MTV, Public Enemy co-founder Chuck D pointed out:

“I’m pretty much not the one to be told that a trial is going to make everybody feel straight and clear … The obvious point is that this young man lost his life from an unjust situation, and it needs to be hammered home. That’s bottom line.”

In the same article, rapper Game goes on to talk about the historical relevance of the Trayvon Martin story:

“For some reason, people don’t think that they need any excuse to kill us, beat us, hit us, run us over, disrespect us or anything like that. This is just another reminder that stupidity still exists.”

And even going past race, hip-hop recognizes that this story touches so close to the community because Trayvon was only a kid. Chuck D’s wife, Professor Gaye Theresa Johnson points out:

“We’re talking about a grown armed man who shot an unarmed child, regardless of race.”

From the outpour and concerns, the hip-hop community has also unleashed a plethora of tribute songs. And although some are better than others, a situation like this shouldn’t be judged on musicality, but sincerity.

On Jasiri X’s song “Trayvon,” he raps over the fitting beat of “No Church in the Wild” to explain the event that took place. It’s a haunting tale, especially over the churning production of “No Church…,” but its Jasiri’s vocal cadence and lyrical detail that reinforces both strength and sadness regarding this story.

“He had just came up from Miami to see his daddy / Who knew such a great weekend would end badly? / In a place where you move because it’s safe for your family / When some people gotta have grown hate for your family.”

Alternatively, on “Date of My Death (Trayvon Martin),” Tahir Jahi tells about continual injustices and the fight “for whatever is left.”

“Sick of innocent getting wronged by the ignorant / Who will benefit from this medicine / Coming from my lungs to warn veterans please let them in / Fuck Democrats and Republicans I don’t care bout your publishing.”

“Made You Die,” a song by Dead Prez, RBG member mikeflo and Yasiin Bey, takes a more revolutionary approach and expresses that the Trayvon Martin shooting is the straw that broke the back.

“Cause we do the same thing expecting different results / I’m checking the vital signs but I ain’t getting no pulse.”

These are just a few examples, but from the hundreds of Trayvon Martin tribute songs, it’s a clear-cut sign that this story isn’t simply a resurgence in hip-hop awareness. Rather, it’s a sign that the problems that plagued the hip-hop community from the very beginning are still very much alive. Moreover, hip-hop has always been something representing that fight, or that something to fight for, and this 16 month story is putting that fight on the national spotlight.

Finding Forever

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The shooting of Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial are part of a bigger story. On the surface you have an unjust Florida law that allowed a grown-man to murder an unarmed boy. However, at the core you have bigger issues. There are issues on race, oppression, stereotyping and issues of our country’s growth in general. It’s been 50 years since the “I Have a Dream Speech,” and yet we as a whole are yet to fully embrace it. We have continued to see the slayings of innocent and unarmed minorities (especially the black youth), and we have continued to see the perpetrators let off unfairly. Despite the vast improvements we’re making as time goes by, it’s not enough. We need action.

When the story of Trayvon Martin first surfaced, it took action to have the Sanford Police Department even consider charging George Zimmerman. This action, which included the protests and marches, directly resulted in an arrest and a second-degree charge. Millions of people around the country, whether they were involved with hip-hop or ordinary citizens, took to the streets and voiced their say.

Likewise, in the 60s and 70s, Americans protested the Vietnam War with action. Citizens marched, musicians sang and artists unveiled works all for one common cause. More specifically, these times brought upon thousands of musicians coming together and demonstrating resistance and action through song. One such example is Country Joe McDonald’s “Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die”:

“And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam. And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates, ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die.”

These examples of action demonstrate one thing that must be recognized: unity. We cannot as people continue along our petty ways of indifference if we expect to see change. Furthermore, we need to march together for the bigger causes worth fighting for. Politicians need to stop fighting for “seats” and actually work together and listen to the constituents. Law enforcement needs to stop playing stats and work on bettering the country as a whole. News outlets need to spread attention to all the important stories and stop broadcasting from one side. Focus on education needs to start playing to the needs of the kids instead of standardized tests and statistics. People need to look past skin color, culture, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation when judging one’s character. And we as a whole need to realize hatred and injustice are a waste of time; life’s too short to be full of hatred.

We need to come together like so many cultures and people have come together in the past, and fight for these things. We need to come together like hip-hop did for Trayvon Martin. We need to express ourselves, not just vocally, but through art, discussion, workshops, demonstrations, protests and marches. If we don’t take action, we won’t see change.

Along with action, we also need hope.

Tweeting from court Tuesday, Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton wrote: “Day 17 – Remember God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Please know I can’t give up now, I’ve come too far. Continue to keep us lifted in prayer.”

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