Tag Archives: politics

Community on a Larger Scale: Why I Have Always Hated Michigan State Riots

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By: Daniel Hodgman

On Saturday, December 7th, the Michigan State football team beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. Sealing the deal and stamping tickets to the Rose Bowl for the first time in over 20 years, Michigan State won the game in a 34-24 fashion. What happened afterward was what most people would call a “riot.” This is what I have to say:

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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.

Neighborhood Watch Wisconsin Reax

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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Yasiin Bey Submits to Guantanamo Force-Feedings: What This Means

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By: Gus Navarro 

On Sunday, via The Guardian, hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey released a video of protest in which he voluntarily underwent standard operating procedures for force-feeding in Guantánamo Bay.

This past February, the detainees in Guantánamo Bay went on a hunger strike, refusing the food placed in front of them. This was in response to when a search of cells by guards turned up hidden contraband among the prisoners but also led to accusations of heavy-handedness. The number of people participating in the strike has grown significantly since February and has now reached a total of 106 people and is continuing to grow. Of those involved in the strike, forty-one are now being force-fed so that they will be kept alive.

Force-feeding is a brutally invasive procedure where the prisoner has an IV inserted, is strapped to a chair and a tube is thrust into their nose. This allows the nutrients to flow into the body. More important to note however, is that this is a process that causes immense pain for the detainee and could easily be considered torture. In a New York Times editorial released through his lawyer, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a detainee since 2002, explains that he has yet to receive a trial, proclaims his innocence and describes the process of being force fed:

“Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

The situation continues to intensify as the Obama Administration has made it clear that they would continue the force-feeding—even with the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan. On top of that, as stated by the Huffington Post:

“A U.S. federal judge ruled Monday that she lacks the authority to halt the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, while pointedly noting that the practice appears to violate international law and that President Barack Obama can resolve the issue.”

Regardless of your opinion on Guantánamo Bay, it is undeniable that these prisoners are being subjugated to outright cruelty. With that in mind, this circumstance must be critically examined and stopped immediately.

In the video, Yasiin Bey is seen in an orange jump suit, apprehensively eyeing the situation as he is strapped to a chair. As the procedure begins it is impossible to not to feel his nervousness as he begins to squirm and scream out in total suffering as the tube is shoved up his nose. Bey is unable to endure a second round of feeding, hysterically refusing between uncontrollable breaths and tears, a luxury clearly not provided to the people of the high security prison.

This was a socio-political demonstration from an artist that cannot be overlooked. It is here where Yasiin Bey is using his status as a respected MC to lead the charge against the injustices that people are facing all around the world, and in this case the prisoners of Guatánamo Bay. These are people that deserve a voice. As conditions at the prison and around the world worsen, Howard Zinn’s words come to mind,

“Very often rebellion starts in the culture. It starts with the poets and the writers. I’ve always been heartened by the fact that that the artists in society have almost always been on the side of peace and justice.” (Zinn, 2012, p. 158)

This was true in the 20th century as musicians, artists, actors and writers such as W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell played a huge role in providing the necessary expression of discontent that fueled social change. With their work, they were able to bring people together and move as one.

As the world begins to take notice, it is apparent that we need this again. It is of the utmost importance that we, as global participants come together and demand more from our institutions of government. Where are we getting our news from and why is this story surrounding the hunger strike, force-feeding and the Obama Administration’s promises to close Guatánamo Bay not getting significant play in the United States? We cannot wait for the media to provide us with information; we have to seek it out ourselves. On top of that, we as a society must demand more as our fellow human beings are being submitted to unspeakable atrocities that degrade and diminish their humanity. Don’t these incarcerated individuals deserve to at least have their voices heard and in some cases, receive a trial? We have to ask these highly critical questions of our society and hold people accountable in order to strive for a transformation of our culture. We can’t wait for our “leaders” to do it for us. As citizens of the world, we have to come together. Yasiin Bey’s video is shedding light on a situation in need of attention and serves as a poignant example that the platform provided to artists are essential for social change.

You can view the video here.

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Album of the Week: “R.A.P. Music” by Killer Mike

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Gus’ Thought:

Last year Killer Mike joined forces with Brooklyn producer El-P and released the much-anticipated R.A.P. Music. Killer Mike’s sixth studio album encompasses the in your face, fearless and dubious persona audiences have come to expect from the Atlanta MC. Without intros, skits or interludes, this album runs for about forty-six minutes and is packed to the brim with Killer Mike’s unique perspective on the south, city life, politics, religion and the transformation of music throughout history. Hip-hop, like any musical genre, is ever changing. As we usher in a new decade with innovative sounds and concepts, R.A.P. Music merges classic hip-hop with newer production techniques.

The first track, “Big Beast,” is that forceful, fast paced banger with finger snaps, snare drums, and intense bass lines featuring Bun B, T.I., and Trouble.  These southern giants take turns on this posse cut, delivering memorable lines such as, “Listen to my Kimber .45 go bang / Bang, bang, Grindtime, rap game/ We the readers of the books and the leaders of the crooks.” Right off the bat, Killer Mike and El-P welcome the listener into what promises to be a wild ride of dope rhymes, phat beats and controversial topics.

While Killer Mike has politically charged lyrics, it is difficult to align him with a particular political ideology. As with his past albums, Killer Mike takes more of an apolitical stance, providing thoughtful anecdotes on our past, present and future.  This could not be more apparent on the sixth song entitled “Reagan.” In the first verse, Killer Mike focuses on “Reaganomics” and the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s. In the second verse Killer Mike brings these issues to a present day context. His apolitical position is unmistakable as he explains, “Ronald Reagan was an actor, not at all a factor / Just an employee of the country’s real masters / Just like the Bushes, Clinton and Obama.”  Killer Mike is getting at an important reality that we must recognize; the President of the United States, regardless of their party affiliation will fall victim to the status quo. This is true throughout history if you check the stats.

By the end of R.A.P Music, Killer Mike appears to be deep in thought. On the title track, he talks about how he sees hip-hop as a religion; his form of worship.  His second verse is comprised of shot outs to well-known musicians that came before him such as Muddy Waters, James Brown, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone and Outkast. Something even more important happens on the final track. This song is important because it is an example of how hip-hop is a way of life, a way of being. Muddy Waters and Miles Davis might not be classified as hip-hop by ITunes, Spotify or Pandora. However, as Killer Mike makes clear, these artists are hip-hop because they changed the game in their respective eras. The best part about R.A.P. Music is the fact that in forty-six minutes, Killer Mike and El-P are able to take the listener to the far reaches of the hip-hop universe, and then bring you back in one piece.

Daniel’s Thought:

The first time I heard Killer Mike I was actually in elementary school. My friend Andrew, who had introduced albums like Ludacris’ Word of Mouf to the group, played “The Whole World” by OutKast, and smacked in the song was a verse by Killer Mike. I was too young at the time to actually remember the name Killer Mike, or the record that “The Whole World” was featured on (Big Boi and Dre Present…OutKast), but lines like “Flisten, glisten, floss, gloss / Catch the beat running like Randy Moss” stuck with me until my knowledge would grow. Several mixtapes and albums later, I look at Killer Mike not only has a talented wordsmith, but also as an MC with something to say.

On the infallible R.A.P. Music, Killer Mike and producer El-P join forces to showcase an album that not only runs fluidly under one producer, but also appoints specific breaks for rare guest spot appearances. The structure of the album is dense and to a point, and conceptually it runs on a blueprint. As far as content, the album features the most soul and sincerity Mike has ever put-out, and songs like “Reagan” and “Anywhere But Here” run with this as they cover governmental corruption and problems with trickle-down economics. Elsewhere, Killer Mike goes off on the being and state of hip-hop (“R.A.P. Music”), abusive law enforcement (“Don’t Die”) and relationships (“Untitled”).

What’s important to note with these takes is that Killer Mike’s political stance and morals aren’t driven by over-blown conspiracy theories or pure hatred. In a way, he’s stringing along moderate beliefs to further the album as a whole. On R.A.P. Music it isn’t about the individual cuts, but rather the big picture, and this is a message that is often overlooked by artists when making a conceptual piece. Without a complete track, the message gets muffled, but in a full circle it’s too clear not to miss.

Must-Listens:
“Big Beast”
“Reagan”
“Don’t Die”

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