Tuesday, 10 May 2005
When I was a young Panther, one of the worst things to be considered was a cultural nationalist. Members of the Party used that term to deride their critics of the Black nationalist movement, and to distinguish themselves, called themselves revolutionary nationalists (that is, until Huey P. Newton developed the idea of 'intercommunalism', of the emergence of communities as bases for power, as, in an Empire, real nations didn't exist).
In recent years, I have increasingly thought about the impact of culture, especially as to Black youth, and those millions who consume Black youth art.
I have heard many young folks refer to 'hip hop culture', as if it's a separate thing, that, like Athena from the head of Zeus, gave birth to itself.
I have seen and heard the roots of this music, this branch of a deep-rooted African tree, like the baobab, which gives rope, cloth, shelter, food, and medicines.
All youth music upsets elders. The older generation of most white Americans was weaned on rock and roll, which their elders derided as 'jungle music'. My mother used to hear the R&B that flourished in my youth, and call it "noise."
Rap and hip-hop, like its older relatives, gets criticized today by preachers and parents, many of whom are themselves fans of the genre's earliest days.
Yet, their criticisms, like that of their own parents, fall on deaf ears. Kids, like kids of almost every generation, have a rebel gene within them; part of the human process of growing up.
Yet, this isn't just 'art for art's sake.' This is art for the sake of corporate profit; to build the profiles of record companies, and to establish the logo of the hottest radio stations. What is lost in this fake gangsterism, is young Black lives and young Black minds.
I am reminded of a young Black man I met on Death Row recently. Fresh out of the superheated projects of North Philly, the brother was rapping about 'pimping' when he got home. He wasn't rapping to anybody in particular; for he was in a cage, alone. I think he was trying to work out some rhymes, and then commit them to memory as a hard rap.
When I heard him I asked him why he wanted to be a pimp. He answered that he saw the old movie, "The Mack," and he enjoyed what he saw. He thought the movie accurately portrayed life in the Black community during the 1970s. I assured him that it did not; that the movie was just a movie, not a real portrayal of either that time, nor of pimping. He seemed genuinely shocked. He didn't know any better.
I told him that people in the community looked down on pimps, for they had sisters, nieces, aunts and mothers, and that anybody who exploited women like that wasn't cool, and in the part of North Philadelphia that I grew up in, as well as California that I lived in during the '70s, pimps would get their asses beat.
He seemed surprised, and again asked, "Well, what about what I saw in 'The Mack?' It wasn't like that?"
I explained that it was just a movie, a form of entertainment; nothing more.
What is now projected as popular in the music world is just that; entertainment. It ain't history. It doesn't tell the tiniest bit about Black life in America.
It may claim to be about 'tha realness'; but it ain't real. It's a form of art: nothing more.
There are hundreds of varieties of spoken word, and rap that will never be given a record contract, because it won't sell. It won't give them the return they want.
It's just as 'real'; it is just not heard.
mumia abu jamal
"THE FORGOTTEN TERRORISTS"
For far too many Americans, the word 'terrorism' has acquired a whole new meaning in the dusty aftermath of 11 September 2001.
The word now instantly refers to the mental imagery of the shattered twin towers of the World Trade Centre in downtown Manhattan, or the broken edifice of the Pentagon building in Washington, or even the smouldering mound of earth in south-western Pennsylvania. They refer to the thousands of people, from dozens of countries, who lost their lives when the buildings were shattered, broken and levelled into dust.
But, if truth be told, they refer mostly to Americans. When an airliner in the far-off South China Sea area develops engine trouble, and plummets into the ocean depths, reporters always rush to inform us, "Flight 502 of a PanAm to Hong Kong went down over the South China Sea today: 15 Americans were onboard." In such a common report, it is implicitly assumed that those of other nationalities are of lesser importance. They don't *really* matter. It is indeed possible to look at the events of 11 September in a somewhat similar light.
For, if it is indeed found that the acts of that day may be traced to terrorists, working out of Middle Eastern organizations, what most will ignore is another kind of terrorism. It is waged against the poor and powerless of many nations. It kills, maims, tortures, and destroys many thousands of people every year. It is the spectre of State Terrorism. Don't expect to find eye-catching exposes in the Daily Blah, or to hear about it on your favourite network news program in the evening on the tube. You have to look hard for this stuff.
Consider the views of John Stockwell, a former CIA station chief (Angola), who considers the work that he was doing overseas, on behalf of the US government, to be supporting terrorism. He looks at the time when a man named Bush headed the CIA: CIA Director George Bush allegedly worked to convince the former OPMONGOOSE operators to reorganize outside the United States. In June 1976, they went to the Dominican Republic and founded CORU, a counter-revolutionary group. On October 26, 1976, they blew up an airplane that was taking off from Barbados, killing 73 passengers on board in a raw act of terrorism. Luis Posada Carrilles and Orlando Bosch were jailed in Venezuela for that bombing.
There is evidence that members of this same CIA/Cuban exile community participated in the killing of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. We also know that the CIA's 1980 contra program later managed to get Luis Posada Carilles out of prison in Venezuela. They put him to work for Felix Rodriguez, who was reporting directly to then Vice- President Bush's Office. As Felix Rodriguez told the press, "We needed him." He was referring to Carilles, the terrorist airplane bomber (See The Praetorian Guard: The U. S. Role in the New World Order (Boston: South End Press, 1991). These are the words of a man who spent over a decade in the CIA, and even served briefly on a subcommittee of the National Security Council, during the Kissinger era. Even though his work had to be cleared by CIA censors to be published, his view of how the United States government has functioned, through its CIA, is telling: To summarize, the CIA has overthrown functioning constitutional democracies in over 20 countries. It has manipulated elections in dozens of countries. It has created standing armies and directed them to fight. It has organized ethnic minorities and encouraged them to revolt in numerous volatile areas. (p. 73) Looking at CIA activities abroad, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this former station chief offers a conservative estimate of how many people, all over the world, "... would not have died if U. S. tax dollars had not been spent by the CIA to inflame tensions, finance covert political and military activity, and destabilize societies," and comes up with a figure of: 6,000,000. Six million people, he says, "and this is a minimum figure" (p. 81). Are Afghan-trained rebels, from various Middle Eastern states, responsible for the carnage of 11 September, 2001? Who armed them? Who trained them? Who loosed them upon the world? Their very deadly expertise are your tax dollars at work. Americans mean one thing, when they think of terrorism. Americans from the South, in Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba, El Salvador, Chile, etc., think of something else. People from Indonesia, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the like, think of something else.
mumia abu jamal