This first essay I penned under Rise up Hip Hop Nation was published in 2002: Rise up Hip Hop Nation - Wise up: From Deconstructing Social Ills to Building Real Solutions http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=617. The basic premise of the essay was summed up in this quotation: “…it is now time to move beyond deconstructing and start building.” In that essay, I gave a list of specific actions different entities in hip hop could do to build solutions in our communities. In most subsequent essays, the goal was the same: build solutions. We already know the problems…and causes. We need plans of action.
One essay I gave a specific list that all individuals could utilize to make a difference (https://eee.uci.edu/06f/20000/Rise_up_dec2006.htm). I really believe if we all did just one or two of the things on the list, we would see much of the change we want to see in our communities despite entrenched institutional power structures.
The reason I went back to this initial essay about solution building is because the more I analyze social network sites like Facebook, read numerous internet sites and blogs, and watch the propaganda of cable news, the more concerned I get with what I have heard Cornel West call the paralysis of analysis. I see a serious time and opportunity to rise up and make change slipping away because we are being distracted by chatter. Chill Rob G was right: Everybody’s a critic:
"The Power" by Chill Rob G
“I’ve got the power”. No truer words have ever been spoken or been less believed.
As I have written about in numerous essays, we do have the power, but we have not seized it. Instead, I find myself and most drawn into debates that are very critical of everything and everybody instead of threads that are solution oriented and claim personal ownership for change. To illustrate here are a few examples:
1. Criticisms across the board of President Obama. Obama is a puppet (left lean) or Obama is a socialist (right lean).
2. Unfounded criticisms of a hip hop organization and its conference– accusing it of being all talk and no action when actual evidence shows it has been heavily involved in many community efforts (EX. The weekend of the conference, the organization: organized a media response and protest to a local police brutality incident, supported a hip hop affiliates run for mayor, supported local community centers and art venues, and took part in annual African American cultural festival.)
3. Substantiated criticisms of media’s defining of reality, not reflection of it, but few solutions offered on how to challenge this.
4. Criticisms of the status quo but no revelations on how they are personally challenging the status quo.
One specific debate on Facebook concerned Obama’s NAACP speech where many progressives felt he “called the black community out” too harshly without addressing the root cause of black problems, namely systemic racism and white supremacy. In this debate, criticisms became schizophrenic because many who “call out” BET, and choices mainstream artists make because of the real effects it has on community youth perceptions, were very critical of Obama for voicing the exact same concerns.
This dialogue affirmed how ideology shapes how we receive messages. Most cued into only the part of his speech where he challenged African Americans to a higher moral standard. But when a thorough analysis of his speech is done, Obama made a number of other points, including:
1. Obama started off by explaining the NAACP charter is to eliminate prejudice in all its forms...and gave a few examples...Muslim hate, gay/lesbian discrimination, black higher unemployment and less pay.
2. He affirmed people based movements citing DuBois and the Niagara movement, freedom riders, SNCC and their acts of civil disobedience, MIA organizers and community members that stayed off busses, and organizers in Mississippi Freedom Party. .As a African American studies professor, this showed me he has some understanding of AFAM history and what REALLY brings change.
3. Obama also used code language like Lowery did at inauguration by closing with parts of the Black National anthem, which was not missed by the crowd there who gave him an ovation...but missed by those that are caught up in their idea of what Obama should be.
4. The part about personal responsibility was nothing anyone would disagree with specifically...this is the same thing we have been dealing with in hip hop...blaming corporate america (BET/Viacom)...or hold Lil Wayne accountable for having little girls on stage at the BET awards while singing “F*ck girls all over the world”...um, the truth is it is corporate america's fault, but as long as there is a Lil Wayne that will play the role, corporate america will exploit because they do NOT CARE ABOUT US...we MUST care about ourselves...it is the ONLY we will progress...they will profit from our willingness to be in the new millennium minstrel show...watch BAMBOOZLED.
But most importantly, Obama said government can make policy but it is THE PEOPLE that must make DEMANDS and hold government accountable. In other words, Obama (and the system many believe he represents) is NOT our problem...our problem is we have not realized that...to his credit...he does....
We need to see pass the veil...no top down approach is in the best interest of the people...ever.
I teach about white supremacy, institutional racism, and structural oppression...but the message I give that I think is most important is this:
THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT US...WE NEED TO CARE ABOUT OURSELVES AND OUR COMMUNITIES...THERE IS NO OTHER SOLUTION.
Frederick Douglass said it BEST:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
So, I write this blog to challenge the critics. We know the problems, and we know the causes. But do you know what you will do to bring the change you want to see? If you can answer that, you are a part of the solution. If you can’t, you are part of the problem and it is time to own that. “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
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