In the wake of another young black life lost at the hands of police, musicians are rallying to bring the murderer to justice and address police brutality.
It’s hard to believe that two weeks have passed since an unarmed Black teenager named Michael (Mike) Brown was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. Perhaps what’s even more hard to believe and disheartening, is that two weeks later Mike Brown’s murderer is on paid leave, and much of the nation has remained completely mum on the issue, the limited dialogue that has occurred seeming to continue to circle back to Brown as a reluctant threat to society. NY Times, Fox News, and other media outlets have dredged up allegations that Brown dabbled in decriminalized drug use, and even penned “sometimes angry” rap lyrics, ignoring the fact that Officer Wilson was not privy to any of this irrelevant information when he repeatedly pulled the trigger.
For some of us, Brown’s murder hits especially close to home, and serves as a grim reminder of our nation’s perception of Black lives. The most recent in a succession of young Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality this summer, Brown’s death ignited the city of Ferguson and allies all over the world to call upon the government for action, to address the pink elephant in America’s living room.
Still, in the wake of this tragic event, I was surprised by the lack of attention it received by non-media spokespeople, from my own inner-circle to normally outspoken or so-called socially conscious celebrities. I wondered if my friends understood how close to home this issue hit for me, whether they realized how easily Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, or Renisha McBride could have been me, or one of my brothers. I also wondered about the celebrities who so often appropriate and mimic Black culture in the public eye, who couldn’t spare a single tweet of concern for a community that has in many ways shaped their careers.
The musicians that I did see speaking out and taking action immediately gained my attention. Amidst falsified and biased reports, these individuals sought out the truth. They used their resources to travel and protest with citizens of Ferguson, to speak in front of cameras broadcast to millions, and raise awareness not only to achieve justice for Mike Brown, but to address this growing epidemic of police brutality against Black lives in America.
In the hopes that recognizing these figures will encourage more to be vocal about injustice, I’ve created a list of five musicians who are speaking out in the wake of Mike Brown’s death and demanding answers. While it’s true that we primarily enjoy them as artists, it’s important for celebrities to use the platforms we’ve given them for good causes, to not take their positions too lightly and use their influence to effect positive change.
This underground rapper is a mainstay in the social activism scene, so it was no surprise that he flew to Ferguson to demand justice. The rapper made sure to thoroughly document his time in the midwest, from tense encounters with Ferguson’s police captain to Michael Brown’s heartwrenching funeral services, proving his slogan “Freeing minds one rhyme at a time” is no gimmick. Jasiri X is scheduled to discuss Michael Brown and related police brutality issues at an upcoming town hall meeting in Washington D.C. today. For more information and to listen to a live broadcast of the meeting, click here: http://ow.ly/AM7i1.
There’s no doubt that Mississippi rapper David Banner has experienced more than his fair share of racism and prejudice, and he didn’t hesitate to call it out in Ferguson. The rapper and activist has also been on the ground in Ferguson, sharing his version of events and helping to dispel media-fueled myths that protesters were escalating the violence when in fact they were responding to police. Banner has since appeared on CNN and last Sunday spoke at St. Louis’ annual Peace Fest, which paid special tribute to Michael Brown. To watch Banner’s appearance on CNN, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egu6ZjPnBiw.
Over the weekend, midwest hip hop artist and actor Common led a packed Inglewood Forum in a moment of silence at MTV’s 2014 Video Music Awards, which reached a total 8.3 million viewers. Common has long-established himself as a musician with substance and expressed solidarity with the city of Ferguson and Mike Brown’s family shortly after the shooting, but it was especially heart-warming to see the rapper draw attention to the issue in the midst of a glamorous, celebrity-strewn event. If you missed the original broadcast, you can watch Common’s call to action here: http://ow.ly/AM7XR.
Every hip hop head knows Killer Mike from his long-time association with Atlanta power rap duo Outkast, but what many of us didn’t expect was for the rapper to become one of the loudest, and most convincing voices to speak out in the wake of Mike Brown’s death. The rapper went so far as to publish an op-ed with Billboard discussing the underlying problems that contributed to the chaos in Ferguson, MO. Killer Mike also appeared on CNN to weigh in on the situation and talk about his experiences with police and growing up with a father in law enforcement. To watch the 12-minute clip, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9dZctr84QY
Much like Common, hip hop artist Talib Kweli is no stranger to social justice. He also flew to Ferguson, MO to lend his support, and while there was interviewed by CNN’s favorite respectability politics spokesman, Don Lemon. When Kweli felt like his opinion was being undervalued in favor of the police department’s version of events, things quickly escalated. The rapper later expressed regret at drawing attention away from Mike Brown’s murder, but defended his statements, claiming that CNN was unbalanced in its coverage of the events in Ferguson. To read his full account on Medium.com, click here: http://ow.ly/AM8AP
It’s not difficult to spot a few obvious similarities between these musicians. They’re all Black men who are rappers or hip hop artists. It’s great that they’re rallying and making an effort to bring awareness to a very relevant issue, but part of what they’re fighting against is the same division that’s led to ambivalence and silence from other demographics. It’s not enough to agree, but keep your opinions to yourself. If we are to bring police brutality against the Black community to the forefront, then we need support from all sides, it can’t be seen as solely a “Black issue.” We owe it to ourselves, to the generations that follow, to value every human life the same, to stand up for each one of them, because each one of us matters.