Monday, February 23, 2009
M-1 Builds with Olympia Community on Hip Hop and Movement Strategy
Last time M-1 left the Evergreen State College campus, their transport had to drive around an overturned cop car. Check the video here!
One year after the uprising of last year’s Valentine’s day concert, M-1 of Dead Prez was welcomed back to the Evergreen State College campus for a lecture and dialogue with the campus community. It was not easy. Tremendous efforts were made on the part of Evergreen State College HHC coordinators and cultural advocates Noah Theeman-Lindberg, Marial Culter, Moya and others. However their hard work and efforts paid off, and Mutulu “M-1” Olugabala, was finally given the opportunity to dialogue with the campus community face to face. He opened his speech talking about the role of slavery in America’s system of capitalism, the country’s policy of population control, and how his personal history of community work in St. Petersberg, Florida and later in New York with the Uhuru Movement informed his understanding of activism and organizing. “Most of us have grown up without being given a history of movement. Most of us have grown up with parents telling us to go to college, without being shown the unbroken history of this kind of resistance,” he said, in reflection of his background with Uhuru. “I made the decision to go away from campus, opting for direct action like the Black Panther Party, straight to the root of the problem. As community organizers we were launching campaigns, knocking on doors, learning how to utilize propaganda, making it work, it wasn’t glamorous.” He spoke of the police abuse, tear gas on women and children, surveillance tactics, and other strategies the state employed in both Florida and NY to counteract the efforts of Uhuru’s community efforts, and how President Obama’s “community organizing background” differs in that respect. “He may have been a community organizer, but he’s not the same kind. It’s all about what community you’re organizing for. I come from the perspective of justice not reform,” he said, noting how Obama’s proposed stimulus bill won’t even touch the working class community. “We called Obama’s campaign, ‘the candidacy to save imperialism’,” he laughed later during Q&A’s.
Mutulu then turned to the question of the cultural significance of hip hop. “I saw it right here on this campus in action that night,” he said, “We came here to do a show, we were excited, the crowd showed up ready, charged up, it was a glorious concert, ended on high note, we were left with fantastic images, felt motivation, and inspiration, and I remember at one point, someone tapped my shoulder and said, ‘Man you should look out the front door.’” The last comment drew gales of laughter from the crowd, as M said, “It took me back to St. Petersburg. Stic, Umi, and I, we looked and we saw courage, saw injustice, saw it grow, and saw people who needed to resolve it right now.” He explained how that night, DJ Umi and dead prez stayed and watched the uprising, keeping it one phone call distance away, and broke down his analysis from the perspective of an organizer. “The first question was one, did we get justice, not just recital and romanticism, I mean did we get it? and two, what’s the difference between an uprising and rebellion? An uprising is reactionary; a rebellion has goals, objectives, and strategies. What’s the real war? That’s my mind frame.” Mutulu said that as the news began rolling in from the media that dead prez started a riot at Evergreen, he feared for the campus’s ability to use Hip Hop to organize again. “That does our movement no good, it paralyzes our ability to operate,” he said. “The history of resistance in this area is phenomenal. I know the orbs, symbols I’m seeing around here, let’s hook it up y’all.”
But Mutulu, whose name means to show the path, reminds us that as an army, we need to be calculated. “Revolution is an art and science we have to perfect,” he says, “I’ve organized amongst my fellow Afrikans, the white left, we all have a place on this field, all have a role to play. Our objective is to raise the interest and agenda of the working class. Use what you have to do it. In moving forward, that’s why I’ve accepted being national spokesperson for Hip Hop Congress, to support local voices. I want to help build a social tool we can use as a weapon to defend our people’s rights.” He acknowledged how Wyking, Umojafest P.E.A.C.E Center cofounder defends the people’s rights in Seattle’s Central District, and took a moment to remember Tyrone Love, a young promoter who was killed several nights earlier in the CD. For M, the aim is to connect these energies and keep it building to strengthen the movement.
1) Do you believe in nonviolent revolution?
Summarized Response: There's a possibility only if oppressors want to peacefully resolve. You either plead for the system to change itself or know that the only way out is to amass power and bargain it. I’ll do anything to make it happen because the system will do anything to stop you. It's the oppositions decision whether its peaceful.
2) How do we organize sustainably?
Summarized Response: Create organizations that are autonomous, so that you can move inside and out. Revolutionary organizations and institutions should be training mechanism to create revolutionaries everywhere.
3) What are the roles of smaller groups/crew in the movement?
Summarized Response: The members’ purposes have to be the same. I think it's great for morale, but what I've found is that the people are our greatest resource no matter where we are. If you don’t rely on that, you lose your ability to move. Like the MOVE Organization, when police bombed them it was easy to convince others they were dangerous because they kept to themselves. Crew is important but the greatest resource is the people.
4) In referring to organized protests in Olympia, where individual acts of vandalism offset overall message of the movement, what u do with those “brick throwers” who are a part of the movement as well?
Summarized Response: Ultimately it doesn't serve in the interest of our movement when that stuff happens. You have to identify those types of individuals as agent provocateurs. Even if it’s unintentional, you move as agent of the state even if you don't mean to. Those individuals must rectify it with the people. I have done this, I was 19 and impatient, I'm 36 today. We did something stupid. We called police on our own event. I was convinced it would cause the confrontation we wanted. I was wrong.
5) What is connecting really look like? What is the more proactive approach? How do we know what’s real?
Summarized Response: We struggle with that. It’s not easy because we’ve been taught to be separate, especially in artist communities. I just came back from Houston, I saw the worst crabs in a barrel. People don't want unity. I connected by going and being folks, I tried becoming that connector. Mutulu means to show people the path. True is one on one without media dialogue, and there are plenty of ways to set it up. What are we willing to do to get peace? I know some folks with careers around political prisoners and no intention to free them. That ain’t real. It’s about returning power to an African progressive community. Just ask yourself in whatever given group, what’s the goal?
6) What websites or groups/organizations can we use to sharpen ourselves?
Summarized Response: I say it's easy the Internet, uhurumovement.org, hiphopcongress.com, we can turn twitter and facebook into our own movement.
7) I’ve been told that having a Hip Hop Congress Chapter at Evergreen is cultural appropriation of Hip Hop because it’s predominantly white. Can you comment on that?
Summarized Response: Be mindful, Hip Hop is from Afrikan people, but it doesn't mean only Afrikans can be involved in it. Just recognize the root of the culture, and how we can empower it. If you leave Africa out, you relinquish power in the world, that’s why Europe and all these nations got their hands all over Africa they know that, but it’s true in everything. I have no problem with white rappers. Although, I’d like to see white rappers give a moment to ask permission of the ancestors, but it's cool. It strengthens the real movement. We can literally control this hundred million dollar industry.
8) Do you have suggestions to reverse damage done to youth in schools?
Summarized Response: Independent charter schools, community control over education.
9) Why did some Hip Hop artists endorse Obama?
Summarized Response: Opportunism in most rappers. We called candidacy to save imperialism. The middle class agenda elected Obama. Rappers, many of them blow with the wind. Not me, I'm anchored in the movement.
This event at Evergreen State College was a part of Hip Hop Congress's Day in the West Coast: 4 cities in 1 Day. More to come. Hip Hop Congress 2009 National Congress is in Seattle Washington July 29th-August 1st.