- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In the U.S., Hip-Hop moguls and rappers are organizing a "peace week" in honor of Dr. King., confusing his tactic of non-violence for his ideology. Amazing how disobedience is completely dropped from Dr. King's philosophy. Few, if any of these people are activists working toward the radical egalitarian aims Dr. King was killed for. In fact, many of them like Russell Simmons directly contradict his core principles through their life-styles and actions.
While most African-Americans have allowed themselves to accept this watered-down version of Dr. King and the black freedom movement, you can find the essence of his values around the world. Ironically, those values are in action in a Lebanese refugee camp, where Palestinian exiles express messages of social justice and self determination through Hip-Hop. Their rap messages often cover themes of resistance to repression, discrimination, corruption and occupation---just like Dr. King.
One of the young rappers remarked upon how their art form lay grounded in the every day struggles of Palestinian youth.
"If I didn't have hip-hop, I would only be thinking about having fun and in the camps where there is often no electricity, where there is no library, and no money to go somewhere else, I would most likely sit with my friends in the street smoking argileh all day wasting my time. Hip-hop made me. If you want to be a good rapper, you need to write good lyrics, and so you need to read and get an education. I know so much more about life, because I have been expressing my self and writing. Hip-hop is a school,"
Although, Hip-Hop culture originated in the black ghettos of the U.S. , it too has been co-opted by the same forces that seek to destroy Dr. King's radical legacy. Meanwhile, oppressed youth around the world continue to use rap music as a vehicle for social and economic change. Much of my interests in the third world stem from a belief that they have much to teach America about human rights and dignity. This Dr. Martin Luther King day, I will be looking here for examples of his core principles in action.
A few quotes from the man himself,
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."On Economic Inequality/Institutional Racism
"America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."
"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
"These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light."Along with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Martin Luther King is the West's most 'acceptable' example of black resistance to oppression. The only problem is this neutered version of Dr. King's teachings defames his core message and the changes he fought to bring about before his murder.
"And one day we must ask the question,Why are there forty million poor people in America?And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society..."
"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."