I wish I knew where to begin. You've probably read—or ignored, or just RT'd—a couple dozen articles about what's been happening in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, since Officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown to death. Pictures of his body—left out in the street for hours—started popping up in my various timelines, harkening back to the photos of black bodies that used to hang from so many trees, the gruesome prizes for the proud, grinning ghouls posed about. These images were meant as a warning to us, then and now.
"You took my son away from me! You know how hard it was to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many—because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don't got nothing to live for. 'They're gonna try to take me out anyway.'" —Lesley McSpadden, mother of Mike Brown
The images we've been seeing—the flag-shirted, dreadlocked man throwing a tear gas canister, armored police attacking peaceful protesters and journalists, Mike Brown's crying mother—these are era-defining documents, things we won't soon shake. This chaos is happening dead-ass in the heart of our dead-ass country. The world is watching us blow it, as usual. We—like they, probably—knew all this was going to happen sometime, somewhere, but it's still an unbelievable thing to witness.
"They're keeping these kids oppressed, depressed, undereducated, the school districts are failing, they don't wanna give 'em nothing. They start the shit, they ignite the fire, then they run they ass out there to their county houses and tear up our stuff."
—Unnamed Ferguson woman
Some folks say, have always said: Lower your voice. Pull up your pants. Look respectable and you'll get respect. Do those people not realize that our most eloquent, respectable leaders were all murdered in cold blood, all in their suits and ties? No, fuck what you think of our clothes or manner of speaking—we have a right to life. It doesn't feel like we've moved forward an inch. More like we've flailed backward and are now facing the wrong direction entirely. We officially have no options and no recourse when the police decide to execute us. That's exactly how the fires start. Riots are still the language of the unheard, to paraphrase MLK. Why not? It's really hard to burn down or loot our own communities when we still don't have one.
And where we at? Never before has it been more obvious that our art form hardly serves our needs. No money in that. Hiphop-led initiatives to curb gang violence, stop crack abuse, and fight racism are mostly a thing of the distant past, my childhood. Not that I want to hear #Ferguson solidarity from Iggy or G-Eazy, anyway. You can, however, check J.Cole's heartsick tribute "Be Free," as well as "I Am Mike Brown" from an unknown named G.A.G.E. Or "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," or "Blastit" or "Strange Fruit." Till next time—and there certainly will be a next time...