From the Ghetto to Gaza: an interview with Mutulu Olugbala aka M1 of dead prez

Welcome M-1 of dead prez to the Bay Area – East and West Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Sonoma, San Jose, Santa Cruz – for seven days of sharing his recent experiences in Gaza, Cairo and Europe and comparing them with ghetto life in the U.S. – seven events Sept. 23-29 benefiting the SF Bay View and Block Report Radio

by Minister of Information JR

M1-by-EKA-Photography-c2009-web, From the Ghetto to Gaza: an interview with Mutulu Olugbala aka M1 of dead prez, World News & Views Mutulu Olugbala, otherwise known to the world as M1 of dead prez, recently got back from a world tour where he touched down in Scandinavia, Cairo and Gaza. This interview is significant because it is important for the Black community specifically and oppressed communities of the world in general to have a world view or political analysis about what is going on around the planet so that we can make the right moves locally that would be in the interest of oppressed people internationally.

Before the recent humanitarian ventures of Cynthia McKinney into Gaza, I personally do not know of any Black people from the human rights struggle for self-determination who have come to this part of the world and reported on the genocide they had witnessed with their own eyes.

Information is key to meaningful resistance, because we have to understand as best we could who our enemies are, what we are fighting for, and against. Please continue to read this fully because M1 lays out his experience and summations clearly so that we could learn from them.

M.O.I. JR: I know that you spent some time in Europe – you were in Copenhagen – and also Gaza with Cynthia McKinney and Charles Barron, among other people. What has been going on with you? And can you speak on those two places specifically?

M1: For all of you that have just been invited into this conversation, the Minister of Information JR had a lengthy international conversation which led into this room. And if I had to go by chronological order, from the most present to the past, I started in Scandinavia. So dead prez just came from a Scandinavian tour which started out in Helsinki, Finland, then we moved into Denmark for a couple of days in Copenhagen, then went through Sweden, through Gottenberg and then to Stockholm.

M1-Gaza-091809-web5, From the Ghetto to Gaza: an interview with Mutulu Olugbala aka M1 of dead prez, World News & Views That particular place in Europe is emerging to me as one of the most left and liberal places that they have. It’s just awesome how this place in Europe tries to maintain its innocence from the imperialist world. But nonetheless, the people over there know what time it is, especially on the hip hop front. They can act like the world is not crumbling or capitalism isn’t in crisis in that part of the world all that they want to, but we know what’s really happening.

And so when we went over there, part of our mission was to bring a point of view from the determined-to-be-free, captured African. So that’s what we were doing. Every place, it seems, in Europe at this time resounds with the kind of political understanding that everybody who’s Black in the United States doesn’t think that because Obama is the president that we now got away scott free, that everything is good. There are hundreds and thousands of Europeans who are ready to spring into action, recognizing that now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. So those were some of the concerts that we were able to have over there.

Even one of the particular instances that we were talking about in Copenhagen, because we had a chance to stay there for a couple of days – and I want to say first of all big up to the Turkish and the Lebanese and the Moroccans and even Palestinian youth in Denmark because they are recognized as the Black people, which is new to me – not even brown but Black. And they have a word “purgos” that is the representation of them.

So the reason I got to big them up so much because that is where I learned most. I got most of my community education from the mouths of some of my good comrades now, Ali and the rest, Zaki, who showed me in Copenhagen that there is a Nazi hub that is building against the poor and oppressed people of the world. And I had a chance to experience that firsthand, as me and JR talked about a little bit.

I want to tell people about the experiences good and bad. But yeah, man, we saw imperialism’s ugly head in Chrystania, which everybody who knows who has been to Copenhagen, if you go into this area, which is more like a free vendors’ market, it looks more like cooperative education. Of course, it is one of those corners in Copenhagen where you can find things that you want, and things that you don’t want.

So when we went in there to see the Africans, because there was a Ghanaian flag right there at the entrance, but we were confronted with the Aryan brotherhood. So that was real. So it just goes to tell you that the forces are mounting on both sides.

Yes, there are many forces who know that imperialism must go, you know, even in Europe; definitely the Africans in Europe who are there. But then of course there’s the ones who will defend the most brash and wicked kind of imperialism that they could have, with the whole notion of the politic that white supremacy is still in the air.

So we were able to feel it all, all through the language of hip hop and talk about some of that stuff. You know that’s where it is right now, I think, internationally. We have to have that international scope in order to know locally where we really have to be, you know what I mean?

M.O.I. JR: After you left Chrystania, you flew directly to Cairo, am I right?

M1: See, we going in backwards order. I was in Cairo before we went to Scandinavia, so I want to correct you on that. But we will go straight there in this conversation. What happened before we went on our last trip to Scandinavia, I took a trip into the so-called Middle East, which actually was a term that was created: “the Middle East.” It wasn’t real at all.

M.O.I. JR: What’s the original name, or what is some of the indigenous names for that area? Africa, right?

M1: Yeah, it’s Africa. That’s Northern Africa. Right now, today, they would say that Egypt is Arab. And if anything, it is Arab colonized, of course. But it is definitely Africa. Even that area just above it, where we are talking about, the Middle East, which was basically named that by Henry Kissinger. He gave “the Middle East” the name “the Middle East.” So I was basically in that area.

I started out in Cairo to meet up with an organization called “Existence is Resistance” with Sister Nancy, Fatima and Brotha Aamon. They were hooked up underneath this caravan that was led by a man named George Galloway. What we ended up doing was trying to mount some form of resistance to the Israeli brand of imperialism that was putting a chokehold onto Gaza. So what I ended up doing was joining this caravan, which was making its second attempt to go from Cairo into Gaza, and penetrate the border and stop the siege against the Palestinian people.

So I was informed about this mission by a group of Palestinian organizers, activists and revolutionaries inside the U.S. Like I said, some of the names like Nancy Mansour, Shadia Mansour and other cultural artists who had performed and raised money to support the end of the oppression of the imperialist siege that was happening against the people of the Gaza Strip.

So after doing this work with other cultural artists like Rebel Diaz and Immortal Technique, I was invited to go and take a trip and help to bring some of those resources that had been amassed through donations and whatever people were able to give. I was asked to go and be a part of a caravan that would deliver it. So that is how I ended up in Cairo which became a huge…I mean I journaled it.

Anybody who wants to know where to get it, go to dead and there’s some other sites like ( and that carried the blog or report that I had written, and I had even done some reports back with some of my colleagues in New York who were on the trip with me, like Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, political leader, activist on the New York City scene, representative of East New York, who was also on the trip as well and, like everybody knows, Cynthia McKinney, who has been developing a relationship to expose the Israeli genocide, which is really what it is, against Palestinian people. And as a courageous fighter in these times, and I am so impressed and so motivated by her spirit in that time too. So those are some of the people that I have been able to report back about. I’m going to continue to report, like we are reporting now, and I could go on, man.

M.O.I. JR: It’s not too many Black people that have made it from the United States, I should say from our Movement, and that are representatives of our Movement that have went to Gaza and spoke on it. Can you speak a little bit about what did you see?

M1: From the border, from Rafa, I was able to see the Israeli controlled Egyptian police who enforced the embargo against Gaza. I saw them form a chain link fence around the border itself, just so that the people who were on the outside of the border who belong inside Palestine, who were the brothers and sisters and daughters, mothers and fathers of people who were in there that had been trapped since the siege locked down the borders, who haven’t been able to get into their homes for months.

They were outside banging on the gates as our bus drove in, and the police formed a chain linked fence to stop them from entering with us as we were entering the immigration zone. As we were able to break through immigration, there were 200 people who were a part of this caravan, the caravan that would bring the resources that was led by Parliament member George Galloway in England, who, like I said previously, led one mission like this one previous to the one I was on, in which 20 or so people had broken through the border to help with some relief as well.

So my first look onto Gaza was welcoming faces, happy faces, joy, jubilant people who knew we were there and had been waiting for days, and who wouldn’t give up hope, just the way we wouldn’t give up hope that we could break through the border and be able to break bread and have a meeting with our comrades on the other side.

So as soon as we got in, I saw of course families reuniting, but I was also able to see the government in action, the government of Hamas was present. I was able to see how those forces are, in leadership. And how that happened, and how our buses were led to the hotel which is the place where we would sit down for the 24 hours that we were allowed to be in there.

As the next day opened, I was able to see a lot of the Israeli destruction from the F-16 Expander Missiles and bombs full of depleted uranium that they drop on the people, that will obviously have long term effects on the Gaza community. I was able to see bombed masjids, or mosques. I was able to see bombed out school buildings, elementary school buildings and government offices.

We were able to be brought into a world of a direct threat from imperialist American-made missiles. It was saddening. It was terrifying. It reminded me much of the communities that we live in – dilapidated Brownsville and the forgotten nooks and crannies in South Central Los Angeles or in Ohio, in Cleveland, or in Kensington in Philadelphia. It felt like the same oppression with the more ever-nearing threat of a bomb exploding in the name of imperialism right in front of your eyes.

The walls were tattooed or muraled with graffiti, with Arafat insignias. You know the support from other organizations, not only Hamas, who was the leadership there, but Fatah who is also the Palestinian representative of the West Bank and other parts of Palestine, who also want to see a freedom for the Palestinian people.

Even people who had been bombed out of their homes, I still saw hope in their eyes. I saw beautiful people. I saw beautiful architecture or what once was architecture, a great coastline with beautiful beaches where even though they had been living in war torn, bombed out areas for the last months of their life with no income or outgoing supplies like gas and food and clothes and the basic needs which we were attempting to bring, they were still able to be resilient.

So that’s some of what I was able to see in Gaza. Like I said, it was because of the pressure of the Egyptian government and Israel in collusion, we were only granted 24 hours to be inside that border and to do the work that we had done, which was to bring the numerous wheelchairs and buckets and school supplies or whatever we could bring with our hands across the border to assist some people who are under the same attack and have the same enemy that I have.

Don’t miss M1’s “24 hours in Gaza.” And get ready for his historic speaking tour Sept. 23-29, “From the Ghetto to Gaza” – seven events in seven days in East and West Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Sonoma, San Jose and Santa Cruz to benefit and Contact Minister of Information JR at or the SF Bay View at (415) 671-0789 for more information. Learn more about M-1 and dead prez and their latest album, “Pulse of the People,” at and

KPFA Morning Show interview with M1

Hear KPFA Morning Show host Aimee Allison’s interview with M1 broadcast Monday, Sept. 14. Move the slider to 1:36:35, where the interview begins. Go to “24 hours in Gaza” to listen to another, longer interview by KPFA’s Khalil Bendib.

The Morning Show – September 14, 2009 at 7:00am

Click to listen (or download)