Open Letter to: Killer Mike, Cardi B, Kanye, Jay-Z, P-Diddy, Ludacris, 50 Cent and others: Greetings and solidarity to each of you. In recognition of your individual voice, influence and cultural following among current generations of Black people – Africans in the Diaspora and on the continent – we salute you.
I was sitting here in my 4-and-a-half-by-10-foot prison cell on San Quentin’s death row when suddenly I saw “breaking news” flash across the TV screen. To my horror, the image that followed was that of a white Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin driving his knee into the back of the neck of a Black man named George Floyd.
“Dear U.S. Attorney General: For over 100 years, citizens born and naturalized in the U.S. who have been convicted of crime have endured the inhumane indignity of being stripped of our citizenship and right to vote through felony disenfranchisement by way of the United States Constitution’s 13th Amendment. Additionally, citizens who have been arrested or continue to be housed in jails and prisons nationally in all 50 sovereign states have been subjected to the conspiratorial practice of police and/or prison officials who violate our First Amendment right to free speech as well as political association through on-going censorship practices that limit what we can read or write and to whom.” – Excerpt of grievance crafted by North Carolina Department of Correction prisoners Randy Watterson and Joseph “Shine White” Stewart
It’s only been a few months since our prison strike took place throughout the United States. Although many of our brothers and sisters have made reports of being arbitrarily subjected to reprisals, I assure you that our small “KAGE cadre” in California hasn’t faltered but is standing firm against injustice and broken promises since the agreement known as Ashker v. Governor intended to end indefinite long-term solitary confinement.
The frame-up of rapper Meek Mill by Philadelphia cops bears a telling resemblance to the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Both stand as indictments of the entire injustice system. Recent revelations about the fraudulent arrest and imprisonment of Mill demonstrate what police and prison abolitionists have known for decades: The entire institution of mass incarceration is a crooked, racist system. When we say, “Free Meek and free Mumia!” we also say, “Free them all!”
Dec. 10, 2017, was the 50th anniversary of Redding’s transition. Jay Z and Kanye West introduced the hip-hop generation to Redding in 2011 when they recorded the track, “Otis.” Forty-four years before that, Redding was on top – known as the most popular male vocalist on Planet Earth. Redding was so popular in England that he ended Elvis Presley’s eight-year reign as the “world’s best male vocalist” on Melody Maker’s annual pop poll in 1967. According to Amiri Baraka, Redding said things in Muhammad Speaks “more ‘radical,’ Blacker, than many of the new musicians.”
Today marks the first anniversary of President Obama ending juvenile solitary in the federal prison system in response to the case of New York City teenager Kalief Browder, who committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 22. In 2010, when Kalief was just 16, he was sent to Rikers Island, without trial, on suspicion of stealing a backpack. He always maintained his innocence and demanded a trial. Instead, he spent the next nearly three years at Rikers – nearly 800 days of that time in solitary confinement.
Raw G is an up-and-coming Bay Area bilingual MC who just dropped her debut album, “Esperanza.” For years she has established a local presence, burning up the opening act slot for performers in the Bay. But most importantly, Raw G is an established “raptivist” – an MC who is involved in activism. In fact, Raw G will donate all proceeds from “Esperanza” to a high school in Oakland that is dedicated to working with newly arrived immigrants. Check out Raw G in her own words.
This upcoming week, on May 19, we will celebrate the 90th birthday of the late great El Hajj Malik El Shabazz aka our beloved Malcolm X, all over the world. But what will not be talked about in most of these celebrations, unrightfully so, will be the murder of his grandson, Malcolm Latif Shabazz two years earlier on May 10, 2013. Here is Hashim Aluddeen’s perspective on Young Malcolm, on the second anniversary of his assassination.
NAAFRA, our family movement, calls for a youth vanguard to provide added strength for immediate results. The need for a youth vanguard is made very clear in Ferguson, Missouri, where the world has been watching our youth confront a militarized police force prepared to fire on unarmed Black citizens. With these courageous youth directly in the line of fire, at that moment we were too close to a line we do not want to cross.
TaLea Monet, aka Ms. Incredible, is an MC based in Frisco’s Hunters Point with skills and a very distinct voice. She recently dropped her debut album titled “Birth of a New Breed,” featuring her two beautiful children on the front cover. I wanted to sit down with this hometown shero and talk about her history and her latest musical offering to the people. Hear’s Ms. Incredible in her own words ...
Veronica Blair has one of those superhero sounding names, and when you find out what her and her friends are into, it may be kind of fitting. Veronica is one of few Black circus artists that I know of in the Bay Area who takes it upon herself to organize events and push the knowledge of our people’s history of involvement in the art form.
This Sunday Yoshi’s in Oakland will be hosting Richmond songstress Deja Bryson to grace the stage. From the same Bay Area as colleagues Ledisi and Keisha Cole, this niece of the great ‘80s and ‘90s crooner Peabo Bryson is set to make a name for herself without standing in anyone’s shadow. Deja Bryson is sure to bring out a crowd to see this beautiful songbird electrify the stage.
The literary work of Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, has captivated the imaginations of ghetto-dwellers for decades. Much different from the writings of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Richard Wright, who all hold up a piece of the American pantheon of legendary Black writers, the work of Iceberg Slim was a chronicle into what was going on in the underbelly of capitalism, America’s ghettos.
San Francisco was well represented at Cannes this year. Native son Danny Glover sat on a panel about documentary filmmaking, while San Francisco’s Kevin Epps showed his film “Straight Outta Hunters Point 2” to its first international audience. The San Francisco Black Film Festival held a news conference with “Godfather of Independent Film” Robert Townsend.
The latest Hollywood brouhaha over Gwyneth Paltrow’s decision to tweet the caption “ni**as in Paris for real” to accompany a picture of her with friends Jay-Z and Beyoncé while in Paris doesn’t compare to the new evidence of “fraud upon the court” that has emerged in a largely unnoticed civil rights case that very well should be reopened after being unfairly dismissed six years ago.
Amoeblog invited author, journalist, broadcaster and activist JR Valrey, aka the People’s Minister of Information, to be a guest contributor. The Oakland-based Valrey, who was interviewed and profiled on the Amoeblog last month, is known for his work on KPFA radio, the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, and his book “Block Reportin’.” The book will soon be available for sale in Amoeba Hollywood’s book section.
Jesus El, a member of the Golden State Warriors acrobatic dunk team, has started a youth program, Boys to Eagles, to help young men who grew up in single parent homes in the ghetto just like him. The program not only helps train acrobats, but musicians, video journalists, dancers and entrepreneurs.
I learned about the Los Angeles based singer Dasha Chadwick from Facebook. The first time I heard her music was a few months ago, after I looked her singing up on YouTube. Before she was Dasha, the woman, I knew her when she was in the first grade when I used to walk her to school.