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TRNN in-studio audience members discuss the war on drugs, independent black institutions, and grassroots organizing

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REV. DR. HEBER BROWN III, HOST, TRNN TOWNHALL (BALTIMORE): Hello, and thank you for tuning in to The Real News Network. My name is Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, and we’re so glad that you could take the time to tune in to this very special town hall and discussion on the murder of Mike Brown and the unfolding events in Ferguson.

Of course you know across the nation, and in fact across the world, people are focused on what is going on in Ferguson right now, but not just Ferguson, but the ripple effect in local communities, towns, and states even beyond Ferguson. And so we’re so excited to be a part of this conversation. We really pray that this is not just a rehashing of what’s already been said. But our thrust and drive today is going to be, very much so, akin to that question that Dr. King asked in 1967, where do we go from here.

FIRE ANGELOU, SPOKEN-WORD ARTIST AND ACTIVIST: There are five boys in a cell across from me, and four out of five of them will be considered three-fifths of a man. And there are five walls, four that surround us and one that is made of our skin. See, blacks are always in a double prison. But I could smell the hope of white privilege, one Caucasian who knew that DJS was not meant for his DNA, handcuffs were allergic to his helix. So he bounced freedom off his tongue because he could taste it. I watched westward expansion walk out of a felony while every single boy of color returned for a crime less severe.

But why should we care? Why should we care about a few black boys that committed a crime, but we should care that we are criminalized before we even commit one? See, I met my public defender a few minutes before my rights were going to be surrendered. I didn’t even need a representative from the state. My face gave a testimony before I could talk. I am a black girl, which means in a courtroom my skin is shackle-lready.

But what if I made you inferior based on the color of your eye, denied your right to vote based on your body size, ’cause kinky can break combs but will not break complacency, nor white supremacy? Yet people will say, I don’t see color. Well, look in a prison if you are feeling colorblind, that out of the millions of people in prison, more than half are people of color, ’cause as a nation led by Ronald Reagan, we chose incarceration instead of rehabilitation, and health issues are never addressed in the institution, because the institution itself is a health issue. A retired police chief told The New York Times that he was offered tanks, bazookas, and anything else he wanted. The Pentagon developed monetary incentives to ensure military practices on common people, so that your mother, your brother, your sister, your cousin, your aunts, uncle are all public enemy number one.

But when was the last time a SWAT team was in a suburb, threw a grenade in a mansion without probable cause? The only difference is race, because statistically, blacks and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, and blacks just lack the private space. So the outdoor market is more accessible to arrest. Police target us because it is easy, because we are already on the corner and criminalized. What we call the hood is the aftermath of a battlefield. But I dare you to put a blue light in a white man’s house. Why don’t you Bloomberg his neighborhood, stop and frisk his sons and daughters, make them spread-eagle [until he wants to (?)] get your eagle every year? Billions of dollars sustains the prison-industrial complex. They will spend more money imprisoning us than feeding us. And it is never about the prison time. It’s about the prison label, because felon is an alternative word for slave.

In Ferguson, what has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society and more to do with the language they use to justify it.

So I refuse consent. You can bring your dog, and even your firing squad. I am tired, we are tired, Ferguson is tired of an American dream being shattered with shackles, and I will not identify how many of our young black men, how many of our people have to die before we decide that not next year, five years, a decade, or a century from now, but now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now is the only time structure we will ever believe in? We are all prisoners incarcerated in the belief that we have time to make change happen. But I will never sit and hope for change. I will spend every day and every night fighting for it, because as long as the system of white supremacy thrives, mass genocide, mass incarceration, and our slavery will never die.

BROWN: That’s Fire Angelou, ladies and gentlemen. And what a phenomenal, phenomenal activist and spoken word artist we are blessed to have right here in Baltimore City.

Well, in addition to Fire Angelou, we are so thankful as well to have our special guest today, a wonderful brother and activist who really–his work on the ground in so many communities speaks for itself. But just for the sake of those who may not know him, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. is the president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. He’s a minister, community activist, and one of the most influential people in hip hop political life. He works tirelessly to encourage the hip hop generation to utilize its political and social voice. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Rev. Yearwood became national director of the award-winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign, where he led a coalition of national and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Katrina survivors. He served as the political and grassroots director of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004. And in ’04 he also was a key architect and implementer of three other voter-turnout operations. P. Diddy’s Citizen Change organization, which created the “Vote or Die!” campaign, Jay-Z’s “Voice Your Choice” campaign, and Hip Hop Voices, a project at the AFL-CIO. Rev. Yearwood is a retired U.S. Air Force reserve officer, and I believe chaplin as well. He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. He has been seen all over the media, and right now he’s seen on The Real News Network.

Please put your hands together for Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.


BROWN: Well, thanks so much for being here, man. I really appreciate your time. And let’s just go ahead and jump right into it.

YEARWOOD: Most definitely.

BROWN: Can you give us first your general reactions to the murder of Mike Brown and the unfolding events in Ferguson?

YEARWOOD: Oh, well, thank you. I mean, I think the first thing is that it was a murder. I’m glad you said that. It was a murder of Michael Brown.

And I think the first thing–well, for me, Hip Hop Caucus has been dealing with police brutality on a number of issues. So this wasn’t new to us. I can’t tell you how many times we had been engaged with police brutality, from Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, so many issues, even going back to Amadou Diallo. I mean, there’s just a long list, not including the stand-your-ground list of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, and then Eric Garner and so forth recently in New York.

So I’ve been able to see the pattern of what happens for our community, particularly when they begin to take ground. And instantly the one thing about Michael Brown’s case which was different was that the community seemed to have more resolve. They were more open to speak out on camera and say what they saw. You know, a lot of times people don’t want to speak out. They’re afraid of the repercussions. So, instantly you saw this community, even before any of us got behind it, you saw the stepfather–you know, my son was executed–you know, very harsh language from the very beginning. And then clearly with Twitter and social media things begin to pick up steam from there. And I think that with Michael Brown the key thing is that this issue of, in essence, the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and how he could be killed with impunity, on essence young black men and young black women are living in, in essence, Constitution-free zones in America, was brought to light.

BROWN: And it seemed like, though, that the people were waiting for the leaders to get to the stage and say, here is the marching orders, here is what we do. Ferguson feels and has to this point been quite different, in that folks in Ferguson, and even beyond Ferguson, those who gave it support, aren’t waiting for the, quote-unquote, leaders to give the okay or green light on anything. They’re moving forward. And it seems as if leaders are trying to catch up to where the people are. Can you speak to that?

What are your thoughts?

YEARWOOD: Well, I mean, that’s how it should be, actually. You know, there go the people, and the leaders should follow. I mean, that’s how movements really should be, that people should be leading, and the leaders should be coming behind to give that movement direction or some actual structure, so to speak.

You know, let me take it back one step, actually. The difference for our generation, particularly the [incompr.] now operating in the 21st century, is that for a very long time we have been compared to the 20th century. So, instantly something happened to Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin is our Emmett Till. Ferguson is our Birmingham. And so you instantly have this–quickly this kind of measuring up to the 20th century.

What’s different about Ferguson, I think, is this. I think for our generation, we had been told about the leaders of the 20th century and the movements, how great the Urban League was, how great NAACP was, Dr. King, Malcolm X, so forth, Ella Baker, this long list, right? Dick Gregory, Harry Belafonte, the artists of the time. But what we failed, I think, was that we ourselves were ourselves going through our own crisis, the issues of–that we were in essence being lynched in the 21st century, that we were still dealing with segregation in our communities. All these things, in essence a new kind of Jim Crow, had emerged in the 21st century. And the Jim Crow was much more sophisticated. So, in essence, where our parents dealt with Jim Crow–straw hat, kind of not to couth and savvy–we were dealing with, I would say, James Crow Jr. Esq., a much more sophisticated element of this aspect. So when you fast-forward, we were then also using the techniques of the 20th century to mobilize, organize, and energize, almost going back, simply just marching, simply just thinking that we were only outside the aspect, looking for a particular kind of leader, I mean, looking for a male or a preacher. So our sisters who had done so much in the 20th century were still shut out in the 21st century. Those aspects in the 20th century were hindering.

And I think that what Trayvon Martin did was that when we saw George Zimmerman walk, that I think that something kind of snapped. We had gone through Katrina, we had seen the war in Iraq, we had seen people under the world of color being persecuted. We had seen in our own communities, in our own schools, young brother after young brother after young sister after young sister being abused. And I think that something in us moved.

Ferguson did that. Ferguson to me was a paradigm shift in which the movement recognized that we have our own battles, in the words of Coretta Scott King, that each generation much fight their own battles. And so I think that what Ferguson represents for us is almost a–not only a breaking away of fighting for freedom and equality and justice, but also a breaking away of the huge shadow of the 20th century. And I think that for a new generation, they begin to emerge and move things forward in a way that they were now fighting for justice and freedom.

BROWN: Wow. Yeah. So you’re aligning 20th and 21st century mindsets and tactics on how to deal with these issues. There’s also some people who were groomed and developed in 20th century movement of black folk who seem to be losing, seem to be losing some currency in 21st century activism. So let’s just talk. It’s just us. So I watched the video, right,–

YEARWOOD: Yeah. Okay.

BROWN: –of Rev. Jesse Jackson at McDonald’s, and somebody posted it up, and the response to the reverend was something that I’m sure has happened before. And it’s not even the first time. Dr. King, through the latter part of his life–you’re a historian; you know–through the latter part of his life, when he’s talking more about Vietnam and that type of stuff, he’s not as popular even in the black community no more, either. You know, they were derided him as well. But somebody came up on Rev. Jackson and said, we don’t want you here, go home, you ain’t helping, you’re not supporting the effort. And Rev. Al Sharpton the same way, getting that criticism. What do you make of the seeming intergenerational schisms that are now–seem to be on big stage for all of us to bear witness to? How do we repair that? Should it be repaired? In what ways should we move forward even in the intergenerational effort, as you align 20th and 21st century movement-building?

YEARWOOD: Well, first I’ll say this. Let me say that I know both Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton very well and I’m around them and a lot of other black leaders in that discussion. And personally being around them, they are people who I believe are concerned about our community.

But with that being said, I think, though, that there is a need that our institutions are not engaging themselves with our community the way they need to. And people are seeing the leadership in ways where it appears to be very superficial. And they’re seeing more of our leaders more excited to be commentators, be in this kind of setting, to be able to be on TV, running before a camera, than they are running, doing the today-to-day hard work in that community. And that becomes frustrating, because when you see somebody running toward the media and not running toward the masses, there’s a problem. And so I think our community is almost hurt by that, because they almost feel used. And they feel used because there are times when a young brother or young sister is killed, the camera is there, people will show up, and then, very shortly thereafter, people will disappear.

You mentioned for me Katrina, for instance. Coming up will be the nine-year anniversary of the Katrina hurricane and disaster and the failed response by our government. I can–we’re still engaged as an organization, the Hip Hop Caucus, but I can tell you that the numbers that were here at the beginning, including progressive white organizations, has dwindled down to its just now back to the people. And the people know that. They can feel abandoned. They now feel with a new hurricane, now Sandy or whatever else might–the new disaster, so to speak, or the new victim. And that hurts, because we are not–it becomes a responsive agenda, not a preventive agenda. And so people are hurt by that. They feel that. So when anybody–if it’s Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, or I think any quote-unquote, leader who people see in that position and they don’t see them actively working or they don’t understand how it’s working, there’s frustration. And there should be.

I mean, let’s be honest. Our institutions–a lot of our institutions have become institutionalized. They are more concerned about protecting the institution then the mission of the institution was supposed to be doing. They’re more concerned about the brick and mortar and paying for, in essence, the salaries of the people working there than worrying about those resources going to the community. And this happens over time. When you have issues that have been around for a bit of time, that’ll happen.

So, in Ferguson, what you see: you see in essence new institutions, so to speak, emerging out of that, people who say, we’ve got to get something done, we’ve got to do something. And so, what you see them doing: they’re trying to do something. But then the problem, though–it could be one young lady or one young brother, and they’re out there organizing. What’s unfair about that is that then the institutions kind of sit back. These young folks go out, they do all this work, get arrested, get burnt out, get kicked out of school, and then the institutions, knowing how they can approach the foundations, knowing how they can use that process, will then go use those same pictures, those same things, go to those foundations to fund their work, and that money never gets to those young activists and those communities. That brings frustration, because then those young activists are saying, but what about me? I’m out here on the ground and want to make change, and we don’t see it.

BROWN: [snip] because you’re so involved in electoral politics and helping get people registered to vote and getting them active and the like. But there always have been voices that say, you know what? I ain’t voting, man. That stuff ain’t real, it ain’t true, it’s not going to bring about the changes on the ground. Can you help speak to that person? I’m curious as well. How would you draw the line of prevention–you talked about a proactive response–to this Mike Brown or the next to Mike Brown or the next Renisha McBride who’s coming? How would voting or how would increased voter registration rolls help prevent or decrease the number of murders that we see, serial executions in our community? How does voting help do anything about that?

YEARWOOD: Voting is the most radical thing that we can do. When there was a picture of two mothers during the protests in Ferguson and they put a voting booth out there, that was the one thing that got the right-wing bloggers the maddest. It wasn’t the looting, it wasn’t the rioting. The one thing that they went berserk about was the fact that these two mothers were linking what was going on in Ferguson directly to voting, which [it is (?)]. People will come back and say, well, Ferguson is a town that is mostly black. It has almost an all-white city council and a white mayor and in all-white police department. And they say, well, how can that happen? It happens because in 2013 only 6 percent of the black people in that community voted. That means 94 percent stayed home. That’s giving away your power.

BROWN: Well, the wonderful thing is–and we have to wrap for this first half. But the wonderful thing is that there are members of the local hip hop community right here in the audience today.

YEARWOOD: That’s for sure.

BROWN: So I want to continue this. I want to hear from some other voices, because I don’t know if you heard it, but I felt it in my spirit that when you said voting is the most radical think that we could do, I felt in my spirit that some of the people in the crowd said, oh, no, I don’t agree with that. So I want to hear some of that analysis, some of those voices.

But right now we’re going to go to our break, and we’ll be right back after this. Stay tuned right here. I’m Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III with Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. having an exciting conversation, and an important one, about Mike Brown, the murder of Mike Brown, and Ferguson. Stay tuned.

The_Black_Freedom_Struggle_of_the_21st_Century_2_3_medium.mp4 (17:01.538)

REV. DR. HEBER BROWN III, HOST, TRNN TOWNHALL (BALTIMORE): Hi, and welcome back to The Real News Network. My name is Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III. We’re having a wonderful conversation about a tragedy in this nation–the murder of Michael Brown–and Ferguson and the ripples from Ferguson. Where do we go from here?

Our special guest today is Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.

And we’re so thankful, again, for your time today.


BROWN: The conversation has been hot. And it’s get about to get more hotter, if I can say that, because we have just a wonderful guest audience here today, and so many in this crowd, and not just audience members, but they’re activists, spoken-word artists, business leaders doing so many wonderful things as well. I want to take a moment and introduce a few of them.

Everybody in the audience is going to be now–this part of the show is going to be us engaging back and forth. There’s microphones in the audience. So let’s get at it. Okay?

We broke at the half, talking about voting. And Rev. Yearwood, you said that voting is the most radical thing we can do right now, and you said that the right wing really got upset when two mothers set up a voter registration booth. They didn’t mind the burning down of the gas station or the other things or the looting–some have called it looting; others have called it reparations. But they didn’t mind none of that. But when two mothers set up a table and did voter registration, that’s when they got upset. You saw that as a sign of that’s where the real power is. And I alluded to the fact that I believe that some in this audience would say different. And I want to give voice to that.

Karega Bailey, I think you were one who had a difference of opinion as it relates to voting. Is that right?

KAREGA BAILEY, EDUCATOR, AUTHOR, POET, MC: The idea is that if voting is the most revolutionary thing we can do, I can’t say that I’ve found the recourse. I can’t say that I’ve found exactly what would replace voting. I’m just saying, how long does it take for us to groom someone who we choose to vote for, who we know will serve the interests of the people? So that revolution is a little longer than I’d like to wait, but I do understand that my patience is something I must develop.

But I also say this. I don’t know if I really have the true hope that things will change. I just know I’m arming with a glitch, and I don’t know how to stop fighting. So I count toward the change, but I can’t say with certainty that I believe it’s coming.

BROWN: So, brother Bailey makes a great point, says if voting is the answer, Rev, it’s a long time coming. And even with the historic election of our president, President Barack Obama, many of the things that–from Michael Brown to Trayvon Martin, many of this and so many other–and Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, the list really could go on and on and on–under this president, the one who said hope and change and yes we can, things at least on the ground have not seemed to change as substantively as was initially promised, at least for some. What do you say to those who say, listen, I’m tired of waiting?

YEARWOOD: Yeah, no, I understand. I definitely understand the sentiment. And I understand being revolutionary unfortunately means you have to be patient. It is long-term. It’s one of the things that sometimes–that the battle will go on beyond you, and you have to literally prepare your children, literally, to fight the next phase of the battle. And that’s hard, because we don’t think [incompr.] we want to see it now. And some things will come now, but then some things will be done for the next generation.

The other Ferguson, actually, we should talk about, which is Plessy v. Ferguson–. Plessy v. Ferguson is Homer Plessy, who was the light-skinned young brother who boarded the train in New Orleans in 1892 and it stopped. And then that literally creates separate-but-equal laws, creates Jim Crow, creates segregation. And then from there we needed to have litigation and legislation come forth next–Civil Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education. Those things came after that process, about 50 years later.

What’s important to know: that those communities who were against the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act of ’64 or in ’65, they didn’t stop. They were patient. And so for an example of that would be John Roberts, Chief [Justice] John Roberts now. You know, in ’83 he was a Harvard law student, and Reagan and those communities groomed him, literally from ’83. Thirty years later, he’s now the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and he’s now rolling back voting rights. So they have patience. And so they recognize that it is a systematic planning. So while we’re dealing with the other Ferguson, our Ferguson, they are still trying to create not only separate but equal, but separate but unequal. And so our only level of leveling the playing field is through voting.

Now, I would say there are other things we could do. I would say there is divestment, I mean, taking our money out of corporations, the prison-industrial complex, companies that are polluting our communities. There are other tools that we can use along with voting divestment. Clearly, I wouldn’t say–you’re right. I like how you said it wasn’t rioting. It was the Ferguson uprising and the resistance in Ferguson. We can support that in the next generation. But voting is critical. It is our most important means right now if we utilize it, in other words, to level the playing field on a political basis.

But I think what was being kind of stated was that we then have politicians who get into positions of authority who look like us, who come from our community, they get into those positions, and then they don’t do what they’re called upon doing. And that is frustrating. So I actually agree wholeheartedly. We do need to groom out of the resistance a new set of leaders to be in those positions of authority.

BROWN: Can I do a quick poll, in fact, of that, based on that statement that the reverend said, so I can see beyond our brother, Brother Bailey, who shared, [incompr.] quick poll of those who disagree with the statement that voting is the most revolutionary or radical think we can do? Can I see the hands of those who disagree? “I disagree with that statement. I disagree with it. I disagree.” Alright.

Civ, can we hear from you on why you disagree with that statement?

CIV JONES, ON-AIR PERSONALITY, HIP HOP ACTIVIST: I don’t think it’s the most radical. For me, I come from the thought of economics withhold [sic]. I believe America is a capitalistic country. I think if we as a community, especially black folks who spend a lot of money–we’re one of the biggest consumers in America–I think if we starve America’s capitalistic hunger, that is the most radical thing that we can do. I think that we’ll start to see some really big change. And that is something that we can do immediately.

With the voting, it’s still needed. It’s definitely still needed. I don’t count that out. But if you think about voting, you said in 2013 it was only 6 percent. It’s going to take four more years before you can see some type of political change in that city of Ferguson because of the way the laws are written. And I agree. Like, people say vote, vote, vote. But who are we voting for? What are we voting for? The Hip Hop Caucus, I understand that you guys are based out in D.C., but are you touring these little towns? Are you seeing the political structure of these towns like of Ferguson? Why did it take Mike Brown’s killing for us to realize that this is a place that is 60 percent black but their leadership does not represent that? Where are these caucuses and these political organizations looking at the structure of these cities and saying, hold on, there is something going on right here, we need to go to these cities and get the people and these cities educated and really for them to understand what is going on, how we are throwing our political powers away? So I don’t think that voting is–the most radical thing for me is withholding our finances, not purchasing or patronizing those places that don’t patronize us.

BROWN: Interesting. Rev, Sister Civ makes a great–my sister makes a great point. You’ve been working on a national level. Can you point to any small town like a Ferguson or a Sandford where on the ground voter registration and the like has worked to redistribute political power in a small town and really change on-the-ground reality for people?

YEARWOOD: Oh, most definitely. I mean, there’s Newark, New Jersey currently. I mean, there is a litany of cities that I can–we you can say Oakland. But I think the point with–I’m not against divestment or withholding our money. I think, though, there–again, there is an institutional-educational component around that that is much–that is not as easily done as said. And I do think we do need to begin educating our community not only to withhold that money, in other words divest, but then to invest their money into our community, our organizations, and also invest their money into organizations or institutions that are supporting them.

Listen, I have nothing against the church or the mosque, but a lot of times we put a lot of money into our churches, and they’re not doing what needs to be done for our community. But we are constantly investing in that. So we need to withhold our money even from those within our own community who aren’t putting forth a plan that needs to create change.

But I still think that voting is the one thing that we can quickly–it’s something that you can do [incompr.] to do. In other words, it’s a broad-based process. If we were voting, in essence, at 96 percent–let’s flip the coin–and we were not seeing the results, then I would rather–I would probably even [have] more of an inkling to say, okay, I can understand that this might not be the top priority. But because it’s the lower number, using Ferguson, Ferguson is a great example that they had–and again, I don’t want to make this strictly because you can vote for who you want to. In other words, I’m not saying vote for a black person because they’re black, because we recognize there are a lot of black people who are not for black people. And so I’m saying vote for good people who are for your community. So if they want to vote for some all-white city council [incompr.] city council’s all for the people of Ferguson. But clearly [incompr.] what they’re saying, that is not the case. So what I’m saying here in regards to Ferguson: if you’re voting at 6 percent in 2013–actually, they vote every two years–literally, still two years is still time to create that kind of change.

The thing, though, for Ferguson is that if you’re–you’re in essence giving away your right, your power. Looking at the other side, in other words the other side who wants to take away your power–in other words, there are two sides to this. There is in essence those who want to organize money, and there are those who want to organize people. The good news is that organized people beats organized money when organized people are organized. And so the key thing here is that with organized people, the Koch brothers, they are funding every level. In other words, they are now funding people to be dog catchers, not just senators or governors or presidents of the country. But they want to make sure that every level of our policymaking is shaped. And that’s the key thing why it’s the most radical aspect, because either you shape policy or policy will shape you.

BROWN: Let me just throw another thing in the pot as we’re talking, because speaking about responding to the movement, a lot of artists, a lot of hip hop artists and mainstream artists, have also been responding to what’s been going on in Ferguson, right? And so we’ve had–and let me make sure I get all my names right, because I know they watch The Real News Network–Talib Kweli, J. Cole, Rosa Clemente, Lauryn Hill, David Banner, Common, John Legend, Jasiri X, Nelly, T.I., so many others in different ways have been engaging this issue through their music, through interviews, through T-shirts, like John Legend [when he’s–did his (?)] concert the other night, and that kind of thing. But you said recently there was a conference call with a lot of these artists, and I’m just curious for you to share what was on the minds of mainstream artists, quote-unquote, mainstream–we can debate that term, too–but what was on their minds in light of Ferguson.

YEARWOOD: No, definitely. Let me just quickly address what was said there. A movement isn’t necessary, but a strategic movement is what’s needed. It isn’t just a movement, ’cause movements can be iced out. We saw that from Occupy Wall Street. We’ve seen it from definite movements that grow quickly and then don’t sustain themselves.

And also what I’m saying is that legislation–you mentioned, you know, speaking of Missouri, Dred Scott decision in Missouri, which then–it litigates and legislates the value of a black life and a black man. And so what I’m saying to you is that, no, we definitely need organization, we definitely need demonstration, but organization and demonstration without litigation and legislation leads to frustration. And so what I’m saying is that if we’re just talking about just movement-building without an idea of shaping policy or changing policy, then we’re going to have some bad repercussions on our part, long-term.

But definitely a movement is critical, which is part of the call which we have with the artists. I think my job with Hip Hop Caucus is that I’m in a great position ’cause I get to work with all types of artists. You know, I’ve got a dear friend Immortal Technique on one side, and I work with T.I. and 2 Chainz, ’cause it’s the Hip Hop Caucus and they all come together and they have these discussions. So we had a call about Ferguson. And it was actually a great call. I won’t say who talked about what, ’cause it was–we have our calls that are–but they were–most of the artists you named were on that call. And so, in that, the discussion came up in regards to the issue of black-on-black crime. And I can understand, because they say, why wouldn’t–this is part of the leadership question, when there is–when people say they don’t see the issue around that or they don’t think they see, ’cause there are things that are being done, which–I think that’s the other part. Things are clearly being done.

The bottom line to that issue, which [incompr.] hear them discussing amongst themselves and the difference around this is that all of them, when they kind of–one of the artist asked the other artists, well, who on this call has not been profiled? Nobody said anything. And then the aspect that it’s different because one of the artists–and I think it might have been Common or Malik Yusef might have said this. And I’ll say they said this. This was the difference between the black-on-black aspect is this. If somebody here killed–because one of our brothers just lost [incompr.] one of the brothers, one artist, had just lost their cousin to gun violence, and he was–that artist was very touchy about that situation. And so [whether it’s this or that, (?)] the person who killed your cousin, if caught, will go to jail. If a law enforcement officer who killed Michael Brown–there’s no guarantee that he will go to jail. And as a matter of fact, the fact that you can have a public execution, in essence, and killing a young person of color with impunity and there’s no regard for that, then that’s the problem, because the law in essence has to police the law.

And there was [incompr.] great. I mean, I was amazed. A lot of artists [incompr.] talking about they wish the discussion in the movement–and I think we are hearing that. Some of the artists were talking about that it wasn’t so much focused on Michael Brown, but they actually wanted to know not only what’s in the system Michael Brown, but they ask a question like what’s in the system of Darren Wilson. Like, you know, and this would be great for the major to kind of answer this is that a lot of artists were feeling that they feel a lot of policemen have ADHD. And a lot of policemen, they come across–are drunk when they come across them. Or they–what’s in their system when they’re on the job? And then we’ll actually know, what are we doing to train police officers? ‘Cause it’s always about what do we got to do to train our community. But how are they being trained? How are they being held accountable? How are they being held [incompr.]

So I think those are some of the things that came up on that call.

BROWN: On the call.

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(C) The_Black_Freedom_Struggle_of_the_21st_Century_3_3_medium.mp4 (28:05.838)

REV. DR. HEBER BROWN III, HOST, TRNN TOWNHALL: I want to open it up. We’ve got a few–a number of questions. Let’s hit a few of them. Let’s start with Adam, and then we’ll come down and hit those who’ve not spoken yet, and then come back to you, Brother Karega.

ADAM JACKSON, CEO, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Yeah. I guess I just want to address the last part you talked about in terms of artists supporting grassroots, because for me, I mean, when they say they haven’t seen people, I mean, all the people in this room, for example, do a lot of great work here in Baltimore, but all of us aren’t on television or in the newspaper or are a part of those mainstream channels that people get access to. But the people that do, they get the power, the money, and the resources. And so I guess for me when we’re talking about actually trying to transform the material social conditions of black people in America, the most revolutionary thing we can do is support independent black institutions, like, people that actually do the work on the ground in the cities that they’re from, and that you can use that as a way to get people moving in the places that people live.

And so it becomes frustrating when I hear people talk about black-on-black crime, for example. Like, people shouldn’t be marching against black-on-black crime. People should be supporting black organizations that work with black people so that way our conditions can transform, as opposed to marching in the street against your own people. And so that maybe becomes more and more frustrating as people, like, try to have this conversation on a meta level about interracial relations amongst each other, because it’s like we should be supporting each other and funding each other and doing things with each other, as opposed to trying to compete on airtime to get legitimacy from white folks and white organizations, because me, the interest should be how do we actually build and build capacity and transform our conditions with each other, as opposed to competing for airtime and become–. And I guess for me, as a young–I don’t really like Al Sharpton. I like that he brings the cameras, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, Al Sharpton has never come to Baltimore and transformed anything for any people that I know in Baltimore. And there’s lots of people that could probably be leading on the front lines, that could be on the television or whatever, to be in Baltimore, but the problem is we don’t get the airtime, we don’t get the money. And I think that what will be the most effective for a group like Hip Hop Caucus or other national organizations is to actually be in the cities and to meet the people. Like, this is a great opportunity for us, ’cause we actually get to see you and people like you. But that needs to happen on a larger scale, because we need to be seen and to be given the resources to actually make the changes we’re trying to do in the places we’re from.

BROWN: Thanks, Adam.

Let’s jump to a few more. Brother Kariz and then Major Neill on the coming back.

KARIZ MARCEL, MUSIC PRODUCER, SOCIAL ENTREPRENUER, CEO OF KARIZ KIDS ENTERPRISES: No, indeed. You mentioned a few artists like T.I. and 2 Chainz and all of that. Now, my issue has always kind of been the people that speak up, the /d????ri’?ks/es, the Talibs, the Common, these kids ain’t bumping them. They have no influence on our community. The only people Common and Talib have got any influence on is the people who they’ve already influenced. So it’s not really pushing me or inspiring none of us or none of the kids that we work with on a day-to-day basis. Like, we’re on the ground. Our organization’s on the ground. We’re dealing with these kids. We have an advantage because we’re able to work with a ten-year-old and watch them turn 13, 14, 15 and see how when Lil Wayne wore leggings, everybody grab leggings. Right? So, yeah, okay, Common, Talib, we know you’re about that. That ain’t–we ain’t–you know, back in maybe ’99, we probably would’ve rocked[, but you weren’t (?)] saying that.

The issue is is like, alright. So where is the A-listers? So the A-listers have no media/cultural impact on the youth at all. Now, they might be in these meetings with these black curtains and nobody know that they care about their people, but that’s the issue. Why are they behind these curtains talking about how we care about our people but not saying that on a mass level? So the issue with me is, like, trying to figure out, where is that balance? How could we bridge that gap and influence those A-listers to start speaking up? We talked about Harry Belafonte, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We could go on and on with that era from Paul Robeson on up. But now thinking about what’s happening right now, we’ve got our Paul Robesons, we have a lot of these guys now. We’ve got Kevin Hart or whoever it might be [at the park (?)]. You know.

So what’s happening? Everybody throwing ice buckets on their head talking about some disease that 93 percent of people that even have the disease is white. That don’t even really affect us. So at the end of the day, what are we going to do? What’s our ALS challenge? What are we going to do for the things that really matter? You’ve got Mike Brown [incompr.] everybody throwing ice buckets on their head. What is the–.

Let me calm down. What is–give me advice on a strategy to encourage the A-listers to step up on a mass media level.

BROWN: Before you respond, let’s hit that. And Kariz, let me hit that while your blood pressure coming down. Can I–’cause let me say–’cause we’ve got to go to the major. Major’s next. But my thing, my thing too, my question too would be, like, for those A-listers, ’cause I’m all with you, but they’re collecting a paycheck from somebody who dictates what comes out of their mouth. So how is it that Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte and them were able–Ruby Dee, how were they able to do it? ‘Cause they was collecting money from white power as well, but they still spoke up. And I don’t know the answer to this, but how–.

You do? We’re coming to you.

He got the answer.

How do we do that?

UNIDENTIFIED: What’s the strategy?

BROWN: Major, your thoughts? And as a police officer–I’ve got to just confess–it’s Sunday; I’m a preacher–that the relationship with–my personal relation with five-O ain’t that straight. It’s not that good. I just–I pray about it, because of my own–


BROWN: –because of my own experiences growing up in Baltimore, right?

FRANKLIN: I get that. I get that.

BROWN: And so I’ve got–I have young sons who, when they see police cars driving down the street, they say, ooh, daddy, look, look, oh, I want to be a officer. And I know I’ve got to have this talk with them one day, where I got to bust that bubble. As beautiful and as innocent and brilliant as their eyes are–they light up when they see officers–I’ve got to talk to them one day about you need to–I’d rather you keep your distance from all of them, because we don’t have the time to figure out which ones are the good and the bad ones.

FRANKLIN: Who’s who. Right.

BROWN: Speak to us as a major.

FRANKLIN: I had the same experiences you had. I grew up in Reservoir Hill, Whitelock, Callow, Park Avenue, been chased off, chased out of downtown, going to the Mayfair II–I know most of you all don’t know what that is, but the movie theater Mayfair II. You know, we go downtown, and we’re chased out of downtown, and we were just trying to go to a movie. So I get that.

I became a–one of the main reasons I became a police officer was to change that environment. And now, after three decades, I’ve realized there is no way I can change it unless some things happen. There’s no way any of us can change that relationship unless some things happen.

Now, we know we are dealing with the fallout from slavery. You know, black-on-black crime, back then they were putting us against each other. And it’s still happening today. Police-on-black crime, we’re still dealing with that. So we know that that’s going to be a long-term battle, dealing with those issues from slavery that we’re trying to solve and unravel.

But what’s the main issue of the day, something we can really dig our heels into and solve today? A lot of what we’re talking about here today are the symptoms of what I’m about to talk about–the militarization of our police force, the reason police can’t get together with community, and black-on-black crime. And I’ll begin with some–you know, art depicts life. And despite what people think about The Wire, Major Bunny Colvin said something when he was talking to one of his sergeants, his drug s ergeant, about the drug war. And excuse me, Pastor, but I’ve got to say the quote as it was said in the film.

BROWN: That’s fine. It’s not in the Bible. Just go ahead. It’s good.

FRANKLIN: The drug war, because of the drug war, everybody’s your fucking enemy. Now, think about this. Think about our neighborhoods here in Baltimore, Ferguson, L.A. It doesn’t matter. New York, Newark, Chicago, Detroit. And these crews are on the corners engaged in selling their drugs, and the crews, how they get their cash. And, yes, unemployment plays a significant role here. But I’m going to tell you something. Even if we had the jobs available, because we have criminalized so many of our young black boys, men, and women because of this drug war, they ain’t getting hired anyway. We still have a long way to go there.

This drug war is the foundation for most of what we’re dealing with today in Ferguson. How we are depicted as young black men through the media, amongst ourselves, how we look at each other, how we see each other, how whites see us, the drug war, the thug life, it’s all surrounding the drug trade. Gangster–that came from alcohol prohibition, used today for drug prohibition. Everybody wants to be a gangster. The militarization of our police force, that started in the 1980s, around 1980, because the cartels, drug gangs, drug crews, organized crime were arming themselves for the role they played in the drug war, for fighting each other and fighting the police. So what did the police do? They armed themselves–automatic weapons, surplus military equipment, the 1033 Program, where it keeps dumping equipment into policing. And as long as we, the police, are fighting this drug war, coming into communities looking for drugs, searching people, searching cars, searching homes, occupying these communities, nothing will ever change in how we police in black communities.

We can end the drug war, tying it right to Michelle Alexander’s book. You end the prohibition on drugs. We’re moving that direction already with marijuana. And I know there’s many parts to this. I know that a lot of money that comes from the drug trade does a lot within the black community; like it or not, it does. Johns Hopkins is not the number one single employer in Baltimore. Unfortunately, it’s the drug trade. So we have a lot of work to do there with rebuilding our communities.

And that’s where voting comes in: a strategic movement to bring an end to the drug war, a strategic movement to bring an end to the drug war by changing policy, legislation. But the voting comes in for a long-term piece of putting those right people in place to maintain control of policy.

BROWN: But then we’ve got to cut that money out of politics too, because especially on the national level, they’re making a lot of money. Now, locally I can go with you. We can, I think, make greater and quicker change–.

FRANKLIN: Effective politics is local politics. And that’s why we have to engage our people. When this mayor was elected, first of all, it was 18 percent of Baltimore citizens came out to vote in that election. Okay? Champaign-Urbana is another example where they’re putting the right people in place for long-term success and growth within the black community. That’s what needs to happen, locally first. And then it’ll happen at the state level, and then at the federal level.

There’s so much more to this that I can talk about regarding the drug war and how it rips our communities apart, and it is the Berlin Wall for progress within the black community. Let me just put it that way. We’ve got to tear down a Berlin Wall, and that’s the drug war.

BROWN: A lot of Tweetable quotes going on right now, and I hope you all thumbs are moving. And I would just add this. And we can’t speak to it. We’ve got about five minutes. So I’ve got to jump to–a lot of you have comments. And if you have solutions, where do we go from here, what we do now, I definitely want to hear. And so we’re going to just–we’re going to roll. I just want to say this because somebody might Google it one day and learn a thing or two, as I did, about Judge Kenneth Johnson, who in the early ’90s commissioned a grand jury to investigate the drug war in Baltimore City, and that grand jury found out that it was the white collar, the suites, who was controlling and profiting off of the drug trade in Baltimore City. You won’t find that taught in the Baltimore City public school system. But beloved, please Google that, “Judge Kenneth Johnson”, and Google the grand jury from 1992, I believe it was, where it was very controversial. But this judge, who has a heart for his people, he’s still living, and we pay homage to our elder. And he helped us to get some bread crumbs to the trail of how we’re going to deal with this issue on a large scale.

Let me just hit–Black Chakra, I believe, will speak to it and [will comment (?)]. And make it quick, please. We’ve got to get a lot of people.

BLACK CHAKRA, MC, SPOKEN-WORD ARTIST: For a lot of the youth emcees, especially, that I come in contact with, the macrocosm of their music and the society they live in is black-on-black violence, ’cause that’s what they see on an everyday basis. Now, though they see police brutality and they see white racism or they see racism as a whole, they keep that as the microcosm and it doesn’t affect their music. So in what way can we make this microcosm a macrocosm? And what way can we make this important to them when what they’re seeing is so many black people getting killed by black people?

And far as a solution, the only one I can think of is policing ourselves. Like, our neighborhoods should have their own police force. I mean, a cop is just as human as I am, is just as human as my father is, is just as human as my neighbor is. If we policed ourselves, then we could deal with the issues of police brutality internally, and it wouldn’t have to be on a national scale, ’cause we could handle it [in our neighborhoods (?)]. The difference between our neighborhoods and most other neighborhoods I see is the Jewish neighborhoods handle their own problems, Italians handle their own problems. Blacks, it’s we get together as a nation, but we never handle the problem. We ask for politicians to handle the problem or someone else to handle the problem. So until we can police ourselves, I feel like the problems are going to continue.

BROWN: Thank you.


SLANGSTON HUGHES, POET, DEW MORE MANAGER (BALTIMORE CITY YOUTH POETRY TEAM): In terms of voting, I would never say voting has no power, but in terms of what we’ve always done is sit and wait, you vote and then you say, when’s it going to happen? You vote and you say, when’s it going to happen? And there’s been strategic movements to try to groom and put the right person in place, whether you’re talking about Detroit; Gary, Indiana; Newark, New Jersey. What happens is, when you get into office, two things happen. One, you find out that their commitment was not what you thought it was. Two, the reason for that being is because they have to answer to people who, one, have their financial interests at hand and who, two, don’t have the interests of the people at hand. So that will never be the most radical thing that can be done, because it won’t have the most radical solution.

The most radical thing that we can do is build our own community ourselves to kind of /v?d?i/ back off of what Black Chakra said and what Adam said earlier, like, to build our own institutions. Here in Baltimore, you have Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and you have us at Dew More Baltimore. Like, you’ll know when we’re being radical enough when outside forces start to come and stop what we’re doing. We have to build our own institutions and not have our own institution with an all-white board of directors above us, our own institutions, and to stop that aspect of not having our own financial responsibility. It may come with a lot of struggle.

BROWN: I’m going to have to give the benediction after you two. But, Civ, let’s start with you.

JONES: Yeah. I just want to–speaking of artists, Reverend, can you go back when you have another conference and tell the artists to stop killing black people in their music and stop selling key loads of dope in their music? And then maybe it will transfer into reality as well, as we know that art imitates life. So we have to police these artists. So I think groups like yours are the artists being–are they being held responsible for what they’re putting out there?

And I think what everybody else has said is that, for me, black-on-black crime, it’s a justification, it’s an excuse to not do anything, because I know so many organizations that are doing something to directly combat black-on-black crime. So when people say that, it’s an excuse.

And also I think that we have to stop coming from this grandiose thing, thinking that something is going to have happen overnight and coming from a victim standpoint. I hear a lot of victimization. And if I’m doing the work and if I am the solution, I am a movement, just me being alive is the fact that I’m a big movement. I’m just not a moment in time. I think that we have to change our ideals of what we do and who we’re around and start seeing our people as stars that they are.

And, also, how do we get the money from–they don’t have to be on the front line. I don’t care if a Common or a Lil Wayne shows up.

UNIDENTIFIED: But cut the check!

Just cut the check. You know what I’m saying? There was a lot of people–I think Booker T. Washington, a lot of people didn’t know that he was actually funding a lot of the things that they thought he stood against. So you don’t have to be on the front line. We understand you have endorsements and you have a face that you have to cover, but how do we get that 10 percent that’s just supposed to be given away anyways? And I think that’s the knowledge that we really need.

BROWN: Dayvon?

JONES: Thank you.

BROWN: That much.

DAYVON LOVE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND PUBLIC POLICY, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: [inaud.] so, I mean, I think one of the problems when you talk about legislation is that the public policy apparatus that supposedly represents the interests of the things that we’ve talked about today are usually represented by big foundations that are aren’t connected to the communities which are most being most directly affected. And I think in terms of solutions, adding onto the notion of independent black institutions, really, coming to a place where we recognize the power of the grassroots, because there’s something called Christopher’s Law that was passed here in 2014, a law that was led by delegate Jill Carter and the mother of Christopher Brown, who was killed by Baltimore County police. It wasn’t a foundation, it wasn’t a nonprofit that financed that effort, but it was the mother of the person who was slain. Organizations like Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Baltimore chapter of NAACP, and other organizations came together in order to represent the public policy agenda. So I think a part of what’s important for this conversation: it’s not just the passing of legislation, but also making sure the grassroots can speak on our own behalf when it comes to legislation we put forward.

BROWN: We’ve got to wrap it there. Independent black institutions was one solution that came out of this. Black media was another that came out of this. Can I just throw in black church? Amen. Somebody. As the oldest independent black institution that we’ve ever known, these sacred spaces have been our places to organize. And perhaps if there were some connection of all these different black media, black artists, black, black, black, we can do that. But offering time is also important. Somebody said–they were talking about tithes–and, Civ, I think that was you. How many of us are ready right now to open our wallets and pass around a basket and start raising money right now? And let’s pick #SaveADopeBoy right now and honor Yo Slick and our brother. Can we put some money in the pocket right now to support that program?


UNIDENTIFIED: Straight up, man. Straight up.

BROWN: I know that’s right. Alright. So we’re going to do that. That’s not even on my script, but we’re going to take an offering for #SaveADopeBoy, Yo Slick, amen, and my brother, and we’re going to honor him right now, because we’re not just talking. We don’t got us coming to just talk about this. But on this town hall, you’re going to see people open their wallet and put something in a basket and take that back and support that wonderful program that we all love and cherish and applaud. Everybody got a wallet, got a swipe or something? We can do something with that. That’s what’s up.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, please give us your final thoughts as we wrap.

REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD JR., MINISTER AND COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Man. Well, first, thank you for having me. I think this was an amazing audience. And I think the audience actually is the solution, actually. I think we have it here. We have to use our cultural expression to form our political experience. And I think that’s what we’re utilizing. I think how we opened this show, with that amazing poetry and rendition, was clear that–certainly in a way that I could never explain, how we’re feeling. I think that, and I’m sure we’re going to have another one at the end of this show to do the same thing. [incompr.] Jessica Care Moore, my brother J. Ivy, and Malik Yusef, [all my other (?)] poets always [tell me all the (?)] time that, you know, we’re artists. You know, ’cause they always remind me, we’re artists too. And they are.

But I just want to say this for the hip hop. This is actually to the A-listers and to my brother, [the part (?)] about the movements and Dee-1. You know, I think that we have to recognize that this is a beautiful struggle, as we mentioned, and a beautiful process. But what’s very important for us to know is that the most important thing that we can do to get the A-listers engaged, to get the Dee-1s engaged, the young artists, and to ensure that we have a movement is really that we have to be able to do the hard, boring work of building out our institutions, getting the resources, building the infrastructure. When things overlap, not just doing your own thing, but coming together as a unification of churches, not just putting aside pastors, putting aside their egos, and literally opening the doors, so that when they only use the church for three days, let the community use it for the other four days.

There are so many solutions that we can do, but it will actually take talk. I think you’re right. We do want action. But we actually do need some more time for talk. We actually need to have more of these conversations. Hip Hop Caucus–I’ll just close with this–you know, when it was created, it was created out of a revolution. It was created because the Hip-Hop Summit–at the time, I worked for Russell Simmons (I was his political director), and then also with the hip hop convention. And the convention was mostly the grassroots. And the convention was rioting. It was Rosa Clemente and others. And they were saying that many of those, Bakari Kitwana, was saying that there was this artist-driven Hip-Hop Summit. And it was. It was just artist driven, because it was also part of the social marketing, to some degree, in which they would just do things. The Hip Hop Caucus was created by poets and artists of all levels and communities. And, hopefully, there will be a stronger Hip Hop Caucus in Baltimore. I think it will probably emerge after this conversation for sure.

But I think that it was just–and also it was two things. Even though I am a reverend, it was also brought forth that they didn’t just want a black reverend; they also wanted to make sure that they wanted to not have just a black male. They wanted to make sure the Hip Hop Caucus, at that point in time, that it was about black, white, brown, yellow, red, male, female, atheist, theist, straight, gay–humanity. It wasn’t Republican and Democrat. It was about humanity and using hip hop. So I think that the Hip Hop Caucus was simply supposed to be a platform for this kind of conversation.

And so my hope is this: what should have been done for us, in essence, in 1994 and 1984, in essence wasn’t done. So what we’re going through now in 2014 is actually because of the inaction of some of those 20, 30 years ago. So, in some cases what we have to do now, in 2014, we have to understand that what we’re building is almost–we’ll see instant results, but we’re building for 2024 and 2034, we’re building for that next generation, so of A-listers, that next generation of movement-builders, that next generation of organizations. We’re putting this in place now, getting away from the old stuff, so that the policies and programs and resources and infrastructure are in place for them. If we don’t do that, if we don’t do that, the difference for our generation is this: in the 20th century, they fought for equality. They fought to drink from the same water fountains. In the 21st century, we’re fighting for existence. If we lose this battle–it’s not about drinking from water fountains or going to hotels; it’s literally, if our people live or die.

BROWN: Wow. What a way to end. And we are just so thankful for you tuning in to The Real News Network today to be observer to this very important conversation. I want to give thanks as well to all these special guests who have shared their observations and insight as well. I think together we created something in this moment that I pray is more than a moment but transforms to a movement in fact, and it’ll come down to what we do when the cameras go off and when the cameras go away. In the spirit of Ella Baker, Jo Ann Robinson, in the spirit of Daisy Bates, in the spirit of E. D. Nixon, Fred Gray, and so many other organizers that I never was taught about in K-12 education, I pray that we organize on a ground level when the cameras go away, the lights get turned off.

And that’s what we’re going to do now. When the cameras go off, we’ve got some building to do in this room. We’re going to have offering, and we’re going to support a wonderful organization, #SaveADopeBoy, in memory of our dear brother who made transition this year. We’ll just give salute to Derrick Jones; a.k.a. Yo Slick; a.k.a. big O, big O, big H–OOH. We thank God for having this brother, and we’re going to certainly celebrate him by putting some money together. I think we can do–I’m a preacher, so I can read crowds. You’ve got at least $500 right in this room right here now. We’re going to put that together. But we’re thankful.

Just as we started this show, we’re going to end the show with a special spoken-word artist. I’m your host, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III. I thank you so much for tuning in. Now let’s hear from another good brother spoken-word artist and MC, brother Karega Bailey. He’s about to bless us on the way out of this thing.

KAREGA BAILEY, EDUCATOR, AUTHOR, POET, MC: We talked about the idea of this A-listers. And I’m asking, like, what we want, you know, A-listers for? If you’re really down in the community, you are a A-lister. I know to the students in my school, where I’m the dean of students, I’m in an A-lister. My music represents their life and my life together. And we don’t have to wait for anybody else to speak for us; we speak for ourselves. Thr

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Reverend Dr. Heber Brown, III is a clergy-activist and pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.