Hood to Hood Solidarity: Rebel Diaz and Tef Poe in Baltimore
New York rappers Rebel Diaz and Ferguson rapper Tef Poe perform in Gilmor Homes, the epicenter of the Baltimore Uprising, to promote a culture of solidarity
Dharna Noor: Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore was the epicenter of the uprising two years ago. It was where Freddie Gray was arrested before he died in police custody. But it also became a symbol of the strength and unity of a community that had long been ignored and now demanded to be heard. So it made sense that New York Artist Rebel Diaz and Ferguson rapper Tef Po would make a Gilmor stop on their Ungovernables tour. The purpose of the tour is not just musical; it’s political too.
Tef Po: If you’re just making a bunch of rap records with no real tie-in to the work then that’s just a self-serving mission. We try to combine both. Some spaces are spaces that are just for music, just art-driven spaces, but in regular society in our regular lives there’s a lot of work to be done in general. There’s a lot of places to plug in at so, for me, it’s about using the hip-hop to show up in ways that other people can’t show up.
Dharna Noor: They chose to perform in the housing project instead of at a traditional music venue.
R. Venegas: I firmly believe that poor people gotta unite. I think that a lot of times we talk about struggle and the reality is that what brings us all together is that we poor. I think that for us as artists, we not trying to be in venues. We not trying to be part of capitalism. For us, that’s going to the front line.
Dharna Noor: At the show, organizers set up a community cookout and activities for kids in the neighborhood.
R. Venegas: More than anything, for us, it’s just about building and we believe in solidarity. We don’t believe in charity. For us, it’s important to be present in communities that are marginalized and communities that are living struggle because that’s the communities that we come from. For us, it’s hood to hood solidarity.
Dharna Noir: At each stop, the artists posed existential questions. Who are the Ungovernables? What unites us? How do we create a new culture?
R. Venegas: It’s a culture of resistance, a culture of love, a culture of community.
Tef Po: The movement shouldn’t water down the capacity in which we create culture because we create culture. We dictate culture. White supremacy snatches everything from us and commodifies it. It’s nothing wrong with claiming our own stuff, claiming our own music, claiming our own celebrations, and using them to touch our kids and touch our people.
Dharna Noor: In their music, both Rebel Diaz and Tef Po reject capitalism and racism.
G. Venegas: The system already thinks that we’re ungovernable. That’s the reason why our hoods are militarized, our hoods are heavily policed, because they understand that people are denied the right to live in dignity gonna rebel.
Dharna Noor: And push for a movement for justice, not just across the country but across the world.
Tef Po: If I’m looking at the TV and I see that Palestinians are getting tear-gassed and I’m in the streets of Ferguson and I pick up the tear-gas canister and I read the back of it and I find out that the same people that manufactured that tear gas manufactured the tear gas that was shot at them, why wouldn’t I wanna go talk to them to figure out what are our commonalities? Because our enemies are obviously sharing weaponries, sharing tactics, sharing politics, sharing laws, sharing bank accounts, sharing money, sharing resources, sharing land, sharing anything that they can share. Systems of governance, etc. etc. It would be illogical for us as people that are oppressed and people that are black and brown and people that are second-class citizens in the world, it’s illogical for us not to connect with each other. We got to.
Dharna Noor: Because, as Rebel Diaz noted, it’s not enough to say what you’re against.
R. Venegas: You can’t just oppose. You gotta propose. We clear we oppose white supremacy. We clear we oppose capitalism. But what’s the alternative? What’s the proposal? That’s what we doing, we been having community conversations in every city we went to. We trying to get the pulse of the people and start building off that.
G. Venegas: It ain’t all the same. We all got different roles. I came here with my three kids and my partner. We got five people in our circle that’s undocumented. There’s some people that’s gotta go out there and meet them White Supremacists, those racists, head on and we support that. At the same time, we need to also be looking at creating this new culture. We talking about creating an alternative. We can’t just define our alternative as being opposed to theirs. For us, it’s really about, “Look, we clear that there’s attacks happening every day. There’s violence, inter-community violence even in our neighborhoods as well. The reality is that we got to start creating a culture of peace but that ain’t gonna happen if there’s not justice.”
Dharna Noor: For The Real News, Dharna Noor, Baltimore.