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In Continuation of the Hip-Hop Discussion

February 10, 2008
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BY HARAMIA KI NASSOR

This discussion is one of the most important of our time. I believe thus far it’s been overlooked and neglected, but perhaps through this gathering of minds we can propel it into the true light it deserves.

Everything that’s been said thus far is good! In fact there’s an abundance of sub-topics that we seriously need to get to soon like: acknowledging POCs/politicized prisoners, building a serious network for POW/POC/PP mobilization, tapping into the usefulness of street functions, and plucking out the “cancers” (frauds) in our Movement. Let’s return to this, but we’ll zone in on hip-hop for now.

I believe the most important thing that must take place first is our people/strugglers must realize that every generation has a trend that makes it unique/powerful. If this is neglected then the tool needed to build will be overlooked. In the early 1900s the Communist movement was a strong vibe; in the 60s and 70s the Black Power movement and the civil rights movements changed the tide; the hippie movement was very influential; in the 80s rock n’ roll created a buzz; and now hip-hop/rap is holding center stage.

The key is grasping a hold of the powerful trends. It’s about being strategic over what we personally like. This is exactly what V.I. Lenin explained about Marxism. It’s not important to worry about labels – just focus on the points! He said:

“Marxism demands an absolutely historical Examination of the question of the forms of struggle.

At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of the struggle undergo change in their turn.

Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defense and attack.” -V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, II

The bottom line of the above is this – no matter how much we carry Malcolm, Fidel, Pantherism, etc. in our hearts we must come to terms with what the vibe is and what is useful/powerful today.

Which leads us to hip-hop. Outside of religion I don’t think a more influential force exists. Show me one trend/culture that has taken people from the Americas, Europe, Asia (and places in between) by storm like this. Point being – we can now move beyond philosophizing about hip-hop’s impact. We know the influence it has on our youth, we see its economical power and recently with P. Diddy’s “Vote or Die” we saw its political potential. Here’s the game plan…

All of us who are conscious – on the inside and out – must begin to take an aggressive stance on artists. We can no longer look at hip-hop like a game, some young folk thing – it’s too powerful. This needs to be approached with the same intensity as Tubman with the underground railroad, the Panthers when they stormed the courthouse, King on the Selma March and so on.

As with any movement a vanguard needs to be built, and I have that blueprint.

In 2004 myself and three other death row comrades took a chance and reached out to a grassroots group of artists called the Welfare Poets (out of New York). In fighting the death penalty we knew we had to begin to touch the youth (who are obviously disenchanted by the many bougie-type groups out there) and also needed to tap into the areas and people most affected by the death penalty – the poor and people of color. What better way than through community activists, poets, musicians and rappers? It was a roll of the dice, but we hit a natural. The response was positive and in two months time the Welfare Poets were flying to Texas to participate in a march on the capitol. We haven’t looked back since.

After continual work and collaboration, in late 2006, the Welfare Poets dropped a compilation called “Cruel and Unusual Punishment: a hip-hop compilation to abolish the death penalty” which features a wide variety of serious and conscious artists such as Abiodun (of the Legendary Last Poets – NYC), (Ghana/NYC); Chosan (Sierra Leone/London/NYC); Jav’lin (Amsterdam); Truth Universal (New Orleans) and Wise Intelligent (of Poor Righteous Teachers – NJ), to name a few. See http://www.myspace.com/deathpenaltycd. This is a spark in the dry prairie we now see.

What must be done is this – we all have to get our supporters and fellow activists and revolutionary fighters together to start calling out all of these so-called conscious artists. Where are they? And what are they doing? They must be identified, reached out to and petitioned to get involved with the struggles ailing us – the death penalty, the prison industrial complex, and gang reform. And if they don’t get involved they must be exposed and picketed.

I’ve initiated this process with Ray Ramirez of the Welfare Poets. The concept is a Hip-Hop Guerilla Coalition of soldiers such as: Welfare Poets, Mario Africa and the AWOL crew, Dead Prez, RBG (Revolutionary But Gangsta) Family/People’s Army, Spearhead, the Coup, TKASH, Paris, KRENO, Muhammad 2G, and the Cruel and Unusual Punishment CD collective to take lead as the vanguard. It’d be a blessing to see one like Fred Hampton Jr. of POCC take lead chairing this coalition. The vision is to use the power of hip-hop through all four of its elements to organize, educate and mobilize for the above mentioned causes. We’ll start at the grassroots level and build upwards; then setting our sites on more mainstream conscious artists like Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, the Roots, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Nas, etc. It is these widely known artists that must be pursued in aggressive ways to get them involved – really involved – in the things they talk about. We need to stop feeling inconvenienced to do this.

Through this coalition we must focus strongly on two areas: Independent radio like Pacifica and Independent publications like AK press and AWOL magazine. We are disempowered because we cannot reach the masses. We have no major avenues or alternatives to offer.

If this coalition was to aggressively pursue an artist like Nas or Kanye West, what’s $50,000 to them? They got that on they neck! Jay-Z talks about the hood, so how about cutting a measly $25,000 to AWOL magazine or Pacifica Radio to push the cause! This is why we need square business soldiers in they face! I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life.

Texas executes more people than any state. What if Rap-A-Lot threw a concert? That’s 10,000 youths EASY! Why are we letting our own (who use, exploit, and gain off of us) get off so easy?

The Welfare Poets’ CD is not the first of its kind. Political prisoners like Mumia (who commented on hip-hop in an earlier issue of 4strugglemag) has had CDs done about him, Marilyn Buck also. We need to consolidate these resources to carry out the above. We can then mobilize the masses, create a network for PP/POW/POCs, raise funds and media attention. If we can make this Hip-Hop Guerilla Coalition we can face off with the millionaires in the game like Russell Simmons, Rock-a-fella and Bad Boy and demand they do something. No is not an option. We need more Pacifica Radio stations opened, we need to demand that artists who bump about being a Guerilla Unit to purchase some Che/Lenin/George Jackson guerilla material and get it to the needed areas. These artists that talk about swanging, banging and slaning need to be doing that on execution nights – after all, some of these young folk come from the same hoods as some of these artists. And if they don’t step up to the plate we need to do the same things our elders did when fighting for change – picket ‘em, march on ‘em, talk about ‘em, sit in on ‘em, agitate ‘em, piss ‘em off, don’t buy from ‘em. If it ain’t a game we need to stop acting like it.

Here from Texas’ death row – as a nobody – I’ve taken the above steps with the Welfare Poets. These brothers are REAL. Brother Ray Ramirez has been inside these walls to visit me and fellow comrade Tony Ford, he’s seen my family and my attorney. This is real brotherhood and activism. Anything less should be vehemently rebuffed.

I have enclosed an abundance of articles, documents, photos and addresses to the 4struggle family to witness all I’ve said and also look into these things since they are acting as a facilitator for this dialog. I extend my hand in solidarity for this cause as it’s one that I’m living. I did music before coming to death row in 1997, so I know first hand how it influences, thus this is personal to me. It’s time for us to grasp this by the horns. The real is this – hip-hop is this generation’s revolution and it’s time for us revolutionaries to step up and make it be. I’m willing and ready as long as I have breath.

4 L.I.F.E.

Haramia Ki Nassor

Kenneth Foster Jr. #1451768
Mcconnell Unit
3001 South Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102

NOTE: In August, 4strugglemag readers and thousands of others participated in demonstrations, petitions and phone campaigns to halt the execution of Texas prisoner Kenneth “Haramia” Foster. Haramia, a contributor to 4strugglemag and inspirational anti-death penalty activist, was scheduled to be executed on August 30, despite the fact that he did not murder anyone. A mere six hours before he was to be killed, Governor Rick Perry commuted Haramia’s sentence to life in prison. This is a HUGE victory, and a sign that our work for social justice CAN bring about change. At the same time, the struggle is far from over. Visit www.freekenneth.com to learn more about his case and to read his excellent poetry and articles.

Kenneth was wrongly sent to death row in 1997 under a draconian Texas legal statute called the Law of Parties. Charged with 3 others (2 getting prison sentences), Kenneth was forced to go to trial with the admitted shooter. Though the admitted shooter plead to acting on his own and with no help or direction from the others they were convicted nonetheless (mainly due to extraneous offences). Both men were sentenced to death: Kenneth’s death sentence mainly coming down to driving the car. Unfortunately, the shooter was executed July 19, 2006.

In 2005, Kenneth received a ray of hope when his Federal judge threw out his death sentence, but in October 2006 the 5th circuit vacated that judgment. All appeals from that point on were denied, until in May 2007 Kenneth received a date of execution for August 30, 2007. At this point an international grassroots campaign – led by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Kenneth’s Family and Friends – was launched.

From May 30th – August 30th an intense public outcry was heard. Going down to the wire (Kenneth was taken to the death house at the Walls unit and came within 6 hours of his scheduled murder)

Governor Rick Perry commuted Kenneth’s sentence to life after the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended the same in a 6-1 vote. The ruling was unprecedented and the FIRST ever commutation done by Rick Perry.

It was an amazing victory for the Anti-Death Penalty Movement. T his commutation undeniably shows how the death penalty can be abused, and the hard truth is there have been other men under the law of parties who did not make it and perhaps should have. Kenneth was just one who fought day in and day out to be heard, he built a support base and refused to give up.

Though Kenneth is now in general population (he must serve a full 40 years before being eligible for parole) we, his supporters, do not consider the fight done. Kenneth still has legal options pending to challenge his sentence and we plan to pursue all of them. Though we, and many others across the world, feel that Kenneth (through his personal growth and activism for others) has paid his debt to society and should be released, we, at the very least, feel that since Texas felt it Justice to give one of his co-defendants 35 years for TWO capital murder cases then we feel that since Kenneth was only charged with one that he should get HALF of what his co-defendant got. If Texas said that was Justice for his co-defendant then it should apply equally for Kenneth. We wont stop until that happens.

This site remains as a platform for that fight and also to keep Kenneth’s bright mind and voiceout to society. We hope that this plight will touch you as much as it has touched those close to him. Even in this partial victory we continue to pray for the LaHood family and the Brown family and all those affected by this tragedy. Our goal is to bring as many good and positive things out of this situation, to turn a tragedy into a triumph. It can be done and pray and work for it.

Thank you all for your time and support.

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