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(Photo: Armando Geneyro)

On Ferguson: Denver’s Hip-Hop Community Raise Their Voices

The Grand Jury’s decision to not indict the cop who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown, weighed heavily on many communities. In an effort to amplify the voices of our own, we gathered opinions and thoughts of those that we serve in an attempt to provide a platform for Denver to speak freely on the topic. Below are the voices of the community, unedited, uncensored and free. Please join the discussion by adding your own thoughts in the comments section.

If you’d like to contribute beyond being involved in dialogue, feel free to consider donating to or joining any of the below organizations. There continue to be peaceful protests in our city and beyond, funds set up for the legal fees of those involved, and much more. If you know of more organizations, rallies, or platforms, please share with us here. We stand with Ferguson because #blacklivesmatter.

Below are the voices of the community. Please read all of these thoughtful responses.

(click the following links to jump to a specific person)

Adrian Francis (NME)
Cameron Mason
Frank Garcia
Molina Speaks
Ru Johnson
Zome
Kalyn Heffernan
Neon Brown
Isaiah Kelly
Panama Soweto
Mane Rok
Bianca Mikahn

 

nme
Adrian Francis (NME)

It’s a chilly Monday night on east Colfax and I’ve been planted at my bar stool for some time now. The Squire Lounge, a quaint Denver establishment with an updated dive bar feel, is half filled with what appears to be regulars, fad conscience hipsters, and Colfax’s finest transients. Taking in the scene I can’t help but notice the multicultural makeup of the city, not one face is the same here. Finishing my beer I began to hail the voluptuous bartender for my third refill when all of the sudden my leg begins to quiver so violently that I’m sure it’s going to tear itself out of my pocket. I retrieved the frantically ringing phone while ordering and didn’t even skip a beat. Half smiling I scuff to myself “pro.” Two breaking news updates, four texts, and one missed call litter my home screen. Taking a hefty slug of my beer is when I see the headline. In disbelief I get closer to the handheld screen, re-reading it I almost slam my fist on the bar. Rubbing my eyes I reread it one final time “CNN BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Grand jury DOES NOT indict Darren Wilson.” The app’s red logo glowing on my face exposed my true emotion. My jaw was completely stored, my eyes had to be as big as dinner plates, and my heart felt like it was trying to pound its way out of my chest. I look toward my comrade Tomas and almost whispering I let out “What the fuck?” With the dullest look he could muster Tomas glanced, leaned in, and asked “Did you really think it took them 100 days to find if the death of Michael Brown was a crime?” Smacking his lips he sits back and just then time stopped.

It seemed surreal, almost like I was stuck in a bad dream. I feel myself sink deeper into that stool, flabbergasted and disappointed in the human race. Sighing as I slide back I make way out to the crisp Denver air, this shit makes me want to smoke. I step on the corner of Williams St. fishing for my lighter & hoping this smoke takes me away, even if briefly. Lighting up I hear it before I see it, but the sound is undeniable. I’ve heard this sound before after the death of Marvin Booker at the hands of the Denver Police dept. It was the sound of the oppressed snapping back at the oppressors. I watched as a swarm of people of every race filled the intersection, it was beautiful.

The media was already on hand in anticipation; the camera man couldn’t set up quick enough. It was 23 degrees out, but you wouldn’t know it by the amount of people in tee shirts & tank tops. But I guess being pissed off gives you the necessary heat to keep warm in a protest during November in Denver. The helicopters above us made it hard to think & the hoard of police vehicles made it look like the parade of lights. Soaking all this in I didn’t even realize I had made my way into the street. Flicking my smoke and thrusting my hands up in a single fluid motion I began to chant “Don’t shoot!”

Gathering with the mass exodus of people I last down in the street right ahead of an oncoming Mazda. The woman in the fatigue pants, sports bra, & military boots yelled out ” four and half minutes, for the four and half hours Michael Brown laid in the hot Missouri heat!” I laid there in my own head, feeling the cold asphalt beneath me I began to question my worth. “Does the color of my skin really paint a target on my back? How am I ever going to feel safe again? Did I ever really feel safe?” Every black man has a story of how the police abused their power, but now there are no repercussions for their actions. This was the longest four minutes of my life and I couldn’t help but think if any of this even mattered? What is protesting here in Denver going to do? Then as if someone heard me I got my answer. The cars had grown restless during the moment of silence, engines began to rev. We started getting up when someone yelled “Get out of the fuckin street!” He had to notice us, he had to acknowledge what was happening right before his eyes. Everyone at that intersection had to, but that was just it. We forced you to see, we made them have to stop and take time to see what the mistreatment of power has caused; outrage. After getting up we exchanged hugs, some tears and turned around. The police vehicles and helicopters followed suit, making traffic even worse.

I walked away from that feeling hopefully hopeless. I know change HAS to come out of this but the fear will remain. As a young black man in the day in age I’m more fearful of the police then I am of the possible killers in the streets. More than cancer, more than dying in plane crash, even a car wreck pales in comparison to the fear I have of being killed for being black at the wrong time. More so I fear for my son, how can I prepare him for something like this? What the fuck has the world come to when that’s something you have to legitimately be concerned about? I really hope people realize taking a life is not ok, no matter what color or religion because at the end of the day we’re all the same.

cameronCameron Mason (U.T.I.C.A.)

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. I mean Trayvon Martin was killed by a pedestrian/ self-proclaimed neighborhood enforcer. So now when the person responsible in this case is a cop, it was pretty much a wrap from jump. There’s an abuse of power where police today have a hairline discretion on when they use potentially lethal force considering they have a plethora of other weapons (Hand-to-hand combat training) to subdue an unarmed man/ woman, especially an 18-year-old.

 What do you think the next course of action should be from a nation’s perspective?

A complete and literal cleansing, re-evaluation and re-education of our police departments and their practices nationwide. But that’ll never happen in this particular case going forward.

What is the most frustrating part of this saga for you?

There’s no humiliation on behalf of these officers or their superiors who wrongfully kill these people. It’s all about them protecting their own and getting them off the hook. That and the obvious race issue it brings up which has to be addressed but is also a great way of further dividing the country when we all need to ban together more than ever.

On the flip side, anything that has been shared with you, or that you want to share that may foster pride, hope, or peace?

People are fed up with it, of all races, ages and beliefs and a lot of folks don’t believe in a country where there’s no one to Police the Police. I have faith in the people when all is said and done. They may win the small battles, but we will win the ultimate war.

frankgarciaFrank Garcia

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

My initial reaction was shock. I couldn’t believe they actually let him off the hook. Even though we all knew the rumors of the non-indictment verdict a couple weeks ago, part of me really hoped that it would be different. I’ve had that same feeling through out this entire shooting and investigation. Hoping for the best knowing it’s being set-up for the worst. I am afraid of what’s to come if police officers aren’t ever going to be held accountable for shooting unarmed citizens. You know when the KKK is celebrating the decision that was made, that they’ve made the wrong choice.

How do you think the media coverage is affecting people’s interpretations?

I think the Mainstream Media has played a huge role in fanning the flames on this entire situation. Since the day after Mike Brown was killed, I’ve been keeping a close eye to Twitter, as many of us have. I’ve seen the videos, the photos, watched the live streams of the people protesting on the front lines. Then I turn on CNN, or any other major news networks for that matter, and what they portray is almost laughable. The MSM also had a huge part in demonizing Michael Brown as a criminal, a thug, an “animal”. I have absolutely no respect for MSM after they dehumanized a dead person in order to protect a police officer. They’ve done an awesome job at dividing the country by race with all of this as well. Every mention of this case was “White officer shoots black teenager”. They never failed to leave out the race of the 2 people involved.

What is the most frustrating part of this saga for you?

The most frustrating part of this for me is having to watch as the country tries to sweep this injustice to the community of Ferguson under the rug, and watch as their voices go unheard. Cries for justice ignored. I can only imagine the rage that they feel inside. I’m not saying I am okay with it but I can understand why the protesters felt the need to “act out” and cause riots. Your voice can only go unheard for so long, you can only be stepped on so many times, you can only be told to “trust the system” so many times before something has to give and unfortunately, the police and military force out in Ferguson got exactly what they bargained for. It’s also disconcerting to see the racial divide and tension that this shooting has caused. I’ve never been one to talk about race but it’s a little interesting that majority of people who think I don’t know what I’m talking about and that Mike Brown deserved to die are white people. Of course, no one wants to admit they are prejudice or racist but this exposed a lot of people and that racism is very alive.

On the flip side, anything that has been shared with you, or that you want to share that may foster pride, hope, or peace?

I’m not an activist, nor do I claim to be one, nor want to be one. I’ve only been stating my thoughts on a very hot topic. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. The events in ‪Ferguson have just peaked my interest and have smelled like a cover up since the day after Mike Brown was killed and it has never sat right with me. I can only share what I’ve been through, what I’ve read, what I’ve watched, and what I’ve learned to make my own conclusion about the situation in Ferguson and the murder of Mike Brown. All I ask is of anyone reading this, is that you do the same before you try and justify the killing of another unarmed human at the hands of a police officer. I do pray for the family of Mike Brown for nothing that occurs will ever bring him back. I hope the community of Ferguson is able to overcome this tragedy and spark a real change not only in their community but the rest of America as well. I am not going to mention his name, but as for the officer that shot and killed Michael Brown, we don’t believe you.

 

molinaspeaksMolina Speaks

DEFY Everything the system is
BE Everything it is not

[before announcement]

The corporate media and the politicians concerned only with the property interests of the wealthy are preparing us for a tragedy, a comedy of injustice, a failure of progress, a reminder of a long racist history of “America” and the “principles” it was founded on.

A surprise is always welcome, but we all feel like we already know.

There is always going to be a fancy man in a three piece suit speaking dryly, patiently, and methodically in stone cold “facts” about legalities…to justify… the sick reality… that regardless of the situation… You’re never going to get a conviction, let alone a trial, when someone poor, young, black or brown is murdered by the state.

The system is racist and robotic.

Resist it. Whatever that means to you. Defy the system, and change it, one slow painful piece at a time.

This fuckin guy in on ferguson court tv talking his cold facts can barely hold his smirk. Anyone else feel like he’s on a playground. Power is a sick game yo. Fuck all of this.

Ferguson should not cause a race rift. That is what the corporate media and power structure want, so they keep saying it.

Ferguson should cause an ideological rift. Beyond the color of your skin, do you or do you not want this nation to radically transform it’s history of genocide, slavery, sexism, and class warfare on the poor? That is the dividing line.

WHY DO GOOD PEOPLE APOLOGIZE FOR POLICE STATE POLICE BRUTALITY

I don’t understand why good people, well-intentioned people, even critically thinking people get so caught up in this detail or that detail about a particular case… or get mesmerized by some guy in a suit in front of cameras spinning things in a particular way. What does your intuition tell you? What does history tell you? How does this or that one detail, or the possibility that a kid may have stolen skittles or cigars, or ran, or slammed a door, or said fuck the police, or whatever he may or may not have did… how does that erase for you a LONG history of injustice and hundreds or even thousands of recent cases of unarmed youth of color being killed in interactions with police. And the tens of thousands yearly who are not killed but intimidated, illegally searched, threatened, roughed up, disrespected, made to feel fearful… This is the reality of a militarized police force that rarely has to answer for their actions. At what point are you fed up?

YES, there are good cops. I know a few. I am always grateful when a “public servant” does their job properly for the right reason. It is the officer’s duty to operate on a higher level, to connect in a meaningful way with the community, to side with justice, to think twice before pulling the trigger, to consider the delicacy of human life even when under pressure. A good officer, however difficult it is to accept public scrutiny, knows that this is their burden and this is why they took the oath.

It is your job as a citizen to ask questions, to challenge the foundations of authority, to side with justice and to DEMAND that Your officers (whose salaries you pay) value LIFE. Demand a higher standard of conduct from those who have power. Demand that the courts who are set up to serve you will hold people accountable in the most costly matters of life and death.

I understand the racists and unapologetic bigots. Unfortunately I get them. But why do good people have such a hard time with this???

I’m sitting with some Youth On Record co-workers bumping early 2Pac albums prior to All Eyez On Me (when Pac was Pac). The space is under construction. The oppression of the system doesn’t stop our progression overall as human beings.

I’m planning out the second trimester of a Cultural Collaborative with Denver center for performing arts and Colorado symphony. Working class 9th grade students of color at an alternative high school will create biographies through narrative writing, poetry, spoken word, songwriting, visual art, instrumentals, monologues, and dialogues. They will document their histories and claim their futures.

Celebrate young black male expression today.  #Ferguson

 

rujohnsonRu Johnson

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

I wasn’t surprised by the grand jury’s decision but I am still hurt by the blatant disregard for black and brown life. This country is founded on unrealistic principles and racist sentiment.

How do you think the media coverage is affecting people’s interpretations?

It’s easy for people to say the media is hyping the outrage. To be honest, if you’re not outraged to the point of expression, you’re doing it wrong, despite the news.

What do you think the next course of action should be from a nation’s perspective?

We need to make a decision on the different factions of radical leadership. From there, as a community of like-minded individuals with a desire to move, we should decide on a platform for how to handle police terrorism. When something like this happens, where do we gather? What do we say? How do we demonstrate? How do we protect ourselves from the police? There needs to be an agenda. A very real agenda and we all need to be on the same page. Also, repeal laws that encourage “justified” killings, my God.

What is the most frustrating part of this saga for you?

The fact that Darren Wilson gets to lead his smug little life as if nothing has changed. He got married. His family loves him and he gets to live. That black and brown people are often seen as aggressors in any instance. Darren Wilson said Mike Brown looked like a demon and charged him. WHAT?! Like so he just walked through a shower of bullets? What about the witnesses? What about the science of this? So frustrating that my skin color is a weapon. That my rage is in vain.

On the flip side, anything that has been shared with you, or that you want to share that may foster pride, hope, or peace?

Fight the motherfucking power.

zomeZome

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

I was disappointed but I wasn’t surprised I knew what is happening was going to happen because initially the justice system when it comes to minorities  over what I’ve seen in my life my are not taking seriously. When it comes to injustice. And it always boggles my mind on how people try to argue that we are the ones being racist. That in itself is you not acknowledging me or what’s important to me.

How do you think the media coverage is affecting people’s interpretations?

The media has its own political agenda. For a long time the media is not the news especially not TV in mass media. It’s all based on the views of the people running the TV station

What do you think the next course of action should be from a nation’s perspective?

I don’t study political science I don’t know what the legal actions are that can be taken what I do know is that time has shown us regardless of what we do or don’t understand when there is an injustice if we stand up and speak it and be heard that can’t be ignored. Every revolution starts with an idea starts with the word starts with the group and it in itself is a virus that needs to spread when the people realize that we are far more powerful than our government they have to comply but we can’t be scared

What is the most frustrating part of this saga for you?

The most frustrating part is that this has been happening and things like this since the 90s it’s not a problem for certain people so they’re easy to dismiss it. A police officer’s job is to serve and protect their fucking employees of the citizens their job is to protect me. If I’m not committing a crime I should not be scared I should not be provoked. That badge is not a crown. if you as a police officer coming to a volatile situation and you yourself are being a fucking smart ass and provoking the people involved than your a fucking idiot and if something did happen it’s because of you it’s because you weren’t serving the people you weren’t acting as a protector you’re acting as an agitator you were acting as an enemy. These police officers constantly push the limits of the law and what they’re allowed to do just by coming up with some kind of loophole or some kind of way to justify to justify them searchin your car to justify them coming into your home and even when they’re not allowed to come into your home will still try to do it because they count on you not to know your rights and when you tell them what your rights are as a human being it upsets them and they get angry why is that why would you get angry when somebody knows what they’re human rights are to be a human in America. you don’t want us to know our rights?so knowledge is a threat and knowing as a threat there is a few police officers out there that will stand up for what’s right but most of them belong to the police gang that says if you speak bad another officer your shunned or if you do something against another officer you’re no longer looked at as loyal that’s bullshit because their job is not to be loyal to one another their job is to serve and protect and to do what’s right otherwise take that fucking bullshit off the side of your fucking cars cause I don’t want to see it their paycheck comes from me and I’m not paying these fuckers to be a gang that’s out there to intimidate me.

On the flip side, anything that has been shared with you, or that you want to share that may foster pride, hope, or peace?

I’m very proud of all my white friends and family that have courage  to stand up for what is right and for human lives that’s the true pro-life. I’m sure as a white person to speak against the mass white thought must be very hard especially when you know what is good and what is not good so I’m very proud of those people the rest of us brown black yellow red every other color when it comes to this country we are one and when we truly become what America is is when we can have the  country back don’t be offended by racist mass media remarks expect it but make sure your voice is heard do not be quiet never be quiet you may lose friends but never be quiet get louder!

kalynheffernanKalyn Heffernan

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

My body reacted before anything else could and I had the same gut feeling i had when George Zimmerman was acquitted, the same feeling I had when Troy Davis was executed, the same feeling I have when I watched bombs fall on innocent children, that heart wrenching gut feeling that this country is a very, very violent force that faces little to no repercussions.  The older I get, the less surprised I am by these decisions that few people in power make on behalf of the innocent majority.  The more I really read into the history of this country, the more I realize this entire region was built on white supremacy protecting their own interests.  This is just another clear example of the United States of America.  I feel more and more hopeless that things will get better, when they’re systematically designed to be this way.  I want a different government, different flag, and different system to represent my friends and I.

How do you think the media coverage is affecting people’s interpretations? 

The media affects a large majority of people’s interpretations unfortunately.  Access to information has never been so easy, yet most people still rely on mainstream media which is run by the same people in power who profit from keeping us afraid, complacent, and in the dark.  I love twitter, because i can watch things go down all around the world in real time, told by people who are there, not by people who are paid to develop a story.   The mainstream media will forever try and flip stories to distract people from the real issues.  I don’t watch TV so I can’t say much, but i can bet there is a ton of focus around “violent, aggressive, protestors, who are rioting and vandalizing property.”  Property is legally taken away from poor people and people of color every single day – look at Denver or for fuck sake!  Let’s focus on the reasons behind the people who feel are so enraged that they want to light things on fire.  It’s not like angry black people light their cities on fire just because.  We’re talking about a very rare thing that happens when people are pushed to their limit and see few other ways to draw attention and let their frustrations be heard.

What do you think the next course of action should be from a nation’s perspective?

Ideally national officials will take real accountability for it’s violence against people of color, but the country will soon be back in the hands of even more racists so I doubt any of that will happen.  I hope people continue to resist, and let their voices be heard.  I hope people don’t stop the civil disobedience until we ALL feel represented and protected.  Civil obedience got us into every humanitarian problem we’ve ever had.  If all people of color and white people in support went on strike for one measly day, I think we could easily catch more attention.  If we took that same strike for a week, imagine the impact.  Police were created to catch runaway slaves and to this day are paid to protect property and assets of those who have them, so if we refuse to work for those property owners, if we refuse to work for this capitalist war machine, we’re taking a direct shot at police.  Every small action of dissent makes a difference and it starts by telling the truth.

What is the most frustrating part of this saga for you?

Everything about this is frustrating.  The fact that Mr. Wilson got away with murder, and has been paid extra to do it.  People raised like a half of a million dollars for him, he never stopped getting his paycheck, and they already planned to pay to relocate him and his family months ago. (not to mention he didn’t even walk away with a scratch!)  It’s frustrating to watch how the city and country has been coordinating efforts to deal with protestors “aka tax-paying citizens,” if and when he gets off.  I mean the guy was already acquitted the day he shot Mike Brown.  It’s frustrating to see how militarized our police have become and how much they incite fear and anger when they show up fully armored in tanks.  The frustrating part is watching more and more unarmed people and children of color die at the hands of cops.  In the short amount of time that Mike Brown was killed, there have been so many more that may never see justice or cause civil unrest like Mike Brown did.  I’m frustrated that police aren’t trained to do everything in their power to prevent death.   I’m frustrated that Wilson has all the freedom to make money on this tragedy just like George Zimmerman did.  But I mostly just keep having these mini-epiphanies that this is exactly how this country was built, and how it continues to run and exploit oppressed people for profits that conquers all of the world.  What’s frustrating to me is that we haven’t fixed the root problems.  When this bullshit constitution, and flag, and declaration of independence was created, a large majority of the population was not protected let alone represented.  Natives, women, and black people were not even considered people so how can anything from here on out be ok?? You have this small minority of white supremacist men who came, conquered, and created their own rights to do so.  I mean almost all of natives were exterminated, black people slaved to generate profits and they still don’t have the same access to that same economy they created.  I’m just so fed up with how things are now, and keep reminding myself that it was created to be this way.

On the flip side, anything that has been shared with you, or that you want to share that may foster pride, hope, or peace?

We have a long history of oppression here in America, but we also have a really long history of dissent.  I am fascinated by how few people have changed so much over the course of time.  Since day one, there have always been people on the side of humanity who refuse to be complacent and refuse to obey people in power who do not represent all of human kind.  In times like these I hold Howard Zinn close to my heart, because he was such an optimist.

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
― Howard Zinn

*huge sigh*

neonbrownNeon Brown

It is very troublesome to write on the present situation in America being that it is emotional for me as well as disorienting. To sift through a sea of ideas in hopes of strategizing our next move is exhausting and to accomplish this without fear, anger, or sorrow is not possible. The shooting of Michael Brown and the verdict that followed in Ferguson, MO this past week was not unforeseen but nauseating to say the least. The decision to not indict Darren Wilson on the murder of Michael Brown should be a wake-up call to all Americans, no matter race, creed, or color, that even if we play by the rules, the justice system does not work in our favor. It is a very bleak and sobering moment to acknowledge that the American people are knotted in inequality. The black youth can be murdered in the streets without justice being apportioned due to the color of their skin, while our government allows and supports cover-ups on both local and federal levels. As of today, racism exists and is prevalent in the US, mainly used and taught through the institutions of our government, which will only worsen in the years to come.

A police state has begun its insidious crawl across the American landscape and is not slowing. In 2013, Oakland, CA purchased a two million dollar surveillance hub, which will enable police to track any civilian within the city. This is taking place throughout the country in numerous states and is steadily growing. Police forces are being militarized through the backing of state government—but why? That’s the two million dollar question everyone would like answered, as well the question Americans avoid.

It’s been said many times before but I will say it again and keep saying it until it sets in—our government is broken. If the government fights civilians on matters in which the majority of civilians share the same view, the government is corrupt. It’s as simple as that. The only course of action I can appropriate from such events is for the American people to come together to educate one another in American politics, and the law that we abide, to begin self-governing our own communities.

Why is it that for the past couple months I’ve heard a lot of talk on the radio about CO preparing for Ebola when we have a civil rights crisis developing right under our picket signs? What is our plan for when an innocent youth is murdered by a police officer in Denver? Why does our government put off civil rights? Colorado needs to organize its communities and begin communication with the communities outside of our state, constructing a nationwide community, which in return will level our playing field between the people and the government. If we the people band together and play the game our leaders have been cheating at for so long, we will have a chance to take our fight to the next level, though, this is where the situation escalates.

If the government is corrupt as I say it is, it will not back down even when confronted with a worthy opponent. This is a continuous struggle that will last for decades to come. The most important thing Americans can do in such a crisis is educate one another, stand up for one another and fight side-by-side against the machine that holds them down. America was founded on this premise and can be changed for the better by utilizing the people that occupy the land.

It would please me to talk with all members of our Denver community in hopes of stimulating fresh ideas that can hopefully push us forward. My heart goes out to Ferguson MO, the Brown family, and the people of America in light of this tragedy. Let’s build, Fuck the police.

 

isaiahkellyIsaiah Kelly (Rebel Minority)

Usually in war both sides are allowed to use force. When it’s only one side doing the killing we call that a massacre or genocide. The continued assassination of people of color seems to be one of Americas favorite guilty pleasures. In a world where literally walking down the street can prove dangerous for us where do we go from here? They say don’t meet violence with violence, but if someone attacks American soil we do not hesitate to kill, attack and eliminate them. So why is it when police kill Americans they do nothing? Not surprised, rather i am disgusted at the consistency of evil in our country, fed up with our worthless politicians and judicial system. Tired of having to beat a horse that has already turned to ash and bone it has been dead so long. There is no lesson to learn from this expect business as usual in America. It’s sad when we expect disappointment and failure because they’ve already set the precedent that we don’t matter. Carry on, stay strong and continue to fight, “by any means necessary.” Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate this statement.

panamasowetoPanama Soweto

What was your initial reaction to the grand jury’s decision?

When I heard the announcement that there would be no charges filed against Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO, I had the standard Black American memory loss in regards to our worth under the Constitution. My knee jerk reaction was, “No, they can’t do that!” Nearly 30 seconds later reality set in, and I literally said out loud, “Of course they can.” Trayvon Martin’s body is still warm in our hearts, Sean Bell isn’t so far out of our view to squint, and Hip Hop will not let us forget Amadou Diallo. The hardest part of the discussion about police brutality and their state sanctioned domestic terrorism isn’t the response to aversive racists in Facebook posts or Trolls on instagram, its the conversation I had with my son. I initially didn’t know what to tell him. How can I tell him that as a young black male he will be treated fairly by the world around him? That his life is regarded just as valuable as the Zacks and Connors of this world by those who protect us? There is a great danger in the verdict to not even attempt an actual trial in the wrongful death of an unarmed black teen. The natural response of the black community will be to distrust the police even more and to ensure that our children understand the danger in an encounter with them. Without a balance between the police and those they are charged with protecting, there can be no justice.

How do you think the media coverage is affecting people’s interpretations?

I think that the media has both fueled the fire for rigorous debate about racial equality, while at the same time demonizing the victim and encouraging old time bigotry. Too much as been said about Michael Brown and shoplifting, his Facebook and social life, not enough has been said about the record of the officer in question, his character or what he did before the shooting. With over 100 days of preparation for his defense, facts have changed and the story shifted on the victim.

manerokMane Rok

With each day…another tragedy.
Another victory.
Another…day.

Technology has forced us to move at a pace never seen before, simply trying to catch up to that very technology and the ever exponential evolution it continues to move at. But it’s simply a race we can’t seem to win.

Walking on the moon?! Cake.
Fitting 100’s of devices all in to a compressed little package?!?! Ain’t shit.

Receiving information upon information and knowing what to do with it…Houston, we have a problem.

One might posit that due to the ability of building off of past cultures and societies, we too, could evolve at an exponential rate, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With information on near everything one could imagine at our finger tips, we’ve seen no “evolution of man.” Only of the technology he uses. Our humanity hasn’t gained much. Our understanding of each other doesn’t match our understanding of our remote controls.

We remain separated.

We’ve come no closer to the “for all” our pledge of allegiance makes mention of.

An idea hundred’s of years old, that we still don’t quite grasp. At least…not fully.

With each Trayvon, Ayotzinapa, Paula Deen, Katrina, Palestine and even Mike Brown though, the very thin, silver lining remains that we move at least that much more closer to said evolution. No. That idea doesn’t bring back those people who were taken from their communities and families too soon and even unjustly. I don’t want for one minute to reduce them or their particular situations to that, by any means. But the core to our humanity, while many claim is any series of things, to me seems to be “Hope.” Maybe Obamer was on to something. I only know that “hope” is that small voice that plagues me even at the very moment the first tweet or news story or FB post about the latest world tragedy is read.

People the world over are connected and it is proven over and over, our struggle is not uniquely our own. This is part of that humanity. And it provides the nourishment we need for that very “hope” to grow. When Tibetan monks make a voyage half a world over to stand in solidarity with the community of Ferguson, MO, or when Palestinians who are in the midst of a war zone take a moment out of their day while mortars are firing above to post pictures holding signs equating their struggle with that of those People of Color on the North American continent, it speaks volumes. It is shouting “We are all human. We are all struggling.”

The question though, is why???

Like any person, my “initial reaction” was most influenced by my emotions. Emotions that are not just a composite of the Darren Wilson Grand Jury verdict (& the story that proceeded it), but of the lack of accountability that Ryan Ronquillo’s “Law Enforcement” executioners (Denver Police Dept.) have faced. Or Sean Bell’s. Or Frank Lobato’s. Or Oscar Grant’s. (etc.) It is easy to get caught up in the idea of finger-pointing at the media or social media more particularly. But that doesn’t give us answers, it doesn’t change our current situation and it definitely doesn’t bring back the lives that are gone. So those things hold little credence to me. What is most important is understanding “Why” these things are happening, and “What” we are going to do about them.

And of that, what is most important regarding those two questions, is what YOU think and what YOU are going to do about them? And simply asking the questions is the first step of that evolution that we naturally crave.

Bianca Mikahn

biancaIt is a maddening feeling knowing you have no time to teach or wax poetical about equality because you must use these precious few moments to instruct on survival. My art has fortunately put me in front of many students. I visit classrooms each week with Check Your Head and Youth on Record, and we discuss everything from music theory to depression to current events. It’s sadly not surprising how often the themes intersect.

When the Trayvon Martin tragedy occurred, my students were livid and confused. Lots of “But miss, why do I gotta…when they kill us?! Just kill us!! WHAT DO WE DO??” There, of course, will never be empirical data correlating all the fights and blowouts we went through in the school during that time. I personally believe that that smoke was an indication of a fire set by the tragic realities this specific population is facing.

I now lead an entire workshop section for our youth on how to not succumb to or incite aggression from authorities. I hate that I have to, am terrified not to. Alex Gardener (AKA Skip Rip), our Check Your Head dance instructor, and I sardonically call it Operation; DON’T LET THEM KILL YOU. We literally instruct the youth about humanizing themselves, like you would during general assault. Don’t move too fast. Tell them your name, tell them about your siblings, MAKE THEM FEEL YOUR ALIVENESS! Make them aware of what they are willing to take in a blink. During these workshops, I feel the disgust of a slave hand warning his cohorts of the overseer’s schedule. I cannot control the guns, but I can influence my students’ ability to avoid them. I can give them tools that might, just might, against many treacherous odds, actually keep them safe. Or at the very least, defend their legacy should they not make it home.

I HAVE TO THINK THAT THEY MIGHT NOT MAKE IT HOME FROM SCHOOL! AT THE HANDS OF AUTHORITIES. AND KNOW THAT NO ONE WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE!

I think of how this announcement comes during a pretty much nationwide school break. How horrible the timing. How it almost seems intentional, why not announce a week before or later so teens and young ones can at least have something to do, trusted adults with leads to follow, grief counselors to help direct frustration? Aurora Theatre responses were grief counselors and support funds. Ferguson gets military issue supplies. Oh, how we treat our various tragedies I will have to look into my student’s eyes, their open questioning amazing eyes, and hope my voice is worth a thousand news stories. Hope my words are as piercing as a bullet. Hope my pain isn’t too evident. Hope my lesson plan optimism is worth dozens of unexplained dead bodies that all coincidentally look like them. Hope my dashed belief doesn’t cut past my vocal chords, that they can’t hear how much little I have left of the very peace I’m working to instill in them.

I can’t march anymore. I march into classrooms. I march into ear drums. Tonight I will march into KMG studios and bleed into the microphone. It is what I do with my every day, and nothing else. I’ve chosen these stages for my specific role in this fight. I create rhymes to show examples of what they can be. I adore them, instruct them, never judge, and look them in the eyes until their faces warm over, until the air tingles and they can tell this has nothing to do with school and everything to do with truth. Until they believe that they will be believed. Until they love and expect that they will be loved. I pray it counts for something.

When urban students fight in the hallways, skin oozing a world of doubt, we will blame them for being unruly, for not caring. When black boys look outside a morning window and can’t muster the courage to put foot to street, because some days more than others the remembrance is stark, we will call them lazy, truant. When teens doubt themselves, we will shake head in wonderment at how they could not know their own potential. When a life doesn’t thrive, we will blame the roots but not the arid sky. We believe that people choose their pain. That is amazing to me. It’s nothing short of inhumane to forget how many hurdles one must overcome to feel reasonable in their skin. It’s amazing and belittling and incorrect from someone to think they’d do it better. That they’d deal with an endless flight or fight response with more grace.

Society have planted seeds of death in the minds of our young future, and will stand aghast when each sprouts malignant and ravenous. Will blame the way we raised them. Will blame their melanin and empty pockets. Will blame their dancing bodies and loud voices. I hope we never forget that they witnessed countless archetypes of their death before beginning to understand what their lives could even mean.

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We are modern day miners working feverishly to excavate the hip-hop gold that is buried underground here in Colorado. Our team is constructed of passionate music connoisseurs who live right here and know the community best. As this site grows and changes, we want to adapt to the needs of artists and fans alike, so keep your ears to the ground and eyes on the stage.

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