Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dead Prez’s M-1: Community Unity and the Struggle for Justice

Part One of a Three Part series of interviews with the progressive militants of hip-hop culture.

M-1, aka Mutulu Olugabala, is an African rapper best known for his work with stic.man in the critically acclaimed underground conscious hip-hop duo Dead Prez. Based out of New York, M1 stopped by to perform and meet community members at the Black Action Defence Committee BBQ in Lawrence Heights before heading out to rock The Docks as part of the Jazz By Genre festival.

Basics: “We’re here with M-1 from Dead Prez…I see your reading the book Black and Brown: African Americans and the Mexican Revolution… During those times, there was some elements of Brown/Black solidarity. What do you see as the prospects for the coalescing of Latino organizations and black peoples organizations resisting capitalism?”

M-1: “There always has been. We have a historical relationship – the same relationship that ‘Cha-Cha’ Jimenez [Founder of the Puerto Rican-American revolutionary organization Young Lords Party -ed.] had with Fred Hampton [Founder of Chicago chapter of Black Panther Party -ed.]. We learned from each other’s struggles in creating the Young Lord Party and the Black Panther Party. For example, I recently connected with the Brown Berets out in Utah… So, these things are happening. Only, we must recognize the kind of propaganda that hinders those relationships between Black and Brown; such as the propaganda of Blacks versus Browns in Los Angeles, which has each other shooting one another down just because we speak another language. So that’s what we don’t want to happen. But we have always had that history of Black and Brown organizations that have worked side by side in very principled relationships.”

Basics: “Yesterday, you and Umi [of P.O.W./Peoples Army/RBG Fam - ed.] went to Lawrence Heights to perform for the community. As you may have heard from some of the people you have spoken to up there, Jungle is now undergoing a process of gentrification. As with all social housing, the Municipal government of Toronto is trying to push out a lot of the people who are there, and sell off a large portion of the area because it’s the largest housing project in Canada, and they’re trying to sell it to private developers. We’ve got Umi’s comments on what’s going on in the U.S. in terms of gentrification. What are some of your thoughts on gentrification?”

M-1: “Well, what happened with ‘white flight’ in the 1970s is that white people thought it would be safer out in the suburbs with black people being grouped up in the cities. But for black people it was convenient, we were so close to the work place. But now, for a number of different factors, there is a movement of white people back towards the inner city, causing gentrification. Communities which have been demonized and criminalized – left into shells of what they were and havens of zombied-out crack youth and other drug activity – and now they’re trying to raise the property value of these areas by pushing out the black people. Our bills are barely being paid now. So when the property values of the area goes up, it does a lot to be able to outstretch our means to live, driving us away from our communities.”

Basics: “You mentioned white people moving out to the suburbs because they thought it would be safer. And now, the argument that the Municipal government and other people are trying to use to justify gentrification is that the only way these communities are going to be safe is if they bring in “mixed-income housing”. What would be your response to that?”

M-1: “This is economic racism, because what it does is change the qualifications for people to be able to live in the community – it just says, no blacks allowed, basically.” 

Part Two, Next Issue: Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers