When White Happens: Gentrification, Drug Dealing, and the American Dream

Was film maker Spike Lee right or wrong when he addressed the issue of gentrification? Below is another insightful article from authors, educators and racial justice activists J-Love Calderon and David Leonard that tackle this question and shows how gentrification manifests itself with those entrusted to protect and serve and their long standing policies… -Davey D-

Spike_Lee_(2012)Intended to be a celebration of Black History Month, Spike Lee reminded an audience at Pratt Institute that February was not simply about speeches and celebration but demanding justice and accountability, spotlighting white privilege and persistent forms of violence.  Asked about the “other side of gentrification,” Lee scoffed at the premise, making clear that racism sits on all sides:

 I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something …. I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!


John Mcwhorter

John Mcwhorter

While many dismissed his “rant” as “self-serving,” “hypocritical, or “Spike being Spike,” John McWhorter took the opportunity to celebrate gentrification (“a once sketchy neighborhood is now quiet and pleasant”) and to castigate Lee as a racist.  To McWhorter, Lee’s analysis and criticism of gentrification has nothing to do with the displacement of Black and Brown families, the eradication of communities of color, or white privilege, but Lee’s own bigotry toward whites.

“What’s really bothering Lee is that he doesn’t like seeing his old neighborhood full of white people,” noted the associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.  “Or whitey, perhaps. Just as ‘thug’ is a new way of saying the N-word in polite society, Lee’s ‘m—–f—– hipster’ epithet for the new whites of Fort Greene is a sneaky way of saying ‘honkey.’

Lee is less a social analyst than a reincarnation of George Jefferson with his open hostility to whites.” So much wrong here; so little time.  But let us say that whereas the commonplace stereotype of Black youth as “thugs,” as “criminals,” as “dangerous,” as “destructive” and “toxic” leads to racial profiling, mass incarceration, and #every28hours, being “m—–f—– hipster” leads to a new brownstone, a new yoga shop, and a triple shot latte.  It leads to more of the same: privilege and opportunity.

El Puente muralBut is the fight against gentrification a lost cause? Some say yes, some say no, and  others are not pausing to engage in that conversation because they are busy being in action.  El Puente is  a 30-year old human rights organization sitting in the heart of Williamsburg Brooklyn, founded by Luis Garden Acosta, with Gino Maldonado and Frances Lucerna.  Their latest initiative is their response. “The Green Light District seeks to flip the disempowerment of gentrification by putting long-time invested residents at the forefront of change in their communities,” explains Anusha Venkataraman, Director of the Green Light District.

“The Southside of Williamsburg has changed radically but is still 46% Latino, but the narrative of ‘gentrification’ leaves out the stories and lived experiences of folks that have been here, invested in this community, and are still here. Through arts and cultural programming in public spaces, such as our annual ¡WEPA! Festival for Performing Arts, our organizing work with artists, and even through community gardening, we collectively amplify the visibility of the Latino community and culture. We also create safe spaces for newer residents to build bridges, relationships, and common ground with those there before them.” This organization with indigenous leadership continues to help sustain and empower the local community residents against the tide threatening to uproot their culture, contribution, and home.

Whiteness not only allows “hipsters” to claim space, transforming communities, but to be immune from the very same forces that have enacting violence for decades: the police.  We need to look no further than a recent piece on The Huffington Post to understand the privileges resulting from gentrification and whiteness.

I spent a day deliverying weedIn “I Spent A Day Delivering Weed In New York City,” Hunter Stuart celebrates the gentrification of Williamsburg and its drug market.  Chronicling the story of “Abe” and “Brian,” Stuart reminds readers over and over again that these are not your “normal” drug dealers: they drink “French-pressed coffee,” they wear suits, deliver drugs on bikes, and are “exceedingly well-mannered.”  Whereas others enter the drug trade because of  – a) single mothers; b) poverty; c) pathological values; d) all of the above – Abe and Brian took up drug dealing (the article actually calls them “couriers”) because they are “risk takers.”

As with their non-drug dealing counterparts that have gentrified neighborhoods throughout New York and communities across the nation, Abe and Brian are imagined as “good” since they are different type of drug dealers.  They are changing the way marijuana is delivered and the stigmas associated drug use/dealing.  According to Abe, they want to show, “That you can be a successful, active, social person, that you can affect people positively and that you can still smoke weed.” They are different.  “Even though what we do is illegal, we’re both morally sound people.  We try to do right by people. That’s what I always tell my mom, anyway.”

Not surprisingly, Abe and Brian (and all their employees) have built up their business without any consequences.  Noting how “things have gone smoothly” and that “no one’s been robbed, and no one’s been arrested,” Stuart makes clear that they can deal drugs without any of the associated the problems that seem to follow others.

“Working for our former boss, I saw around a dozen people get arrested,” Abe says, referring to the three years he and Brian spent as couriers for another New York City cannabis delivery service. “I don’t think we’re going to have that problem. We screen our riders and our clients really well.”

NYPD Weed ArrestsYes, the reason why nobody been arrested or charged with crimes that could lead to up to 15 years is about “screening.”  Not whiteness; not white privilege; not institutional racism, not the ways that racial profiling, and stop and frisk contribute to a racially stratified war on drugs.

As Jessie Daniels notes, New York is the “marijuana arrest capital of the world.” Notwithstanding an almost 40-year old decriminalization law, NY police arrested 50,000 people in 2011 for “possessing or burning marijuana in public view.”  Neither Abe or Brian could be counted amongst those arrested, a fact not unexpected given that 84% of those arrested were people of color.

From 2002-2012, the NYPD arrested about 440,000 people; 85 percent were Black and Latino. Whiteness has its privileges. The Huffington Post profile, not surprisingly, never acknowledges this context or Abe and Brian’s whiteness; the message is that their intelligence and cultural differences rather than racism and white privilege that has made their “business” successful.

Their ability to carry and sell with relative impunity reflects the privileges of whiteness; their ability to be reimagined as “moral” drug dealers, as “righteous” and ultimately beneficial to this gentrified community, tells us all we need to know about whiteness in America.  Their ability to move into neighborhoods like Williamsburg, displacing families and communities of color, generating wealth that they will pass onto the next generation, highlights the value of whiteness; their ability to “get rich with limited possibility of dying” is the personification of whiteness.

Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander

Speaking about the shifting economic landscape of drugs in America, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, notes, “After 40 years of impoverished black men getting prison time for selling weed, white men are planning to get rich doing the same things,” she added. “So that’s why I think we have to start talking about reparations for the war on drugs. How do we repair the harms caused?”

White privilege, gentrification, the media choosing who to admire and who to criminalize are all part of the ways that white supremacy plays out in our day to day.  It’s time to speak up and act, to demand justice and opportunities for all people. We must keep the fight up until Black and Brown life is truly respected and treated as valuable and important as white peoples lives. In the end, this will be the ultimate victory.

Stand up for what’s right

JLove and David

See, Judge, ACT for Racial Justice:

Speak Up

Speak Up to Media: the Huff Post article we referenced is a perfect opportunity for you to point out the obvious mis-step not naming white privilege. Talk about it, blog about it, help people see why white privilege and racism must be named for us to create more justice.

Spike Lee: whether you like him or not, the media circus had a great time calling him out because he spoke the truth about race and gentrification with no sugar coatin’! People of color are often demonized when speaking out about racism. Step up your game and support the truth of the argument! Don’t let Black and Brown people become scapegoats to the larger system of racism.


Check out El Puente’s groundbreaking Green Light District initiative in response to rampant gentrification in Brooklyn.  Donate to them! Spread the word of how this powerful community is proactively working toward sustainability of the residents of color in Williamsburg. http://elpuente.us/content/green-light-district-overview

Action Ideas from El Puente’s GLD Team

  • Get involved in community institutions, and recognize and get to know the culture and community that was there before you arrived
  • Get comfortable with discomfort! Building community with those from different backgrounds and life experiences isn’t easy, but it is important. Tasks the risk of stepping outside your comfort zone, talk to your neighbors, and LISTEN!
  • Invest in public spaces, like community gardens, where community building can happen
  • Invest time and energy in your neighborhood! It builds collective ownership

Join—Calling white folks who want to stand up for racial justice!

Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Become a member and get involved directly: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/

About the Authors

David Leonard is a professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race at Washington State University. http://drdavidjleonard.com/

JLove Calderon is a conscious media maker, social entrepreneur, and author of five books, including her latest: Occupying Privilege; Conversations on Love, Race, and Liberation. www.jlovecalderon.com

Jay-Z Responds to His Cuban Crisis w/ an Open Letter

jay-z-folded-225Jay-Z got inspired the other night responded with vigor to his critics about his trip to Cuba…The song is called ‘Open Letter’ and the beat is slamming and is no doubt a serious head nodder.. You know its gonna anger all sorts of folks who are already heated, because he says in the song he loves Cubans.. His critics are saying by going to Cuba, he is showing hatred.. He starts off the song by saying he’ll turn Havana into Atlanta..Not sure if folks in Havana wanna see gentrification in their beloved city..because thats what has happened with the ATL.. No Beds, Baths and Beyond in Havana..

Jigga also talks about Obama and whether or not he’ll be selling his portion of the Brooklyn Nets..The hook to the song says’ ‘You Gonna Learn to Today‘. Ideally what we all learn is that Cuba has a dope education system which produces doctors who make major moves in healing people.. We could learn from that..We could also learn how to be self sufficient the way Cuban’s have been.. Folks are still surviving in spite of the crippling embargo we’ve put on them over the past 50 years..

Great song.. Glad Jay-Z responded.. Personally I wish he had shouted out or kicked a rhyme for Kimani Gray the young man gunned down by police in Brooklyn which set off 4 days of unrest in the East Flatbush last month.. I wish he would’ve said something about the unrest and the fact Stop-N-Frisk is on trial with cops revealing they been ordered to meet quotas and target young Black men and teens.. In any case that’s, just me expressing my ideal scenario.. Open Letter is a good song and maybe Jay-Z will return with more heat..

4UMF Exclusive With Maino Wyclef And Jack Thriller

( 4UMF NEWS ) 4UMF Exclusive With Maino Wyclef And Jack Thriller:

4UMF-Exclusive-With-Maino-W.01.11 AMBrooklyn emcee Maino is taking his talents and hitting the stage but it’s not one he is known for. The “That Could Be Us” rapper is set to star in the upcoming hip-hop musical Freedom.

The play is based on the real life story of David Ranta, a Brooklyn man who was freed last month after serving 23 years in prison for a murder conviction. Ranta was found guilty in the 1991 botched robbery and murder of Brookyln Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger. A hot button issue that needs to be addressed by lawmakers, Freedom aims to shine a spotlight on similar cases like Ranta’s across the country.

“Jurors go into a trial thinking that if a defendant was seen committing a crime, and they confessed to doing the crime, they are guilty,” read Freedom’s press release. “However, statistics show that in 25 percent of the cases where the defendant was exonerated because of DNA, they had made incriminating statements, confessed, or plead guilty.”

Maino will be joined on stage by actress Felecia Gorham and lyricist/composer Chi-Ill.

Held at the intimate The Slipper Room in downtown Manhattan, VIP guests and industry insiders were invited to an exclusive preview of Freedom.

4UMF caught up with Maino who spoke about how he prepared for the role, his personal experiences with the jail system and his latest music project with the Mafia.

Check it out: http://4umf.com/4umf-exclusive-with-maino-wyclef-and-jack-thriller/



Where’s Jay-Z at During these Brooklyn Riots? Remember His Video?

jay-z-folded-225There’s been 3 days of unrest in Flatbush section of Brooklyn..50 people arrested,  and Marshall Law put into place as people step out and speak up over a 16 year old Kimani Gray being shot 11 times by out of control police..I just know Jay-Z is gonna speak up and stand up for the people in Brooklyn.. This is his home.. He just helped but the new Barclay Center there..He did 3 days worth of concerts there.. He is Mr Brooklyn..

Plus Jay-Z did a song where he advocated folks fighting back and disrupting the system..Y’all recall this video right? No Church In the Wild shows people taking it to the streets..

Well at the very least Jay can place a call to the President, after all he helped get him elected… We cant let Brooklyn get smashed on by NYPD..


An Epic Intv w/ Jeru tha Damaja: Maturing In Hip Hop & Making An Album in Poland

It’s always good to chop it up w/ Brooklyn emcee Jeru tha Damaja.. We go back a long ways and with each interview he provides more and more jewels.

This past week was no different, Jeru came by the crib where we chopped it up about everything under the sun.. We talked about the origins and meaning of his name and what he meant when he used the tag ‘damaja’. It was a question I never asked, believe it or not.. he said it meant he was one to destroy the mics and destroy misconceptions…

We talked about maturing in the industry and the importance of not being seen as ‘old school’ but instead being seen as classic.. We talked about the importance of Hip Hop pioneers Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa who recently celebrated birthdays. Jeru explained about how both men have always respected him and he in turn have viewed them as big brothers who have positive impact on him..

We talked about his friendship w/ the late Guru of Gang Starr.  Jeru reminisced how Guru rescued him from the streets and help give him direction. he talked about the formidable rap crew that included Group Home, MOP, they had when Guru released th Ill Kids project. He regretted that everyone didn’t stick together We also talked about the issues related to the 2Pac hologram its pros and cons.. We also talked about his travels and what parts of the world he likes performing in.. Jeru talked about a new album he just did in Poland that features both American and Polish emcees..


Pete Rock’s Daughter brutalized & Arrested by NYPD



Just got this video showing NYPD beating down a woman at Pete Rock and Smif N Wessun‘s album release party..This took place in Brooklyn.. We sadly have seen this scenario before, where a peaceful gathering is broken up by police who as General Steele pointed out are bent on causing chaos..Such scenes routinely take place from Brooklyn to Oakland..

I’m looking at Pete Rock’s aka @chocboywunda time line on twitter.. He’s explaining that he came out and saw his boy being roughed up on the ground..He said he didn’t get beat up nor did his wife..but a woman did get beaten up. His wife was pushed over a garbage can trying to calm down their daughter.. Cops claim Pete’s daughter punched a cop in the face..

Coincidently this outrageous event went down on the same day that Oscar Grant‘s mother settled for a 1.3 million dollars with BART police for the murder of her son who was unarmed and restrained when shot point blank by police officer (Johannes Mehserle) on the Fruitvale Bart station in Oakland in January of 2009 … Mehserle is now home free after serving 11 months in jail..

I bring up the Grant case in relationship to the Smif N Wessun incident to point out that police feel embolden. They Feel they literally can get away with murder. If they can shoot and unarmed, restrained man in front of hundreds and get away with it, beating down a woman (in video they say its Pete Rock’s wifebut Pete says it was another woman..) is no big deal..

There are other videos floating around.. We’ll keep you posted on all this..

HKR: Jean Grae Speaks Her Mind to Davey D ….Cake or Death

One of my favorite emcees is the one and only Jean Grae. Witty, smart and deftly skilled on the mic, she’s one of the few folks in Hip Hop I hadn’t interviewed even though we’ve run into each other on a number of occasions. Finally when she touched down in Oakland to a do a show at the New Parrish, last summer (2011)  we got a chance to chop it up. During our interview we covered a variety of topics ranging from how she got her name to the highlights of her career to her roots in South Africa to her process for writing songs and executing her artistic vision…We also talked about the upcoming release of her album ‘Cake or Death’ In short we did Jean Grae 101…

Also we gotta give Jean props for doing a great show and being gracious after I spilled the drink she brought me all over her…

Click the link below to peep the Hard Knock Radio Interview w/ Jean Grae



You can also peep this interview on youtube… Davey D Interviews Jean Grae


An Open Letter to HipHop America from Kevin Powell

In less than a week (Sept 14) folks in New York will have the opportunity to weigh in and put someone in leadership position who will hopefully make a difference. I think Kevin Powell will be that guy, especially over his opponent Ed Townes. Just on the strength that Townes is one of those Black leaders in Congress who took telecom corporate money  and is now running around saying we don’t need to protect Net Neutrality is reason enough to NOT vote for him and support Powell. Its a clear indication that Townes is leadership that is not only out of touch, but will go out of his way to support policies that are detrimental… That has got to change in 2010.. We should also note that Powell wrote a great article explaining why we should support Net Neutrality.

-Davey D-

Open Letter to Hiphop America

September 2010

Peace to all of you. I am writing this letter from Brooklyn, New York, where I am currently a Democratic candidate for Congress. For those who do not know, there are 435 United States Congresspersons in America, and 100 United States Senators, all based in Washington, D.C. when not in their home districts, and all of them together represent the 300 million Americans living in our nation. That is power. The power to provide resources, services, information, jobs, and loans for small businesses. The power to help people to help themselves.

That is why I am running for Congress. I come from a single-mother led househouse, I had no father figure whatsoever, and grew up in the kind of poverty, violence, and confusion I would not wish on anyone. But a few things definitely saved and empowered my life. One was a belief in God, instilled by mother. Second was definitely my moms and her giving me a love of education, in spite of she herself only having a grade school education. And finally it was definitely music and culture, especially hiphop as I came of age in the 1970s and through the 1980s.

I was a dancer and I tagged my nickname—“kepo1”—any and everywhere in my native Jersey City. I was at all the famous hiphop clubs of the 1980s, like Union Square, Funhouse, and The Rooftop. I helped to produce, along with youth activists like Sister Souljah, those big outdoor rap concerts on 125th Street in Harlem in the late 1980s. A writer since I was a child, I was a founding staff member at Vibe, and interviewed Tupac Shakur more than any other journalist when he was alive. And I was the curator of the very first exhibit on hiphop culture, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

I am hiphop. And I am also a public servant and activist for people, all people. For the past 25 years, in fact, since I was a youth.

That is why I am running for Congress. Not only would I be the first true hiphop head in Congress, but I also would be bringing a fresh take on leadership, blending the best of grassroots politics with Washington, D.C. maneuvering, all to that boom-bap beat.

And, as Dead Prez once famously said, this is actually bigger than hiphop. This is about my being a leader, a bridge-builder, and all of us weaned on hiphop music and culture understanding the power of this, the most dominant art form of the past 30 years.

If not us, then who?


Kevin Powelll

Go to www.kevinpowell.net to contribute $1, $5, or $10 to Kevin Powell 4 Congress now by clicking DONATE at the site

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Why is Congressman Ed Towns Suing Opponent Kevin Powell?

Why is Congressman Ed Towns Suing Opponent Kevin Powell?
A Statement by Kevin Powell

Monday, August 2, 2010


Good day to you all. Today is the day we go to court for democracy.

I find it very sad and contradictory that Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns, a 27-year Democratic incumbent here in Brooklyn, New York’s 10th Congressional District, is suing me. Like him, I am a life-long Democrat. Like him I was born in another state but came to Brooklyn at a relatively young age and served my community in a variety of capacities before seeking public office. And like Mr. Towns, now age 76 and someone who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, I am African American.

This is why the entire spectacle of Mr. Towns suing a fellow Democrat to prevent me from being on the Democratic primary ballot on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 is sad and contradictory. Sad because it says that Mr. Towns and his team are now so nervous about my Congressional campaign that they are resorting to the same kind of legal maneuvers that once prevented Blacks like him from voting in America. Doubly sad because this legal tactic has become common in Brooklyn Democratic Party politics. It was done by then party boss Clarence Norman to Charles Barron in 1997. It was done by Assemblywoman Annette Robinson to Cenceria Edwards in 2008. And now it is being done to me in 2010. And the lawsuits are always so predictable. In my case it is being stated that I do not live in the district, even though I have lived most of my 20 years in New York City in Brooklyn’s 10th Congressional district; and I am a very well-informed and engaged citizen so I certainly know who reps me on all levels.

After our many volunteers worked diligently for a month collecting 8200-plus signatures–signatures that were very carefully reviewed by our petition consultants–it is being alleged that we’ve committed fraud. I am here to say that Mr. Towns and his team are wrong on these and all counts. I certainly live in the district, have proof of it, and we certainly have more than enough legitimate signatures to be on the ballot (1250 signatures are needed to be on the ballot for this particular race).

The real issue here is about American democracy. It is clear that Mr. Towns and a few others in our Democratic Party right here in Brooklyn, New York really do not believe in democracy at all. If Mr. Towns did, we would not hear the endless stories from voters in our Congressional district being threatened with job loss or the ending of funding support simply for supporting me publicly. Or what of one woman supporter, just last Thursday night, July 29, 2010, at approximately 10pm, who had a mysterious man and woman show up at her home, awake her and her son, claiming to be “officials from the Board of Elections?” When the woman asked for identification the pair ran back to their car and sped off. Clearly they are employed by Mr. Towns.

These kinds of scare and bully tactics might have worked in the old Brooklyn, but they are not going to work in the new Brooklyn. For there is a new generation of residents, engaged citizens, and, yes, leaders, who do not subscribe to clubhouse or machine-style politics. Our belief is that a public servant, whose salary is paid for by taxpayers, is here to help the people, period. That means any and all public servants owe it to the people to be accountable, visible, and accessible. And when challenged in a campaign, to participate in public debates and the free exchange of ideas and solutions, with the voters–not a courtroom–deciding who should win an election. In essence, by attempting to get me off the ballot Mr. Towns is pushing for a Tuesday, September 14th Democratic Primary where the voters will have no choice but him. How is this any different than what the Dixiecrats pulled in Southern states like North Carolina, where Mr. Towns was born in 1934, during segregation in America?

Finally, this whole circus of Mr. Towns suing me is so contradictory to the very principles of our nation, is an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars, and is nothing more than him stalling the inevitable: Kevin Powell will be on the ballot on Tuesday, September 14, 2010. We’ve been running a clean, responsible, and transparent campaign the entire way; we’ve picked up waves of support across Brooklyn, and beyond, and we know that the people of our borough, and of nation, want a new direction, and fresh voices, for these times. No matter what Mr. Towns and his team do or say, they simply cannot stop the changing of the guard that is now here and ready in America. It is our time.

written by Kevin Powell

Visit his site at http://www.kevinpowell.net/

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

An Open Letter From Mos Def About Amadou Diallo

Mos-Defhoodie-225An Open letter From Mos Def…

Diallo was a West African immigrant with no prior criminal record who was shot and killed by police in the dark of night for simply being black. He was unarmed and shot at 41 times! No unarmed man should be shot at even once! One of the police officers involved in the Diallo shooting was involved in the killing of Patrick Bailey no more than a year and a half ago! Tyesha Miller was shot in her car in Los Angeles while she had a seizure! I could go on and on with the names of black people who have been killed at the hands of police just this year. But the list is so long that it would turn this letter into a statistic sheet.

Most of the people that got killed by police this year and in the past have probably been some of your fans; fans of some of your favorite artists. They are black people who love us, who defend us, who protect us, who put us in our comfortable homes an dour luxury sports utility vehicles and our well kept hotels suites and our oversized tour buses. They’re the people that buy our records, our t-shirts, our concert tickets, and so on, and so forth. They’re the same people that are getting murdered, harassed, maimed, and beaten in streets all over the world everyday!

The only people in our community who have not responded to this incident are us. Hip-Hop made one hundred billion dollars last year!… A lot of those dollars came from the ‘Comptoms’, the ‘Brooklyns’, the ‘Crown Heights’, the ‘Chicagos’, the Detroit ghettos, the St. Louis ghettos… the same ghettos where police run around literally hunting black folks to murder… then cruise the streets shortly thereafter with impunity and arrogance.

We are the Senators and the Congressmen of our communities. We come from communities that don’t have nobody to speak for them. That’s why they love us. Because we talk about what nobody else will talk about. We represent them. And they need to know that we really represent them. Not when it’s just a romantic notion or a paycheck attached to it. When something happens to them it matters to us, because when something happens to them it’s happening to us. Because Amadou Diallo is your brother, your cousin, your man… Tyesha Miller is your sister, your aunt, your girl, your wife, your daughter… All of these people are you! You are no different! And just because we’re at the top of the Billboard charts, seen on MTV daily, livin’ comfortably doesn’t mean that we can’t get shot, we can’t be harassed, we can’t be maimed and mistreated.

I hope this is as important to you as it is to me cause when I pass by the projects and when I pass by the hood I don’t see nobody but me. I see everybody who looks like me. I see me many years ago as I’m sure many of you do. So it’s time for us to come together from the ‘jiggy’ to the ‘hardcore’; from the ‘backpacker’ to the man with the Lexus and really unite and show the world that we got strength. Show the world who we are. Represent who we are. Who we really are and where we really come from. Let’s show people where our heart is… that we haven’t forgotten.

Now I’m askin’ you and anybody who looks on this letter to come forward and show your heart, to show your love, to love the people who love you back by speaking out against the injustices that they suffer. Because believe me, if the clock was turned backwards we’d be those same people.

Please stay mindful of this. Please be considerate of this letter. Pass it around! Talk about this! Think about it! Keep it on your mind because if you don’t… it’s going to keep its mind on you.

I wanna thank everybody for taking time out to read this letter. I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time. All of the contact information and other information you need to know is enclosed.

I want to wish everybody, each and everyone of ya’ll peace, prosperity and love.

Mos Def
Feb ’99