Thoughts on Cuban Hip Hop Being Used to Overthrow the Gov’t

Davey-D-brown-frameThere’s a been a lot of conversation about the recent revelations of Hip Hop and Hip Hop artists being via infiltrated through an agency called USAID with the goal of shaping opinions and sparking unrest to create a climate that would lead to the overthrow of the Cuban government. You can peep one of the many stories about that HERE—

In speaking about this case, I noted that far too many have fallen into the trap of seeing themselves and this music/culture as being unique in it being besieged, put under surveillance and being deemed a potential threat to those in power. Too many people saw the police collecting dossiers on Hip Hop as some sort of badge implying it was a reflection of power. Such assertions have been made without the context of history…

First its extremely important to note that this Government has always used culture and popular expression and mediums to undercut, destroy, marginalize, control, redirect a people and yes even help overthrow governments. What was revealed about Cuba is by no means unique. It may be unique for folks hearing about this for the first time..What we are talking about here is something that’s global..Cultural expression is serious biz..

I can say this in 2006, I went to Beirut and attended and participated in global conference on music and censorship. There I met folks who had spent many years in jail from all over the world because of their music and art which challenged those in power. You can read some of what was spoken about at that conference HERE

In order to understand this what folks need to clearly understand is that culture expression here in the US is often limited in how it’s defined. Many simply call it art. And art in the minds of many is luxury that is brought and sold and put on display to admire and debate. Our history and understanding of how we express ourselves has been erased or distorted. So instead seeing many types of cultural expressions (rapping, singing, dance, poetry, playing of music) as important and even primary ways of communication, we fail to see to see that the government sees what we do in that light..

Dr Jared Ball

Dr Jared Ball

With respect to Hip Hop as professor Jared Ball has long pointed out, its ‘mass communication’..Those in power have never ceded ground or allowed us to have too much independent control of mass comm outlets.

Second point, Hip Hop being infiltrated and aspects of it being compromised is one the latest cultural expressions in a long line to be compromised. In order to best understand this.. I encourage folks to go on-line and look up this video that came out in the 1970s with a former FBI agent named Darthard Perry talking about how the government studied culture, in particular Black culture as a way to control the people.. You can and should peep that HERE—

For those who find this be a bit of a stretch.. I encourage you to peep the speech Dr Martin Luther King gave August 11 1967 to the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers about the role of culture, in this case music and Black radio deejays.. He plainly states there is no Civil Rights Movement without these deejays and the powerful influence of Soul Music, which like Hip Hop had its own challenges of being deemed unsavory, less than sophisticated and even violent.. (Folks living here in the Oakland, ask your parents or grandparents about James Brown being banned and concerts being shut down because he brought out the ‘wrong crowd’).. Check out King’s speech and the one given by Minister Farrakhan to a similar body of Black music industry folks 13 years later…

Third point, Hip Hop being as popular as it is was undoubtedly going to be seen as something that needed to be derailed, distorted and used a s a tool of oppression vs allowing it to be used as a tool of liberation. Wherever large crowds are gathered, we have got to expect those in power to be sizing it up and trying to figure out how to economically exploit it and politically derail it..

Bob MarleyFrom icons like Bob Marley being followed and undermined by the CIA to the banning of the drums during slavery at Congo Square to Fela Kuti who specifically said his music was a weapon being attacked, to the Black Arts Movement being marginalized where the late Amiri Baraka and others called upon Black folks to use their poems and music as weapons and be in alignment with the Black Power Movements of the time, to French rappers coming under fire and accused of sparking the 2005 riots in Paris with their music to the way the US uses its radio arm Voice of America to undermine governments, we should be clear in knowing that obtaining and maintaining public space will and has always been a challenge. We should be crystal clear that if you can ‘move the crowd’ folks are gonna have their eyes on you…

What’s most interesting about this scenario is that in many so-called progressive enclaves, culture is still seen and treated as an after thought or sidebar to the movement. Perhaps that’s deliberate because those in power in on that side of the political spectrum like their counterparts on the right want to keep many in the back of the bus and not have a seat at the table.

cuban rappersThe solution to all this is to 1-fully understand the power of our culture. Martin Luther King talks about that in his speech. In understanding its power, one has to then move in a direction where you are not dependent on entities and individuals who fear or don’t respect our culture for affirmation, funding etc..

2-Recognize many aspects of our culture are indeed powerful forms of communication. If Hip Hop has this much influence that governments use it to move folks from point A to point B, then what role are we playing when we consciously produce it or consume it?

3-Check out an incredible book called Party Music by Prof Rickey Vincent who digs real deep into this topic. He talks about the impact the Black Panthers had on Soul Music and how cultural expression was challenged and seen as a threat by those in power and ultimately used to destroy facets of the Black Power Movement..

4-Read Jared Ball’ s Book..”I Mix What I Like!: A Mixtape Manifesto” where he meticulously details how Hip Hop Music has been colonized. It’s important for folks to understand the many forces at work to harness our expression.

5-Read Jeff Chang‘s book Who We Be the Colorization of America  where he talks about the wars, political attacks and commercialization around Art and Culture and the derailment of movements around the concept of Multiculturalism.

6-Look out for an upcoming book due out in February 2015 from Timothy Taylor aka Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers that addresses many of these key issues.

Bottom line, we may take what we do culturally speaking for granted. We may think our songs and dances are no big deal.. But others are not. They study it, see it as a threat and know its potential to liberate and empower if left unchecked. ‪#‎staywoke‬.

The CIA, Contras and Crack.. The First Radio Intv w/ the Late Garry Webb

Crack-CIA-finalI recently found a copy of a groundbreaking radio show we did more than 15 years ago on my old radio show Street Knowledge which aired on KMEL.. It centered around the crack epidemic and series Dark Alliances which was published by the San Jose Mercury News.. The world was shook when the late journalist Gary Webb connected crack cocaine and how it was widespread in inner cities across America to the CIA and covert operations around the Iran-Contra scandal.

At the time many had suspected there was a hidden hand in the introduction of crack, Webb’s articles confirmed it.. That was especially true for folks in the Bay Area because one of the main players lived in San Francisco.. That was true for folks in LA because the other main player Freeway Rick lived there.

The show that you are about to peep is incredible.. It’s the first radio interview Gary Webb had done after his Dark Alliance piece had ran.. Also on that show is Congresswoman Maxine Waters who called for hearings on this crack-CIA connection..

Long time activist Makani Themba from the Praxis Institute who at that time was with the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems is on the show as well as Clarence Lusane who wrote a book Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs which dealt with the emerging drug war.

Minister Keith Muhammad and Brother Ron from the Nation of Islam are on the show.  Rounding it all off is young journalist Kevin Weston and activist Troy Nkrumah both are with the then newly formed Young Comrades

The Late Gary Webb

The Late Gary Webb

It’s interesting hearing all the guests and callers break down how crack was impacting them and their community and the concerns they had with the recent changes in the Hip Hop music around that time…Its also interesting to see how at the time many mainstream outlets tried to ignore Webb and the Dark Alliance series and then when they talk about they tried to dismiss and obscure Webb’s information.. even as much of what he wrote was found to be true.. Webb later ‘killed’ himself in 2004 ..

You can listen to that first interview and peep exactly what Webb had to say about much of this..




Today is Bob Marley’s Birthday-A Man of Love Placed Under CIA Surveillance

Bob MarleyToday February 6th is Bob Marley‘s birthday… It’s interesting to note that as folks will lionize Ronald Reagan who shares the same birthday, they will overlook the fact that Marley not Reagan was the one under surveillance by the CIA. Reagan was all up in the Iran Contra Scandal, yet our government   considered Marley and other Rastas threatening..His message of love which was empowering to folks was in conflict with those who did not like to see bridges being built and communities coming together..  Many folks don’t realize this.. and when you take this into account, it may shed some light as to why Marley in spite having world-wide popularity, never really had a home on Black /Urban radio here in the US….

Below is a cool article from  on Marley and him being surveilled.

The Bob Marley songbook is bursting with eloquent social protest, exposing the poverty, oppression and injustice endured by inhabitants of the “developing” world.

“Burning and Looting”, for example: “This morning I woke up in a curfew. O my God I was a prisoner too … Could not recognise the faces standing over me, they were all dressed in uniforms of brutality.”

Or from “Slave Driver”: “Every time I hear the crack of a whip, my blood runs cold. I remember on the slave ship, how they brutalise the very souls. Today they say that we are free, only to be chained in poverty … slave driver catch a fire so you can get burn, now.”

This is a message as relevant today as it was when Marley died from cancer 30 years ago in 1981 at the age of 36.

“Check my life if I am in doubt,” advised Marley to any who doubted his authenticity.

The Jamaican roots reggae superstar of the 1970s was never motivated by fame or money, though Marley did acquire these things when reggae went global under his stewardship.

These materialistic trappings were regarded by Marley as the “tools of Babylon”, which he would use to raise consciousness and spread a revolutionary message.

As a “mixed-race” child of rural Jamaica and, later, the working-class Trenchtown district of Kingston, Marley experienced the inequities of the post-colonial system.

Selling records and filling concert halls was never a vehicle for the gratification of Marley’s ego. It was for the transformation of a conflict-ridden world divided between exploiters and exploited to a new order of peace, harmony and understanding — “one love”.

At times, Marley encountered temptation and sometimes strayed into the path of excess.

Yet, as Chris Salewicz’s definitive 2009 biography Bob Marley: The Untold Story shows, Marley remained uncorrupted by the music business.

Although Rastafarianism (like any religion) contains its fair share of irrational dogma, Marley’s emphasis was on “redemption” in the here and now by toppling “Babylon” (i.e. the racist imperialist system of oppression).

“If you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth,” sang Marley in “Get Up Stand Up”.

Like “liberation theology”, a strand of radical Christianity that made a welcome contribution to the anti-imperialist movement in Latin America, Rastafarianism is compatible (in many respects) with the secular struggle against capitalism.

Marley’s dissent made him a target for surveillance and harassment.

His militancy was too much for the US intelligence establishment, which regarded Marley and other Rastas, such as fellow Jamaican reggae musician Peter Tosh, as dangerous subversives.

“Rasta”, as Bob defiantly stated in “Rat Race”, “don’t work for no CIA”.

The dramatic implications of this line can only be understood when viewed in the context of Jamaican politics.

Following the “loss” of Cuba in 1959, Washington sought to contain the spread of genuinely independent Caribbean regimes.

By the mid-70s, Jamaica was in a state of unofficial civil war. Two political parties, each equipped with armed gangs, battled for control of the island.

On the mainstream left, there was Michael Manley’s Peoples National Party (PNP), which held government.

It was opposed by the deceptively-titled Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) under Edward Seaga, whose funding came from the domestic Jamaican “white” elite and foreign corporate interests involved in the mining industry.

The US government interfered to help fuel the political violence. It openly aimed to install Seaga (or “CIA-ga”, as he was widely known) in power.

Manley’s offences had been to pursue greater state control over the country’s plentiful bauxite reserves and engagement with Cuba’s revolutionary government.

The CIA, through the JLP, conducted a campaign of destabilisation against the Manley government.

Marley refused to be directly associated with Manley’s 1976 re-election campaign, but he did identify with Manley’s anti-imperialist policies.

At Manley’s request, he agreed to perform at the “Smile Jamaica” concert organised by the PNP.

In apparent retaliation, a squad of four JLP-affiliated hit men tried to assassinate Marley and his wife Rita on the eve of the concert.

Rita, with blood streaming from her scalp, only survived by playing dead at the wheel of her shot-up VW.

Marley’s manager stepped into the line of fire just as the gunman opened up, taking four bullets.

A ricochet struck Bob in the arm after grazing his chest. “If he had been inhaling instead of exhaling”, notes Salewicz, “the bullet would have gone into his heart.”

Two days later, the injured Marley performed at the concert.

A few days before the attempt on his life, Marley was visited by an official from the US embassy.

Salewicz said the official “advised the singer to tone down his lyrics, and to stop aiming at a white audience in the USA; if he didn’t, he would find his visa to enter America had been taken away”.

Whether the CIA ordered the assassination attempt or not, it is beyond doubt that the shadowy, murderous organisation was supporting right-wing elements in Jamaica that wanted anti-imperialists such as Marley dead.

There were thousands of JLP/CIA-orchestrated political killings during this period.

Having terrorised Jamaica for years, Seaga took power in 1980, severing relations with Cuba and implementing neoliberal policies.

Embracing neoliberalism, Manley returned to office with US backing in 1989.

After a succession of “business-friendly” governments, most of the island’s population remains mired in poverty.

For people of the left, Marley should be remembered as a comrade in the common struggle.

Although he mistrusted Jamaican “politricks” (with good reason) and was never an orthodox “socialist”, Marley was nothing if not a vehement critic of the global capitalist “Babylon System” — which he memorably described as “the vampire, falling empire, sucking the blood of the sufferers … Deceiving the people continually”.

Oscar Grant Orgs Condemn OPD: Homeland Security, CIA, FBI & DOJ Descended on Oakland

November 6, 2010

The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant (ONYX Organizing Committee, The New Years Movement, The General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant) condemns the activity of the Oakland Police Department leading up to, during and following the rally held on November 5th, 2010 in response to the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant, III.

While the city publicly claimed it had learned lessons from July 8th and would not militarize downtown Oakland or create a climate of fear and intimidation on November 5th, they privately constructed an all-out military strategy to intimidate and control the people.

Police agencies from at least nine different counties, along with Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA and DOJ descended upon Oakland.  As people gathered to peacefully assemble, they had to wade through rows of police just to get to the City Hall Plaza.  This in itself set a tone of anger for the people as they had just learned that Johannes Mehserle would only serve about 7 months in prison for the cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant.

Following almost five hours of peaceful protesting, about 300 people decided to march to the Fruitvale BART Station (the location of the murder of Grant on January 1, 2009).  Instead of facilitating the march in a productive and peaceful manner, the police chose to immediately respond with tactical and strategic repression of the people’s will and rights.  The encroachment of the police on to the marchers further fueled the flame of an ignited community and led to an unnecessary confrontation on the streets of Oakland.

Shortly after the march started, about 200 protestors were cornered on the block of East 17th Street and 6th Avenue. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attempted to contact city officials and negotiate with the police to release the people with no arrests.   And even though word came that Police Chief Batts had agreed to give an order to release the crowd, moments later the arrests began.  Police officers refused to talk to representatives from the NLG and indeed were hostile.  Negotiating with these representatives from the rally could have further diffused activity on the streets of Oakland, but the police were intent on creating a situation that would then allow them to demonize the people and remove the focus from the unjust, unfair and outright farce of a sentence received by Johannes Mehserle.

Additionally, Chief Batts has been quoted as saying that the police expected protestors to march to Defermery Park but organizers were told explicitly that roads to the park would be blocked by police barricades. They in effect set the stage for their repressive activity to make a point to any other community members intent on making their voices heard in dissent to the system.

The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant stands in solidarity with the people arrested on November 5th and we stand firm in our belief that the people have a right to assemble, a right to demonstrate, a right to march and a right to take a stand against a system that continuously oppresses, brutalizes and murders them.

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested on November 5th and that all charges are dismissed.

-The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant-