Jasiri X: Raising the Flag & Using Music as a Weapon to Fight Oppression

Jasiri  x micWe sat down and spoke with long time activist/ artist Jasiri X about his latest moves and why he continues to raise up the flag of activism  and use music as a potent weapon.

In recent months Jasiri X has been doing a lot of work with Harry Belafonte. He talks at length about the profound influence this iconic human rights leader has had on his activism as well as his music. He went into depth about some of the work that Belafonte has been doing to combat mass incarceration as it pertains to juveniles. He also notes all the behind the scenes closed-door meetings Belafonte has been having since last year with prominent artists and entertainers, encouraging them to raise awareness and take appropriate action.

Jasiri noted there have been significant changes amongst the many who Belafonte has been meeting with which is great. In terms of how it’s impacted him, he noted that after traveling with Belafonte to the rural south and Appalachia his understanding of poverty and how its impacted folks was greatly expanded. His commitment to working with youth was strengthened. His music was sharpened..

2001 Hip Hop summit FarrakhanDuring our interview Jasiri X talked about the influence of his other mentor Minister Farrakhan. We talked about the the powerful speech Farrakhan gave in 2001 at the Hip Hop Summit in New York and the tour he made around the country speaking directly with popular rappers. From NY to LA to Atlanta, the Minister laid out key issues he felt artists should be addressing. He described them as world leaders whose music had great impact and encouraged them to step up and fully embrace their responsibilities.  It was at one of these gatherings that Jasiri X first heard the Minister and it changed his life. It opened Jasiri’s eyes to activism and inspired him to join the NOI. It was there he honed his skills and came to understand the power cultural expression has on the community and the world at large.

During our interview Jasiri gave some insight as to how both men are similar in their desire for change but different in their approach in terms of how they engage the Hip Hop community. Jasir noted he has benefited greatly from both.

Paradise Gray  the Arkitech

Paradise Gray the Arkitech

Although we didn’t talk too much about him, it should be noted that Jasiri has a 3rd mentor who has helped him greatly over the years and has been with him at many of the gatherings with Harry Belafonte and is his partner in the 1 Hood organization they helped co-found. That individual is Paradise Gray who is founding member of the iconic group X-Clan and Blackwatch and a long time fixture within Hip Hop.

During our interview Jasiri X updated us on some key cases of police terrorism that he brought to light in his songs, including the vicious beating that took place in his native Pittsburgh, 3 years ago, of honor student Jordan Miles. He talked about some of the new strategies people are using to deal with this scourge of violence at the hands of police. He talked about how and why music and cultural expressions are important tools in our quest to fight back. Jasiri also talked about how two of his songs were banned from concerts and caused alot of controversy because they made police and others in power feel uncomfortable.

Jasiri X also spoke on the work he, Paradise Gray and educator Amil Cook are doing with their 1 Hood Media Academy. In recent months they’ve been doing an interview/mentor series where popular artists land activists like Pharaoh Monch, Jean Grae, Rhymefest, Rosa Clemente, Bakari Kitwanna and KRS-One to name a few have all stopped by and worked directly with the youth. In our interview we hear from the kids as they weigh in on their opinion around the recent NBA controversy with Donald Sterling..



Jeff Chang & Brian Komar:Culture Before Politics-Strong Advise for Progressives

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang and Brian Komar of the Center For American Progress teamed up for this new piece in The American Prospect, “Culture Before Politics”, making the case that progressives need to build the infrastructure to support cultural strategy and cultural organizing.


Here’s an excerpt:

On Nov. 3, progressives awoke to find that they had returned to 2004. Despite important legislative victories, Democrats had been outflanked. Republicans had successfully sold themselves as the party of economic growth, the party of the angry out-of-work American, and, most dissonantly, the party of change. They owned the narrative and won big.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In the dark days following George W. Bush’s re-election, frustrated progressives set out to build an enduring movement that would effectively advance and communicate their ideas, policies, and values. Funders and strategists created new institutions and scaled up existing ones, including think tanks, civic-engagement organizations, and media-watchdog groups. These institutions played a key role in the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, and the passage of parts of the Obama platform in 2009 and 2010.

Yet as progressives watched Democrats suffer the worst election loss since the Republican collapse of 1948, they seemed to be back where they started. Just as in 2004, many have blamed the losses on ineffective Democratic campaign messaging.

The problem, however, runs much deeper. Electoral and Beltway politics are episodic, short-term, and transactional. Movements, however, are long-term. “Public sentiment is everything,” Abraham Lincoln once said. “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” In other words, movements must change hearts and minds in an enduring way. They must change the culture.

Culture is the space in our national consciousness filled by music, books, sports, movies, theater, visual arts, and media. It is the realm of ideas, images, and stories — the narrative in which we are immersed every day. It is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change.

Cultural change is often the dress rehearsal for political change. Or put in another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred.

Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Major League Baseball debut preceded Brown v. Board of Education by seven years. Ellen DeGeneres’ coming-out on her TV sitcom preceded the first favorable court ruling on same-sex marriage by eight years. Until progressives make culture an integral and intentional part of their theory of change, they will not be able to compete effectively against conservatives…

Read the entire piece here.


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