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The Street Scriptures

The Street Scriptures

The vast majority of blacks across inner-cities find themselves born into violent, poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and everybody is struggling to make it out. Kids die young; crying mothers watch in horror as the carcasses of their dead sons, deformed by bullet holes, are hauled off. The face of desperation is illustrated on the face of disenfranchised youth who look to crime as the only way to have what others are given at birth: food, clothing, and shelter. Many don’t expect to live past eighteen years old. They live a life of brutality and profound misery; in the wealthiest nation on earth, they live in utter poverty. Hip-hop emerged within these impoverished social conditions and reveals vividly the plight facing these youth. Nas remarks, “Street scriptures for lost souls in the crossroads.” His one-time rival Jay-Z remarks, ”Never read the Qur’an or Islamic Scriptures, only Psalms I read was on the arms of my niggas.” In these oppressed neighborhoods, the music often conveys both the conditions of the people and the morals which come from the laws of the streets, not religious textbooks.

The album Illmatic served as a street scripture. Coming out in the year 1994, it combined profound lyricism with great vocabulary, a nasty flow, and stories conveying the realities of the streets. In “Represent,” Nas spits, ”Straight up shit is real and any day could be your last in the jungle. Get murdered on a humble, guns blast, niggas tumble. The corners is the hot spot, full of mad criminals… who don’t care, guzzling beers, we all stare.” The line, ”Anyday could be your last in the jungle” refers to the low life expectancy in the hood -many youth don’t see themselves living past 21. .  Nas further illustrates this with the line,” like “crews without guns are goners” demonstrating how difficult it is to survive without resorting to violence.  In the neighborhoods, the drug economy serves as the main source of employment due to the lack of job opportunities.  The hood is called the jungle because of the bewildered, sporadic nature of life there – gun fire, police brutality, and fist fights can occur at any time. There is no source of stability. “Guns blast, niggas tumble” refers to the dead bodies piling up from the various street conflicts. “The corners the hot spot, full of mad criminals who don’t care” is, of course, describing the mentality of the youth on the corner that live with no source of social mobility, causing their source of consciousness and ethics to dissolve.They can’t survive holding onto morals, so they simply don’t care who their violence or behavior affects.

98188-stashIn the classic intro to Stillmatic, Nas spits, “Stepped over dope fiends. Walking out the door, all of us poor. I learned the difference between the snitches, the real ones, and whose soft and the murderous hungriest crews, people jumping from roofs, shotguns pumpin, made it through my youth.” The hood produces many dope fiends – addicts to heroin- many turn to drugs as a coping mechanism for the pain and anguish they face every day in the hood. “All of us poor” refers to the ubiquitous nature of poverty among black youth living in these neighborhoods. Nas proceeds to distinguish between the various personality types he witnessed in the hood from the “snitches” to “the real ones.” Snitches are informants to the police who report drug dealing and crime activity – these individuals are not liked in the hood because their actions often result in youth being victimized by the prison industrial complex or police brutality. “The real ones” refers to the full-time gangsters who truly embody the laws of the streets; despite what was said earlier about “those who don’t care,” within intra-gangs (or the hood in general), attributes such loyalty and bravery are often promoted. The murderous crews Nas speaks of refers to various gangs who have entered into the drug economy seeking to protect their territory via the barrel of a gun.

In “My Block,” Tupac Shakur further elaborates on the social conditions in the hood. He begins saying, ”On my block, it never fails to be gunshots. Can’t explain a mother’s pain when her son drops.” In these neighborhoods, gunshots are not a rarity, but rather something to be expected. Further, Tupac goes on to say, “No rest forever weary. My eyes stay teary for all the brothers I buried in the cemetery. Shit is scary how black on black crime is legendary, but sometimes necessary.” In such impoverished living arrangements, though black on black crime is recognized, youth are pitted together as their only way to survive. Tupac makes this point when he states, “God help me cause I’m starving, can’t get a job. So I resort to violent robberies, my life is hard.” The chorus of the song simply states, ”hard times is all I see,” which demonstrates the ubiquitous nature of struggle that they are in. Then Tupac makes a very profound statement: “From the Start, I felt the racism cause I’m dark.” Nas makes a similar statement: “It seems like the darker you are, the bigger your problems.”

Though they have no degree in sociology, no knowledge of the scientific studies conducted on the correlation of skin color to social The Third World Inside of America: A Critical Look at the Southside of Chicago PT 1standings, nor have they have read a paper on the still prevalent nature of institutionalized racism (even in the age of Obama), they are largely aware of racism in our society because they are the ones who endure it. Indeed, all of the abhorrent conditions described in the street scriptures above are not the result of innate moral defiance within the people, rather, they are created by the legacy of Jim Crow and on-going institutionalized racism. In this society, which creates conditions in which crime is the only way to survive, the young black’s access to social mobility is severely hampered. These street scriptures spread awareness of the on-going legacy of Jim Crow and the systematic structural violence affecting black youth. By calling attention to these narratives, we can challenge the erroneous notion that the end of legal racism and the end of Jim Crow laws led to the end of “institutionalized racism” or real material benefit in the lives of African-Americans.

Jay Electronica: Back to the Roots!

The roots of hip-hop trace back to impoverished African-American communities in New-York; economic deprivation, social ostracism, as well as jay344
police brutality directly influenced the hip-hop scene.  The golden age of Hip-Hop was replete with Islamic themes and imagery, perhaps, best highlight ed in the profound lyricism of Rakim, the militant spits of public enemy, and the Afrocentric themes of Brand Nubian. As Hip-Hop began to transition to more Mafia-oriented ‘gangsta-rap’ consisting of materialistic melodies, the socially conscious nature of hip-hop with provocative political commentary would began to fade.   However, we may be entering a new era of conscious rap signified by black consciousness and Islam, and revival initiated by an incredibly talented Jay Electronica!

 

electornicaJay Electronica describes himself as growing up in a crime ridden, drug infested, New Orleans Community that consisted of “fighting, shootin’ dice, smoking weed on the corners trying to find the meaning of life in a Corona.” Finding this alcohol-oriented life empty, along his journey of life, he turned to Islam. Now at the top of the Rap game with his sharp unrivaled lyricism, Electronica can only relented “Alhamdulillah, it’s strictly by faith that we made it this far,” using the Arabic phrase to express his praise to God for having overcome so much adversities.

 

Islam in Black America has always led to social discipline, righteousness, and improving ones life.  The leader of the Nation of Islam, The fruitofislam43Honorable Elijah Muhammad instructed black men concerning their wives,” “Stop them from using unclean language in public (and at home), from smoking and drug addiction habits.” Malcolm X, a once  drug-dealer to clean Muslim, proclaimed,”Gambling! You don’t find it around Muslims. Profanity!  You don’t find it around Muslims.”  It is due to this, that many criticized Electronica  for misrepresenting the Fruit of Islam by his performance which included frequent swear words.  This led to  the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, issuing a letter  in which he ask,” Has any of us who have accepted Islam and its required high degree of moral excellence and civilization ever said or done anything that is less than representative of what we believe?”  He calls for mercy and compassion over the ordeal  and for brothers to reconcile with each other to recognize that all humans have shortcomings.

 

naselecontricaIt was one profound  influence of Electronica’s,  Nas, who on the controversially titled,”Nigger Album” proclaimed,”They did not have the power to stop Louis Farrakhan.”  Rather than using the profanity by Electronica as a point of attack, one should heed Louis Farrakhan’s emphasis on compassion, indeed Electronica’s performance  and other Islamically theme raps, conveys much about the state of Black America. On Nas’ most recent album, “Life Is Good,” the socially conscious rapper Nas spits:“New-York Is Like and Island, The cops be out wilding, all I hear is sirens. It’s all about surviving. Try to stay alive when they be out robbing. I been out rhyming since born knowledge. Like prophet Muhammad said the ink from a scholar. Worth more than the blood of a martyr. So I’mma, keep it on ’til I see a billion dollars.”

 

nasprojecctwidowsIn the ghettoes of America, the situation is chaotic and characterized by a lack of stability. The mentality that it breeds is one of pure survival. Dead Prez once stated, “Cops shot you just because you black, that’s war.” In the government sanctioned police war on black youth, many Afro-Americans from Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, to Eric Garner die as martyrs in the continuous police occupation of black ghetto neighborhoods. As a hip-hop artist then, Nas is significantly influenced by Prophetic Traditions emphasizing the importance of knowledge and scholarship.  For the hood, the hip-hop artists  are the organic intellectual who must convey the social plight of Black America.   As for Nas, since the Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him) taught that the ink of a scholar is worth more than the blood of a matyr, he would rather write socially conscious lyrics than die as a martyr in the continuous war against black youth.

 

naskingtutOn the Stillmatic Mixtape, Nas’ song, “H-To the HOMO,” a diss at his then rival Jay-Z who released the song ”H to the IZZO,” Nas tells a story in which he must prepare himself for war: “Loaded up shells, one by one, you smelled blunts from my room door.”  Nas is furious and prepared unleash his rage through the barrel of the gun: “Little Nasir was at war, Crew deep with a few heat, now it’s time we settle the score.” His lifestyle is marked by vengeance and violence, but just as Nas is about to carry a hit, an astonishing event occurs: “But in the projects, I envision Muhammad, in linen garments. Preaching Man, Woman, and Child, the living Prophet.” Nas has a vision of the Prophet Muhammad(Peace Be Upon him) who calls him to a higher level of existence beyond drugs, black on black crime, and senseless violence.

 

 

elcotnrica2222In contrast, Jay-Z, a once rival to Nas, stated, “Never read the Qur’an or Islamic scriptures. Only Psalms I read was on the arms of my niggas.” Growing up in the hood, Shawn Carter in the midst of drug dealing, gang violence, and other social mayhem that accompanies inner city life, was never able to read the divine scriptures. This is in contrast to Nas who is not only named after a verse in the Qur’an, but also frequently invokes Qur’anic themes in his socially conscious songs. Yet Jay-Z takes a stab at Nas, stating, “Cause the nigga wear a kufi, it don’t mean that he bright.” Kufis are worn by West African scholars of Islam; Nas often wears this attire when performing some of his socially conscious music; Jay-Z does not want fans to be fooled by his attire and seeks to cast Nas as inauthentic, raising the rhetorical question?

Is it “Oochie Wally Wally” or is it “One Mic” Is it “Black Girl Lost” or shorty owe you for ice?

nasgaveyoupowerJay-Z points out the multiple contradictions of Nas’ career highlighted in his music. In “Black Girl Lost,” Nas seeks to uplift black women who are involved in the street life, but in ‘Shorty Owe You” he objectifies black women. The selective quoting of Nas’ lyrics enabled Bill O’Reilly and Fox News to label Nas as an ignorant “gangsta rapper” responsible for violence in the black community, despite the fact that many of his tracks are uplifting. This theme of contradictions can also be found on the theological views promoted in his music. On the Illmatic album, Nas states: “God I don’t believe in none of that shit, your facts are backwards. Nas is a rebel of the street corner, Pulling a Tec out the dresser, police got me under pressure,” clearly expressing anti-religious views while running the streets. Yet, on another track, Nas tells a story of a song in which he is engaged in the midst of a shootout and states, “Started praying to Allah, Muhammad, the most beneficial through you all things as possible, I know your listening,” clearly calling upon God, and invoking the Prophet Muhammad(Peace be Upon Him)  during this troublesome moment of his life.

In “Black Zombies,” Nas states, “Bismillah al rahman al Rahim” and “ Islam’s a beautiful thing … helps us to bring peace against the darkness, whichfe871-nas2b22b32bhero5b15d is ungodly.” The beginning of this bar is the opening line of the first Surah in the Qur’an. Nas also begins his Stillmatic “Smokin’” song with the opening of the Qur’an but then proceeds to discuss smoking blunts and getting high with his friends.  How does one make sense of the blatant contradictions of Nas’ music? Sometimes commercial, other times politically conscious, sometimes anti-religious and other times Islamic themes? Political conscious rapper Immortal Technique sheds answers in his song which expresses solidarity with the third world,”I’m from where they lost the true meaning of the Qur’an cause heroin is not compatible with Islam. And niggas know that, but grow that poppy seed anyway cause that food drop parachute does not come every day.”  Immortal Technique notes that in many Muslim countries, poor inhabitants often sell narcotics despite the blatant contradiction with Islam.

immortaltechniqueIn “Black Zombies,” Nas states, “Bismillah al rahman al Rahim” and “ Islam’s a beautiful thing … helps us to bring peace against the darkness, which is ungodly.” The beginning of this bar is the opening line of the first Surah in the Qur’an. Nas also begins his Stillmatic “Smokin’” song with the opening of the Qur’an but then proceeds to discuss smoking blunts and getting high with his friends.  How does one make sense of the blatant contradictions of Nas’ music? Sometimes commercial, other times politically conscious, sometimes anti-religious and other times Islamic themes? Political conscious rapper Immortal Technique sheds answers in his song which expresses solidarity with the third world,”I’m from where they lost the true meaning of the Qur’an cause heroin is not compatible with Islam. And niggas know that, but grow that poppy seed anyway cause that food drop parachute does not come every day.”  Immortal Technique highlights that in many Muslim countries, poor inhabitants often sell narcotics despite the blatant contradiction with Islam.This is because their countries are so impoverished that narcotic selling is done from desperation.

Similarly for Nas and Electronica, they highlight a reality in the inner-city of black America, that the damage is even worse. Black people werejayz5percent separated from the Qur’anic revelation for so many years that Jay-Z in the streets has been unable to read it; despite Islam’s re-emergence demonstrated in the hip-hop scene, the prescribed way of life has not developed and often people struggle to live up to the Islamic way of life.  In his,”My World(Nas Salute),   track with Electronica, Jay-Z states,”Now I’m banging on Rumsfeld and bells ringing Him and Dick’ll be in hell singing.  Woe to the hypocrites and infidels screaming niggas can’t handle.”

Jay-Z, calls out Dick Cheney and Ronald Rumsfeld for their neglected of the black community borrowing a rhetorical device from the Qu’ran which in the English translation says,”Woe to every fault-finding, back biter..who sees himself above others because he has amassed wealth and counts it fruitthein greedy love for it.” This is a clear jab at U.S Politicians, who have longed neglected the black community and pursued imperialistic wars for wealth. Then,  the Brooklyn rapper demonstrates that since his The Dynasty: Roc La Familia days, he has now read the Qu’ran,”  “I can make a true believer outta curious dyke. She’ll be wearing hijab singing ahmaduillah”, bragging about his profound Dawah  skills.  Thus, despite struggles highlighted by the contradictory nature of Nas; criticism of Electronica for using profanity in a FOI uniform;, nonetheless,  the frequent Islamic themes in their songs, as well as even Jay-Z’s devotion to dawah  indicates that we may be entering a new era of hip-hop, in which, Hip-Hop revives   its Islamic roots.

———————————————-

 

“Indeed the human being is lost, except those who have faith, do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth, patience, and constancy. “ (Al-Asr)

I wonder if Heaven Got A Ghetto

heavengheto4African-Americans living under  secular capitalism largely live in ghettos deprived of genuine opportunities for social mobility, facing police brutality, enduring  the hard conditions produced by the drug economy, which is all too often the only employment opportunity for disenfranchised black youth. In the midst of such horrific social conditions, many youth long for a better life – free of the despair, misery, and structural violence that they have been forced to live with in America. In these marginalized areas of American society, many black youth do not know if they will live to 21 without facing lengthy prison sentences or dying from street violence.  Questioning the economic system of America, Tupac states:

“There’s no way that Michael Jackson or whoever Jackson should have a million thousand droople billion dollars heavenghetto1and then there’s people starving. There’s no way! There’s no way that these people should own planes and there people don’t have houses. Apartments. Shacks. Drawers. Pants! I know you’re rich. I know you got 40 billion dollars, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need ONE house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean why have 52 rooms and you know there’s somebody with no room?! It just don’t make sense to me. It don’t.”

thegameTupac Shakur embodied what Gramsci referred to as the ‘organic intellectual’ as he emerged from one of the most disenfranchised areas of America and produced poetry carrying political messages which articulated the  struggles of inner-city black youth. Enunciating the inner city struggle, Tupac states, ”My homies dying before they get to see they birthdays. These is the worst days. Sometimes it hurts to pray and even God turned his back on the ghetto youth. I know that ain’t the truth, sometimes I look for proof. I wonder if heaven got a ghetto.” In the midst of these appalling conditions in which peers die from bullet holes at an early age, Tupac conceives of an afterlife in which such social circumstances are no more  and ghetto youth are able to  live in peace. In ‘Thugs Mansion,’ a collaboration by Nas and Tupac, Tupac begins by stating that he’s, ”tired of getting shot at,”  and “tired of getting chased by the police” and then envisions a different utopian atmosphere.

Subsequently, Nas provides an ethnography of the streets, telling the story of a kid who was a master at robbing, annasbridge activity he was forced into through economic necessity. At 16 years old, he finished his jail sentences and, with no room for social mobility, he finds himself participating in the drug sector – in which he is pursued by the police, leading to his “asthma flaring.” Nas envisions that he can take this black youth out of his misery and bring him to the “thug’s mansion.” In the song, Tupac imagines sitting and dialoging with Malcolm X and Latasha, a black girl whose life was taken after a Korean store clerk mistakenly believed she was stealing. Miles Davis and Billie Holiday also join in on the conversation and Tupac calls upon us to ”think of all the people that you knew in the past that passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last.”

In a very introspective song made while his mother was in the hospital dying, the artist Nas asks:

 

“If heaven was a mile away, and you could ride by the gates

Would you try to run inside when it opens, would you try to die today?

Would you pray louder, finally believe in his power

Even if you couldn’t see him, but you could feel him, would you still doubt him?

How would you start acting? would you try to put the keys down?

Thinking every drug sale that you make in the streets, he can see now

Would a fiend even want to get high? would he stop smoking?

If he knew on his own two feet, he could just stroll in

To get away and escape from the craziness.”

aljahizIn this song, Nas raises a series of interesting questions; if heaven was a mile away and we were sure of its existence, would one try to do away with their bad habits and reform themselves, or would they carry on? Many black youth long to get away from the ‘craziness’ of ghetto life and the tumultuous lifestyle it leads to. The 9th century scholar Al-Jahiz raises a similar question as Nas; he writes:

“One of the things concealed from human beings is the duration of their lives. If someone knew his lifespan was short, he would never enjoy life while anticipating death. He would be like someone whose fortune is nearing exhaustion, fearfully awaiting poverty. The anxiety that afflicts a person losing his life is worse than that of losing his money since, if he loses his money he may regain some of it, but when he is certain that his life is ending, despair will seize him. If, on the other hand, a person were certain of leading a long life, he would indulge in pleasure and wrongdoing, calculating he could do this for as long as he liked, and then repent at the end of his life. God will not accept such an attitude.”

Nas contemplates the notion of how human behavior would be altered if they understood God was watching them – would they leave the drug trade? While a hustler can evade the police, they cannot evade god – and for Al-Jahiz, he reflects upon how human beings’ behavior would be altered if they knew what the duration of their lives was.  The socialist activist group Dead Prez once stated:

“What a nigga gonna eat when the refrigerator empty? Work all week let the bossman pimp me? Can’t pay no rent tupacmalcolmxtill the 15th. Landlord call the police to evict me.” These trials  and tribulations in the black community lead to Dead Prez stating, ”So much shit goes on it makes me doubt about a God — you know, makes me ask well if there is a God then why am I in the situation that I’m in?

” ”

 

 

The 9th century scholar Al-Jahiz answers:“Someone might object to the idea of Divine planning on another ground, namely: ‘How can there be planning, when we see both the mighty and weak in this world, the strong oppressing others and causing resentment, while the weak are oppressed and suffer in poor conditions?’  We find the righteous poor and afflicted and the wicked healthy and affluent, and people indulging in improper and unlawful behavior without being swiftly being punished. If there were design in this world one would expect that the righteous would thrive and the wicked be deprived; the strong would be prevented from oppressing the weak, and those who behave despicably would be punished soon. In answer to this we say, “if this were the case there would be no place for the trails of life by which people distinguish themselves, nor would they make the effort to do good and righteous deeds, seeking and trusting in God’s promised reward. They would sink to the status of beasts, ruled by the stick and the carrot alternately, to make them behave.”

Similarly, Tupac states, ”They didn’t make sense that God would put us in the ghetto. That means he wants us to lupefiasciowork hard to get up out of here. That means he’s testing us even more.“ Thinking about a “thugz mansion” or if heaven contains a ghetto really reveals the deep seated faith of disenfranchised youth have and their longing for a better society – which they don’t think can exist in this world. But as Lupe Fiascio pointed out, ”Just listening to Pac ain’t gon’ make it stop.” We must work to actively change and improve the condition of our society within this life.

—–

 

Al-Jahiz: Chance or creation

Ghetto Prisoners Rise!

In the slept-on track “Ghetto Prisoners,” the organic intellectual Nas asks a profound question: “Who’s to be praised? The mighty dollar — or almighty Allah?” This line from Nas provides an interesting ethnography into the structural system which creates the ghetto, an indict of the secular capitalistic system. Nas describes the “ghetto prisoners” as people who are “trapped in slums” and “headed for nothing but the state pen, where they cousin be waiting.” “The ghetto” is the uninhabitable zone in American society. It is the place that white mainstream society seeks to avoid at all cost, but when they do make this journey, it is seen as an exotic venture; to maintain safety, whites need a so-called “ghetto pass.”

 

Nas’ invocation of the ghetto prisoners echoes a similar line of thought from Malcolm X who stated, ”If your nasprojecctwidowsblack you’re born in jail. In the north as well as the south. Quit telling me about the south. As long as you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re south.”  Food deserts, police brutality, gang conflicts, and shootouts are some of the unique social situations within the ghetto that characterize the hood as a separate entity from mainstream, white-dominated American society. The reality is “the ghetto” replaced “plantation slavery” as the system by which blacks would be oppressed with their bodies turned into commodities; blacks were soon forced into labor via the prison industrial complex. According to Michelle Alexander in her book “The New Jim Crow,” she indicates:

“History reveals that the seeds of the new system of control were planted well before the end of the Civil Rights Movement. A new race-neutral language was developed for appealing to old racist sentiments, a language accompanied by a political movement that succeeded in putting the vast majority of blacks back in their place. Proponents of racial hierarchy found they could install a new racial caste system without violating law or the new limits of acceptable political discourse, by demanding ‘law and order’ rather than ‘segregation forever.’”

The political structures influenced by capitalism are all dedicated to the worship of money. The pursuit of money howcapitalismunderdevelopedblaamericais placed over and above ethics; brother Malcolm X once argued, ”If you show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a blood sucker.” Indeed, Manning Marable in his book titled ”How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” continues Walter Rodney’s analysis, concluding that racism is an integral part of the capitalist system. Within this system, materialism reigns in the black community and constant black-on-black violence is commonplace, as described in the classic Nas and AZ collaboration:

You wanna stick me, then put ya best to it

I’ll die black, we see you in Allah Kingdom you try that

In this song, Nas describes that because he is living in the hood, he must adopt a violent and aggressive posture for survival. He calls upon rivals to “stick him,” and Nas states he will die with his blackness. In another song, Nas describes pursuing various criminal pursuits until he has a vision of the Prophet Muhammad who inspires him to change his course of actions, stating, ”Little Nasir was at war. Crew deep with a few heat, now it’s time we settle the score…but in the projects, I vision Muhammad, in linen garments. Preaching man, woman, and child, the living Prophet.” The 18th century Islamic scholar and caliph Usman Dan Fodio, who lived in modern day Nigeria, had a similar experience, stating, “we are completely dissolved from devotion to Prophet Muhammad. How many straying in darkness have been guided by him?” Within these ghettos, hip-hop emerged as a counter-hegemonic art form to challenge power structures. Nas argues, ”Rap became a version of Malcolm and Martin.”  Dabashi writes:

“Islam for Malcolm X was an equally combative occasion, but as an infinitely more liberating, progressive, alive, tupacmalcolmxand living organism. In more than 200 years of encounter with colonial modernity, and literary hundreds of radical Muslim thinkers, no Muslim revolutionary comes even close to Malcolm X in the liberating, global, and visionary grasp of his faith and its place in facing the barefaced barbarity of economic and military world domination… If Islam does not have anything to say or to offer to these disenfranchised communities…   without asking them to convert to Islam, then it is nothing but the fatuous  faith of the Khaliji, Kuwaiti, and Saudi sheikhs having difficulty bending their overfed bellies when pretending to prostrate to pray, or else the rambling gibberish of Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar when replicating the American neocons in their advocacy of terror. There is another Islam unknown to those crooked bodies… the Islam of Malcolm X.”

Nas states, ”If we don’t get it controlled fast, might as well be, laughin’ with Malcolm X’s assassin as we die slow.” Malcolm X was at the forefront of black people’s fight for freedom and independence, yet he was violently assassinated; complacency and not struggling against these social situations is the equivalent of laughing and hanging out with the murderer of Malcolm X. With the prevalence of blacks dying from preventable diseases, the break-down of the black family, and increased poverty,-it is time to get control of this social situation. In one song, Nas does a psychoanalysis of the impact of white supremacy upon black people who are ”walking, talking, dead though we think we’re living.”  He continues:

“My niggaz is chillin, gettin high, relaxin
Envisionin, ownin shit, yo it can happen
What do we own? Not enough land, not enough homes
Not enough banks, to give a brother a loan
What do we own? The skin on our backs“

We need to revive the spirit of Malcolm X and begin to confront the social situation which leads to these ghetto prisoners.===

—————————–Islamic Liberation Theology: Resisting the Empire: Hamid Dabashi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness [Paperback]

Fox News on Chicago’s Gang Violence

Yet another Chicago youth has been brutally killed in Chicago’s streets. 18 year old, Joshua “JayLoud” Davis, who was friends with Lil Jojo (another brutally slain rapper) was gunned down Christmas day. At the time of his death, he was wearing a hoodie adorning the words “Jojo World” to commemorate his deceased friend—Lil Jojo[1]  Joshua’s family believes that members of a rival gang took offense to his sweater (Jojo routinely dissed The Black Disciples) and when he got off the bus they shot him down. When it comes to black on black violence in the inner-city, everyone wants to lecture black youth about our alleged lack of values and morals. Chicago has now reached over 500 homicides in 2012. Since Chicago has a Liberal mayor (Rahm Emanuel, a man I personally dislike), right-wingers have decided to use this appalling statistic and the horrific violence in Chicago in their talking points on gun-control. Fox News did a report in the South-Side of Chicago in which they sent their reporters to interview residents. The news reporter then discussed his time in the South-Side of Chicago with notorious racist Bill O’Reilly. The following is a transcript from that interview:[2]

O’REILLY: Now what are these gangs fighting about?

WATTERS:  It’s mostly drug gangs and they are fighting over smaller and smaller scraps because the economy is bad. And white people aren’t buying as many drugs now. So the profits are down. So they’re trying to fight over turf, property and respect.

Up until this point of the dialogue I took no issue with what was presented Bill O’Reilly, Watters and Fox News then decided to give their solution to Chicago’s gang violence stating that:

“…what they need to do is ‘the surge strategy’ like Iraq…”

Listen, sending the national guard or army to attack black youth in the South-Side of Chicago won’t stop the gang-violence because it does not address the root cause of the violence which, of course, is poverty as a result of institutionalized racism. You literally have groups of kids in some areas of the South-Side of Chicago occupying abandoned houses, all sleeping on floors with no parents, with an illegal drug economy being the only way to bring in money. These kids have absolutely nothing to lose.   In another news report in which CBS interviewed South-Side Chicago gang bangers, one of them had this to say:

“The police hate us. Every time they ride past us, they shoot us down and do all that. Do what you want to do, I don’t care about you all, keep riding. Who are you all? We’re not scared of you all. I’ll fight you too.” [3]

While Fox News has a reputation for its hard-core conservative views, in this interview they let a nugget slip out about the role that racism actually plays in causing Chicago’s gang violence. The Fox News reporter stated that:

“WATTERS: It’s out of control. I was safe though. I said, ‘Should I be scared?’ And they said, ‘We don’t shoot white people; you’re our biggest customer.’

 

O’REILLY: For drugs?

 

WATTERS: Yes.

 

Bill O’Reilly and Watters then let out a chuckle. I guess they were amused by the fact that these Chicago gang bangers don’t shoot white people yet this statement proves the role that economic deprivation has in escalating these gang conflicts.

The largest gangs in Chicago are the Gangsta Disciples and Black Disciples. These two gangs used to be part of a single entity known as “The Black Gangsta Disciples”. After the arrest and imprisonment of key leaders and numerous organizers the gangs split into “The Gangsta Disciples” and the “Black Gangsta Disciples” which eventually became just the “Black Disciples.”  Homicides in South-Side Chicago were always frequent, but since the arrest of key leaders who were crucial in gang’s organization (coupled with the economic recession), the violence has increased and gangs have splintered and formed various factions. Sometimes you will have people who belong to the same gang, yet belong to different factions, who will go to war with each other over drug territory. Initially the conflicts begin as a fight for drug territory, but the problems have only deepened over time. For example, the death of Jojo, who was well-loved and popular and a friend among various members of the Gangsta Disciples, escalated the conflict between the Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples. Gangsta Disciples sought to retaliate for his death and it led to an all-out war between the two gangs that was more than just a territorial dispute; rather, it was about retaliation.

All of these conflicts have their root in economic oppression; blacks have been systematically disempowered and have consistently lived in the most violent areas, not because we are “naturally” prone to committing crime or don’t work hard enough, but because of economic conditions that have been imposed on us by malicious outside forces. The obstacles that were, and still are, put in place, to halt black socioeconomic aspirations, has resulted in black youth acquiring detrimental social, economic, and political habits that are exemplified in the gangs that roam Chicago’s streets.

Chicago’s state-sanctioned racism produces “thugs” and systematically strips the morality from people, replacing it with a stone-cold belief system and demeanor that is seen as necessary to survive on these mean streets. Those in Chicago’s hoods live in such dire poverty that some cannot abide by any types of morals (moral beliefs such as ‘stealing/shooting is wrong’) in order to survive.

The origins of this violence all began in the early twentieth century when African-Americans that previously resided in the Klan-run south came to Chicago during the great migration, lured by the promises of jobs and political rights.[4]

When blacks first came to Chicago they competed with the Irish over a scarce labor and housing market. In 1919, racial animosity reached a boiling point when a white person hit a black child with a rock while he was swimming in Michigan Lake. The black child drowned to death, but the Chicago Police Department refused to arrest the white aggressor. Blacks led a peaceful protest demanding justice, and as a result of their efforts they were viciously attacked by white mob groups. The Chicago Police Department decided to arrest the peaceful African-American protestors. [5]

Despite this, whites then entered the predominately black area on the South-Side, terrorizing the black population through arsons and assaults. Nobody, not even children, were spared in the attacks. These white angels with exemplary morals even sought to enter a predominately black hospital to terrorize the black patients there.

Hundreds of African Americans, including women and children, were left homeless on the streets after fires demolished their homes in these senseless attacks.

Richard J. Daley was 17 years old at the time and one of the leaders of the Irish Hamburg Athletic Club that led this senseless attack on the black community. Instead of being punished for these clearly racist attacks, he was made Mayor of Chicago where he would continue to push and support racist legislation to disenfranchise the black community. Indeed, the white-ran Chicago housing authority from its inception worked to ensure that blacks lived in segregated neighborhoods.[6]

While blacks were portrayed as being “violent,” many times it was not the “delinquent” black youth attacking innocent peaceful white people but vice-versa. During this time blacks lived under increased threats of violence and fear from whites. Subsequently, blacks had no choice but to live in ghettos because of the terrorism inflicted by whites against those who dared to live on the outskirts of their state created locus. Around this time, as whites began to barbarically attack black neighborhoods more and more frequently, black male youth began to form groups in order to protect themselves.

They began to call themselves the “Black P Stone Rangers,” a group originally composed of impoverished black kids who protected themselves from white mob violence. Today, we know the Black P Stone Rangers as yet another gang who fights with both the Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples over drug territory. Their origins can directly be tied to white mob violence.

Also of significant note, the black community had attempted to take numerous steps to deal with gang-violence only to have their efforts interrupted by the government which further proves the government wants to keep blacks in social decay.  Fred Hampton,  leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, attempted to form an alliance with Chicago’s black street gangs to turn them into an activist organization. Instead of allowing this alliance to manifest, the FBI would instead forge letters between the two groups to breed hostility. The Chicago Police Department would eventually assassinate the Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. This alliance had the potential to unify black street gangs and end the violence that they were perpetrating against one another, but the government would not allow it to materialize.[7]

What we are witnessing today in the South-Side of Chicago is the aftermath of these violent attacks as well as systemic institutionalized racism cause by the capitalist system that governs us.

Today, gang violence continues to take the lives of black youth. It is absolutely ridiculous for right-wingers to use Chicago’s Gang Violence in their talking points on the failure of gun-control; a capitalist system, which right-wingers are the most vocal apologetics for,  is directly responsible for such violence in the first place.

 

1)Chicago Rapper JayLoud, Lil JoJo’s Best Friend Killed On Christmas

http://allhiphop.com/2012/12/26/chicago-rapper-jayloud-lil-jojos-best-friend-killed-on-christmas/

2)Fox’s Jesse Watters Investigates Chicago’s South Side: We Dont Shoot White People.

http://nation.foxnews.com/chicago-violence/2012/04/06/fox-s-jesse-watters-investigates-chicago-s-south-side-we-don-t-shoot-white-people

 

3) http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/27/killing-is-the-solution-gang-member-tells-walter-jacobson/

Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?id=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1

4)  Chicago Race Riot of 1919″.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-04.http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/110488/Chicago-Race-Riot-of-1919

5 Tuttle, William. Race Riot Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Urbana, IL; University of Illinois Press, 1970)

6) RACE NOT SPACE: A REVISIONIST HISTORY OFGANGS IN CHICAGO John M. Hagedorn* gangresearch.net/Archives/hagedorn/articles/racenotspace.pdf

7)The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.