Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free Weezy? Free Boosie? Free Yayo? Stop the Movement

Before I start, let me preface everything by saying that Black and Brown men disproportionately fill our jail cells. I know full well how our young men are unfairly targeted but I'm here to provide context on something that's bugged me for years.

The Free (Insert Rapper) Movement. It's a shame because this trend started nobly but it devolved into supporting any rapper facing charges, mostly because of their stupidity. But it's part of a bigger problem where people become victims in a situation with no acknowledgement of their role in the situation.

I remember when I first took it seriously. Free Pimp C - when 1/2 of UGK was locked up, Bun B wanted to keep his partner's name alive. But if I recall, Pimp's case was going for parole so the timing of it wasn't as reckless as others we hear.

The first time I heard it was for Tony Yayo back when 50 Cent first started out. He wanted to free his original G-Unit mate and it became a joke we'd all say but not take it seriously as a movement.

But now every rapper that gets arrested, everyone's like Free "So-and-So". Never mind the fact they weren't caught on trumped up charges but arrested for their own negligence. I was a harsh critic of T.I. trying to buy an armory of guns before the BET Awards knowing he was a felon (but turned a 180 when i saw his contrition and commitment to helping kids do better) and I was harsher on Lil Wayne for his gun charges (as a sports fan, he should've learned from Plaxico Burress' situation and the Draconian NY gun laws).

It's as if every rapper is some political prisoner. And it's not just rap - see how everyone tried to justify R. Kelly's troubles and actually prayed he'd be acquitted despite blatant evidence. It's mixed up priorities like Huey said on Boondocks.

Some do it because they are fans of the music. But as fans, do we let our love of the music lead to blind support. I've ridden hard for Lupe Fiasco but I don't condone what he did at the Hip Hop Honors forgetting Phife's verse. You can be a fan of Wayne but by saying Free Weezy, you're ignoring what he did to get in jail. I believe R. Kelly is a musical genius but I can't condone his actions toward underage girls and I've boycotted his music as a result of his acquittal.

You know the eye of the law is looking at you more closely so why put yourself in worse situations that could lead to trouble. It's the same with young people and Black/Brown men - you know the target is on your back, don't give someone a reason to aim.

I'm not gonna advocate to free a rapper who put himself in a position to be arrested by being stupid. If we don't do it for athletes who do the same, why do it for rappers.

I'm also not going to sit here and say I wasn't guilty of doing it before. Back in 2003, I went to a Christian camp and wrote Free Kobe on my Lakers hat in support of his rape allegations/trial. I was 18 and felt strongly that the girl was lying. I realize now that I was stupid - I should've said Kobe Didn't Do It because Kobe was a free man able to walk around and play during his hearing. Plus as a counselor, I could've caused some problems to distract from why we were there.

If you say Free "Insert Rapper", you're giving them a pass for being illegal. Regardless if you're upset with them going to jail, ask yourself if what they did was so harmless. Wayne - gun charge. T.I. - buying firearms. Lil Boosie - drug/gun possession and violating probation (the murder charge I can't speak on and hope it's not true)

It's no better than supporting the Stop Snitching Movement. And it also cheapens people who deserve to be freed for far nobler or more legit reasons.

Back in the 1960's, civil rights activists were jailed for not breaking a crime, but speaking out against the status quo and marching. Several Black Panthers were jailed on trumped up charges based on informants as part of the COINTELPRO program.

Former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt spent 25 years in jail before his innocence was proven. Angela Davis had her own "Free Angela Davis" campaign in the 1970's as she was charged with murder (later acquitted). Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail as a freedom fighter. Mumia Abu-Jamal sits on death row despite maintaining his innocence on a shooting in Philly.

In 2007, the Jena 6 were unfairly charged with murder initially after beating a fellow classmate who suffered non-threatening injuries. Free the Jena 6 was a rallying cry and one of the proudest moments of my career to see support for injustice.

Last year, Laura Ling and Euna Lee were journalists jailed in Korea and sentenced for an extreme 12 years for attempting to shed light on human smuggling despite barely spending a minute on N. Korean soil. We rallied for their freedom and they got it in August.

I'll give you a personal example. One of my best friends growing up was convicted of burglary in 2003-04. He had fallen in with the wrong crowd and as a result got mixed up. He was sentenced to 3 years - we didn't appeal, we didn't cry injustice, but we felt terrible that he was going away. Yet, we knew that his journey would lead him into trouble (a big reason my Dad warned me to watch myself around him in our teen years).

So while you cry "Free Weezy", how about you save those cries for prisoners who have been falsely imprisoned or given extreme punishment for their crimes. Hip-hop is under fire but don't give people ammo by keeping the street life up. Not only do you make hip hop look bad but you make us people of color look bad supporting ignorance.

If anything I hope they come out of jail trying to do better.

1 comment: