Having My Kumbaya Moment
Written by Stephanie Renee on January 18, 2015
“You’re quite hostile!” “I got a right to be hostile, man. My people have been persecuted!”
Those lines, sampled in Public Enemy’s song “Prophets of Rage,” are one of the most notable quotables from what many call The Golden Era of Hiphop. So much honest emotion conveyed in just a few words, and a rare power dynamic acknowledgement among the racial and social classes. White man recognizes Black man’s emotion, with some level of surprise and disdain. Black man responds, taking ownership of both the anger and the root cause. We have a hard time looking each other in the eyes and engaging in genuine dialogue under much more pleasant circumstances, so those lines are a beautiful example of how real we could be with one another, if we have the will and the gumption.
In this moment of heightened social protest and unrest, the anger of the oppressed is tangible, and in some cases, seething. The sum total of daily aggressions surrounding our skin color, our hair texture, our poverty, and our lack of proper education, combined with the senseless deaths endured in our community and at the hand of law enforcement, have propelled Black folks into a consistent state of dissatisfaction and mid-level rage. Justified? Sure. Sustainable? Absolutely not. Who can, or wants to, live every waking moment in a slow simmering state of distrust, blame and disgust?
Last Friday night at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, WURD was on-hand to welcome people to a celebration of the exhibit opening for REPRESENT, a collection noting PMA’s 200 years of African American art in its permanent collection. To kick things off, there was an old school hiphop and R&B dance party held in the Museum’s main atrium. And whether the compelling convener for this event was a love of art, a love of music, a love to dance or just wanting to be in a happening social space, the party was packed with the full spectrum of Philadelphia residents. And they were jamming!
It may seem like a stretch to compare this party to the message declared in nearly all of Dr. King’s famous speeches, but I felt it. Will dancing together solve public policy failings on violence and poverty? No. But once I’ve partied joyously with you, it’s much more difficult to ignore empathizing with you when I next see you struggling and in pain. And in a much more practical sense, I would rather party with you than fight with you. So if I can create more instances where we come together in an atmosphere of harmony and love, that energy can and should ripple out into other aspects of discord in our lives. Staying angry in our separate silos solves nothing.
When Dr. King compelled a generation to base every march, every demand, every protest, every outcry in love, did we truly get it? When will Black folks be willing to lay our burdens down, even as we remain relentless about fighting for justice for all? I will link arms with you and raise my voice against injustice, but then I expect to see you on the dance floor later. It’s a both/and proposition.