“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds” — Redemption Song-Bob Marley
Back in the day, members of my generation proudly sported our “Warning Educated Black Man” T-shirts while pumpin’ Ice Cube’s “AmeriKKKa’ s Most Wanted” in our rides.” During that period we were clear that this country’s biggest fear was an army of militant minded Brotha and Sista Souljah’s waging an all out war against the lies of Western Civilization that kept us bound in the chains of mental slavery. Unfortunately, that era ended abruptly following the LA Rebellion of 1992 and was purposely replaced by a corporate sponsored gangsta dynasty where ignorance was not only bliss but a Hip Hop cultural norm. However, in post Baltimore Rebellion America the days of the pro-black T-shirts might just be making a comeback.
Recently, Georgia college student Eric Sheppard was arrested following a month long manhunt by the Feds. Last April, Sheppard made headlines by stepping on The Stars and Stripes during a college protest. An arrest warrant was issued for the student because the police found a gun inside a book bag that allegedly belonged to him. However, many African Americans feel that Sheppard’s real crime , as a 21 year old black man, was having more on his mind than the NBA Finals, rap music and strip clubs. Especially, in a country having nightmares over the possibility of politically conscious street gangs uniting for a common cause .
Yeah, America’s biggest fear has been realized. The “Intelligent Thugs” that they buried two decades ago have suddenly risen from their graves.
The fear of black intelligence stretches back centuries in this country. One must remember that until the late 19th century it was illegal to teach black folk to read. And while much attention is paid towards the brutality of the slave revolts headed by people such as the Reverend Nat Turner, many of the rebels were highly intelligent. As early as 1830, David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World caused so much fear among white slave owners that a $10,000 bounty was placed on Walker’s head.
Also, although many people focus on the “burn baby burn” slogans of the 60’s and early 70’s, it must be understood that the members of the Black Power Movement were bookworms. Kwame Ture, the man credited for popularizing the term “Black Power” was a Howard University graduate. Malcolm X was able to debate some of the best scholars in the world courtesy of a jailhouse education. And even though people like to focus on the guns that the Black Panther Party carried, it was the mind of Huey P Newton that people feared the most as he was able to intellectually navigate between the streets and college campuses.
So, today tragic events from the Trayvon Martin murder to the murder of Freddie Gray have many young people embracing some of the teachings that my generation used to talk about in campus student unions and in the back of dusty little black bookstores. However, where we had to wait weeks for a new book by Del Jones or a Steve Cokely cassette tape to arrive at the Know Bookstore, these kids have total, unrestricted, immediate access via the Internet to all types of information. So, the same political education that took us weeks to study can be learned by a Baltimore gang member during a cross town bus ride via an iPhone and Beats by Dre headphones.
Although, some may think this is just another Hip Hop inspired fad (as many accused the “conscious Hip Hop /Fight the Power Era “ of being) , times have changed.
Unlike the LA Rebellions of 23 years ago, the most recent uprisings did not have a Hip Hop soundtrack. There was no inflammatory song that the media could pinpoint for inspiring the riots. It can be further argued that the rapper commentators who appeared on CNN were not the “voices of the streets” as they were a decade ago, but now were only being used to calm the fears of white America.
Also, if you read the manifesto, that was allegedly written by Eric Sheppard, instead of rap lyrics you will see shout outs to African centered scholars such as Dr. Khallid Muhammad and Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, whose entire catalogs can be easily accessed on Youtube.
So, although talking headz like Sean Hannity and Anderson Cooper may consider the Eric Sheppards of the world fringe elements and the media may write his manifesto off as a “publicity stunt” so their middle class white audiences can sleep at night, the reality is for every Freddie Gray that dies an Eric Sheppard is born.
Maybe the gangs coming together in B-More is a sign of changing times. What if they put down the guns and decide to form a political coalition after watching an Amos Wilson video on Youtube? Or what if instead of selling drugs they decide to open legit businesses after listening to a Dr. Claude Anderson podcast ?
Perhaps the years of us telling these kids that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” and “Knowledge is Power” were not wasted after all.
Maybe, all they really needed, to borrow from rapper, Young Jeezy was some intelligent “Thug Motivation.”
Min. Paul Scott represents the Messianic Afrikan Nation. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @truthminista