Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitudes
Despite being a White middle-class teenage skater punk, I was hip to the Black Nationalist cause. Even before I had heard of Malcolm the Tenth, I wanted true justice for the oppressed dark-skinned folks that I often saw shuffling about in my city’s housing projects. I even fashioned myself a nifty red, green, and yellow African pendant in my junior high shop class. I attribute the awakening of my latent African-American consciousness to the prophets of rage – Public Enemy.
My crash-course introduction to Chuck D, Flavor-Flav, Terminator X, and Professor Griff was in the form of the ground-breaking 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. That record provided me with the authentic story of the Afro-American experience, effectively obliterating the lies I had been force-fed in my (His)tory textbooks.
The U.S. government doesn’t want the people (especially Black folks) knowing about Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, The Honorable Elijah Muhammed, Louis Farrakhan (NOI), H. Rap Brown, Eldridge Clever, Bobby Seale, or Nat Turner. These cats represent a clear and present danger to the Establishment (White oppressors). By excising their stories (and just causes) from the historical record, they seek to politically lobotomize future generations of liberation-oriented truth soldiers.
Public Enemy came correct on the political tip like no other rap recording artist had done before. They railed on J. Edgar’s Hoover’s FBI shenanigans (wiretapping MLK), modern day Black slavery (the U.S. penal system), and the media empire’s soul-corruption campaign designed to destroy the Black female (She Watch Channel Zero?!). It took years for me to fully absorb all of the messages PE was throwing at me back in the 80’s, but the slow digestion allowed for a greater understanding of the African-American’s long struggle in slave-land America (1619-2008).
I saw Public Enemy in a concert during their “Nations of Millions” tour in ’88 or ’89. Although I was one little salt speck in a sea of pepper brotherhood, there was a communal spirit in the air. For years the Black Panther Party (and the Black Nationalist movement in general) had been maligned as a violent band of gangster thugs who were desperate to murder the entire White race and rape all they bitches. That was just another one of the many White Devil’s lies.
The Weathermen, and offshoots of the Students for a Democratic Society, worked with the Black Nationalists to usher in the Age of Aquarius, usually preferring non-violent means. The U.S. government continues to perpetuate a knee-jerk response of fear and panic when a strong Black man or woman (i.e., Angela Davis, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth) steps up to challenge their lies, abuses, and racist arrogance. It is the government that should fear the people, especially those who have been intentionally targeted for physical and mental slavery. The Revolution will not be You-Tubed bitches!
I have uploaded two of my favorite Public Enemy songs for your viewing and listening pleasure. For the uninitiated, both of these artistic masterpieces succinctly encapsulate the PE experience.
The first track is Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. This rap is about a Black man who refused to fight the White oppressor’s war, and consequently, was thrown in a jail cell. The intro to the track has a Bull Conner-esque bastard ordering the protagonist to “get in that cell nigger”. That sample is from one of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs, “Living for the City“. In “Black Steel”, the hero recounts his escape from the White Devil’s cage and motivates his people to join the liberation cause.
Here a few choice lyrics:
I got a letter from the government
The other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckers
They wanted me for their army or whatever
Picture me given’ a damn I said never
To understand my demands
I gave a warnin’ – I wanted the governor, y’all
And plus the warden to know
That I was innocent –
Because I’m militant
Posing a threat, you bet it’s fuckin’ up the government
My plan said I had to get out and break north
Just like with Oliver’s* neck I had to get off
* Oliver North pleaded the 5th Amendment’s right against self-incrimination in order to protect the Ronald “Raygun” political machine from being jailed for war crimes. Ollie brokered a deal with Manuel Noriega providing that the U.S. government would import Panamanian cocaine into the country if Manny used his goons to kill Sandinistas in Nicaragua. This agreement jump-started the crack cocaine epidemic in the 80’s that intentionally brutalized the Black community in many American cities.
“Party For Your Right to Fight” details the Black Nationalist struggle in the 60’s. There was a time where I was afraid of the content of this message, but not anymore. (His)tory almost managed to brainwash me, but I have successfully rejected the government’s manacles of fear and false panic.
Power equality and we’re out to get it, I know some of you ain’t wit’ it
This party started right in ’66, With a pro Black radical mix
Then at the hour of twelve, Some force cut the power and emerged from hell
It was your so called government that made this occur
Like the grafted devils they were
J. Edgar Hoover and he coulda’ proved to ya’, He had King and X set up
Also the party with Newton, Cleaver and Seale he ended, so get up
Time to get em back ( You got it )
Get back on the track ( You got it )
Word from the honorable Elijah Muhammed
Know who you are to be Black
To those that disagree it causes static for the original Black Asiatic man
Cream of the earth and was here first
And some devils prevent this from being known
But you check out the books they own
Even Masons they know it but refuse to show it, yo
But it’s proven and fact
And it takes a nation of millions to hold us back
I think governments are the cancer of civilization ~ Chuck D.