2017 Create Change Fellow Makeba “KEEBS” Rainey is one of our 2017 Create Change featured guest writers on The LP’s Spin Cycle blog this year:
Rest In Peace Mike Brown
May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014
Last year I hosted a monthly discussion series at the Art Church of West Philadelphia called Rap for Life. The description of the event reads, “Rap for Life is a meditative music and discourse experience concerning the effects of Mass Incarceration on poor, Black, and Brown bodies in Philadelphia. Rap for Life provides a space for emotional release, community building, and healing.” For the month of June we shared our personal accounts of “Black Lives Matter;” what the phrase meant to each of us individually, and why it resonated so much. This is where my journey with BLM Philly begins…with a community art project.
To prepare for the discussion, I asked various artists to answer the prompt and the quotes shared below are a result of this community writing exercise:
At the most recent BLM Philly meeting in July, I facilitated a meditative exercise based on the Rap for Life discussion. I asked folks to remember where they were when they first heard the words, “Black Lives Matter,” and what sort of feelings were brought up at the time. I also asked them to envision what Black Liberation looks like. Social media (and media in general) played a major role in how they heard about Black Lives Matter. It was usually in response to an unarmed black person being murdered by the police. It is interesting that a reactionary phrase is the basis for such a revolutionary movement. It goes to show how oppression sort of forces the oppressed to alter their reality through creative action, community building, and self-determination. I asked folks to envision Black Liberation because the movement for Black Liberation cannot be successful if we don’t know or have an idea about what it is to be liberated.
The connection that I made between the two exercises is that media is super important to spread consciousness among people. It is also important in community building and activating individuals on a global scale. With social media and other outlets, we are able to control the narrative and/or push back against popular media. I see this most apparent in the film Whose Streets, which sourced footage from residents and activists in Ferguson after the Mike Brown shooting. The found footage was juxtaposed against newsreels that focused on looting and violence caused by a crazy mob. What was exposed from the people’s video footage was that the police incited the destruction of property by barricading people, shooting rubber bullets and smoke bombs, and most importantly killing an unarmed Black youth and leaving him in the street for hours.
At the end of the film, a familiar quote from the Declaration of Independence is shown in the screen. The quote reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”