What’s REALLY Going On (Reflection from TX Prisoner Kenneth Foster)

(My friend Kenneth Foster, who has spent the last 18 years in the TX prison system, much of it on death row, had the following response to the recent spate of police/vigilante killings of unarmed African Americans. Please share–and if you want to respond to Kenneth, leave a comment and I’ll make sure he gets it.

Jen Marlowe)

What’s REALLY going on ???

Sit tight! It’s going to be a minute.

I was asked by Jen Marlowe (activist and author of “I AM TROY DAVIS”) to write something about how I was feeling about all the stuff going on surrounding Mike Brown, Eric Garner (not to forget Tamir Rice and Aiyana Stanley-Jones). Seems being an 18 year veteran in Texas’ penal colonies got people thinking I always got something to say. Well, most times, I do! I’d like to think it’s an earned voice (see: August 30, 2007).

While I’m sure I’m having the same thoughts and feelings of anger, rage, revenge, disgust, frustration etc… as everyone else, I can’t help but to have a whole different feeling about what’s going on. All those feelings come back to the old saying- “When you point a finger, you got 3 pointing back at you”. I’m going to revisit an old topic. One that I’ve raised before, and time and time again it flew over people’s heads. Maybe now, in the face of all this gun fire, someone will finally say- “DAMN, he’s right!” and run with the friggin’ idea.

Everything that we are going through (“we” being Black people and people of color)- or shall I say enduring (because we can’t control what others do, though we can effect it)- comes down to ONE THING: US! No, not them (racist, capitalist, government agents or whatever you want to call them) because some of “us” is some of “them”. It’s that very fact of why it’s on us. It’s on us right now because we have every means to do something about all of the above yet we’re not. We’re “doing us” or doing this or that, but we’re not doing what we need to do to get “them” off our backs.

Every year we see a new movement birthed to address some issue- war, abortion, environment, animals, children in Nigeria, AIDS, cancer, prison, death row, LGBT rights, obesity etc…. And I’m going to say what I’ve been saying for countless of years- the movement to change the situation for Blacks in America is the HIP-HOP MOVEMENT! WAIT before you wave me off! Hear me out. I’m not speaking from the Bang Bang, make it rain in the club perspectives. I’m speaking from a straight FINANCIAL perspective, because who of us can deny that America is built around money and if you got money you can make things happen? I’m talking about strategical financial organizing that puts us in the middle of the business and causes us to change the business for our betterment. But, I’m disgusted with the “Hip-Hop” Movement as much as I am with Ferguson police, because disrespect is disrespect, neglect is neglect, no matter if it’s a police car or a Escalade on dubs! Rap (I’m going to say rap, and not Hip-Hop, because rap is just one-fourth of what Hip-Hop is about) is OUT OF CONTROL. It’s very sad to see how ignorant, or maybe indifferent, rappers are to the state of the Black Nation. This is coming from a guy who came into Hip-Hop in the “Gangsta Rap” era (NWA, Too Short, DJ Quick, E-40 and the Clic, Spice 1, Compton’s Most Wanted, Geto Boys, Above The Law, Street Military, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Ganksta Nip, Bro. Lynch Hung, C-Bo, South Central Cartel—some of these I’m willing to bet most youths listening to rap these days don’t even know). Some of you that DO know this music may say that those rappers are just as worse as the ones these days. But, I say you have to take in the time and the climate. One must also take into account the historical root to Hip-Hop and the vehicle it was at that time for those in the ghettos or those facing hard times. It was more than an artistic expression, it was a cry for social change. It was a lyrical grievance. Finally, there was a platform to reveal what America did not want known. Also, during this time, rappers became more educated to the business, began to procure better business deals and were then on the fast track to millions. From there corporate America played the game it has always played- adjust and advance. What was once our pain became our marketing tool. The struggle became commercialized, and we went for it. For those who could get it, got it, and said F the rest. I could say the same for the Black Power and Civil Rights Movements that turned the fire down after getting some token rewards. Where would we be- in both situations- if we hadn’t turned down the fire?

The FBI has calculated that from 2007 to 2012, white police have killed at least two Black men each and every week- roughly 500 deaths in all.

So, where am I going with all of this? To MONEY! MONEY changes everything in America, and our people aren’t using it for the greater good, greater upliftment of our people. Let me first throw something at you.

How many of you know who the Koch Brothers are? If you don’t know them, look them up. Oil barons worth $400 billion EACH! And they probably have more social crimes under their belt than all the Black street gangs put together. They’ve not only amassed millions of dollars in environmental violations, but once paid $296 million in a wrongful death suit (the largest in American legal history). One of their own brothers (Bill Koch) once referred to them as “the biggest crooks in the oil industry”.

Why do I bring them up? Because they are using their $800 billion fortune to change the face of America; And not into a face that me or you will probably like. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 elections and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans (The tea Party type). Koch-entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to back the Senate. Guess what? They’re getting it done!

What are we doing? While I applaud the genius of moguls like Puff Daddy, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Birdman, I’d like to ask why aren’t they doing things like the Koch Brothers to change the face of America? For us!? Many of our now Hip-Hop millionaires come from the ghetto, used to sell drugs, gang banged. They know what it’s like to face racial profiling, stop-n-frisk, driving while Black. So, this isn’t about “They owe us something”. I’m sure the Koch Brothers don’t owe any of the Republicans anything, but they’re down for them, they share their views and they want to see them on top. Why don’t ours take the same position? They act like they don’t know how to play the game. They’re square business with houses, cars, jewelry, drinks, but when it comes to the political process (the process that was once putting a foot on their neck) they don’t know what to do. The Koch Brothers know what to do. The system was designed with loops to allow ones to capitalize on its ideals and structures. We fail to take advantage of them. The Koch brothers don’t. For example: (quoting Rolling Stone Issue 1219) “The hub of the Koch network, Freedom Partners, is organized under the tax code as a chamber of commerce, making “dues” paid to the organization tax-deductible. In 2012, Freedom partners raised nearly $255 million. Tax benefits are not supposed to apply to funds used for political activity. It makes grants instead to a constellation of loyal political nonprofits…” Sounds like a bunch of money laundering to me. Because we fail to use the system to do such, and use the block instead, it’s called RICO, CCO/CCE, fraud for us. When they go through the political system it’s called non-profits and tax deductibles. Come on, people. We’ve got to get serious about this.

Check this-out the number of billionaires in the U.S has risen from 13 in 1982 to over 400 today. The typical American family has about $75 000 in net worth. A billion dollars is 13,000 times more than that. This means a billionaire can throw around $13,000 like we’d spend a dollar.

Let’s look at the top Hip-Hop millionaires. Somebody add up the annual revenue from the following artist and labels: Cash Money, Yung Money, Maybach, GOOD Music, Roc-a-fella, Bad Boy, 50 Cent, T.I., Jeezy, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa. Let’s not forget that Jay-Z and Beyonce are almost a BILLION dollar couple. Let’s not forget how Dr. Dre (and Jimmy Iovine) sold their headphone company (Beats Music) for $3 billion to Apple (the richest figure in Hip-Hop history). This puts Dre’s personal fortune to $800 Million (I haven’t even gotten to the R&B giants yet, but yes they are included).

The way that this registers is like this- millions upon millions of dollars bestow unimaginable powers to transform politics in this country. Republicans are vocal about bigger military, more police, border patrol; spy agencies. Sounds like things a lot of “our” type of people fight against. This is why people like the Koch brothers put so much money in the Republican party. We could be doing the same thing! Do we think that a few Twitter rants are going to do it? A couple of ESPN stories? A verse in a rap song? Look at ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His fortune is worth $25 billion. What kind of influence (with donations, ads etc…) do you think he’s gathering? I challenge all you moguls- that pumps the streets struggles for sale and soaks up the hood’s coins- Steve Stoute, L.A Reid, Berry Gordy, J. Prince of Rap-A-Lot Records, Master P of No Limit Records- to step up and take this to the next level. The long awaited one.

What would happen if all of those artists pooled their money together to do what the Koch brothers do? What could we do to laws such as Stand Your Ground? Mandatory Sentencing? Law of Parties? Three Strikes? Why don’t I hear anyone in society, in our hoods, in our culture pressing this? Do you think Mike, Eric and Trayvon listened to those artists, Bought concert tickets? Yeah, those artists don’t “owe” us anything, but they sure as hell could show more concern to what’s going on. All these athletes wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, coming out on the field with your hands up. All that’s Real! But, at the end of the day what is it doing? Why not get together with the rappers and get a political party going? And for the record, I’m not talking about putting all this money into the Democrats. They’re just the lesser of the two evils. I’m talking about creating NEW parties. People like us, with our interest. What’s the problem? Can anyone answer me that?

Before I close let me state this for the record. This is not a “Black” blog. This isn’t just for Blacks. And I don’t say that just because Eminem is one of the greatest MC’s to ever touch a mic. While Hip-Hop may have started in the streets of New York, it’s art. To some- religion. And you can now find it anywhere in the world: Russia, Africa, Middle East, UK, Paris, Rotterdam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, South America… and now, in the White House. We’re right there and don’t even know it.

Which of the artist mentioned in this article CD would Mike, Oscar, Eric, Trayvon be buying or downloading if they hadn’t been ruthlessly gunned down? While you’re paying lip service, sitting on your millions, think about it. And think about the Koch brothers. Get your head out of your platinum ass, Hip-Hop, and become who you’re supposed to be! What’s REALLY going on!?!?

(source: Socialist Worker Issue #773 for much of the statistical information).

Kenneth FOSTER


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One response to “What’s REALLY Going On (Reflection from TX Prisoner Kenneth Foster)

  1. Pingback: Towards justice, equality, and dignity | View from the donkey's saddle

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