Author: Brennan E. Wells;
Yasiin Bey, more commonly known as Mos Def, published “Black on Both Sides” under Rawkus Records in 1999. This album was a verbal display of the Black love, showcasing the reach of music across the African diaspora. Building upon the previous works from artists past such as Rakim and Public Enemy. Yasiin Bey along with his contemporaries Busta Rhymes and Lupe Fiasco ushered in a continued era of politically conscious hip-hop. Artists that use their voices to speak to the struggle and plight of not only African Americans but Africans too, conveying the shared struggle we both face. These artists knew as we should too, that to be Afro-centric, pro-Black or for Black power, we must extend our love, reach, and advocacy across the Atlantic Ocean to our brothers and sisters in the struggle.
Throughout the history of African Americans in America, the tactics of dehumanization and the successful attempts of white slave “masters” to keep family formation from taking hold between Black women and men were part in parcel of the effort to institutionalize slavery. For example, lynchings that were common place, splitting up Black families by selling off the father or mother and/or the rape of Black woman all display the aforementioned tactics of dehumanization and prevention of family formation. By keeping the enslaved Blacks dependent upon the slave “master”, separate and apart from one another, unity was not a luxury enjoyed by the enslaved.
Chinua Achebe documents well the struggle of Africans in his tome, “Things Fall Apart“. Africans engaged in tribalism, ethnic conflict on the basis of culture or differing physical features, did not anticipate nor expect the arrival of the European. Upon arrival, many African rulers did not hesitate to send their African brethren to slave ships awaiting American shores. For one, many African rulers desired the weapons necessary to defeat their opponents. Hence, disunity and lack of kinship provided the labor force needed for America to thrive.
With a foothold in Africa the European did not leave, rather the European divided up the African continent for resources, plunder and any other need the mother colony was lacking at home.
By creating nations regardless of tribal affiliation, the ethnic conflict was sown into the African fabric. For evidence of this, one has to look no further than South Sudan that is on the brink of ethnic genocide within its borders and the long struggle Black South Africans face and still face to this day.
With the current political landscape; political corruption, drought and rampant violence in various African nations and state-sanctioned violence, consumer redlining, and gerrymandering in the United States there exists a large swath of issues for the Black and African.
To speak on criminal justice reform and not acknowledge South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia threating to leave the International Criminal Court is not pro-Black in any way. To speak to police killings of unarmed Black women and men in the United States and not utter a word on drone strikes in Somalia is not pro-Black. How can we harp on the need for better education for Blacks here in America while ignoring students activists in South Africa who are facing violence in their efforts to learn?
Just as hip-hop artists Yasiin Bey, Busta Rhymes, Lupe Fiasco, Rakim and Public Enemy have charted the path of connecting the struggle we face in America with our brethren abroad, we would failing in our efforts to be pro-Black in any form if we deny the activism that unites the struggles of the African with the Blacks here in America.