COVID-19 came back in-season as we saw many citizens take laws that were some-what relaxed not so seriously; even though many peaceful protestors were wearing masks; now the streets are empty again. This is our time to reflect and discuss what has been happening in our country; in our communities and we hope here at UBO MAG and within the non-profit of Hip-Hop Congress that you can take something from the next few stories we post and hopefully we can start making some real changes when it comes to true equality, love of our fellow human beings and deep empathy that can only come from a place of care, compassion and love.
By Jhantu Randall
At the time of this article’s creation, the protests led by Black Lives Matter have been raging on for a few weeks. Unlike previous incarnations, however, this time it message and movement has spread worldwide as many other countries are embracing its mission statement and using it to address the systemic inequality that has been plaguing them for decades as well.
The normal talking points from the opposing side have been laid out in an almost predictable fashion but this time the momentum appears to be on the side of the collective rage that resides in the voices and chants of the unheard who line the streets almost nightly. This time, it feels different.
“I can’t breathe!” Those words first came to our attention in ‘14 when Eric Garner was choked to death on camera by the NYPD for the crime of selling loose cigarettes officially.
After that, a steady stream of black people were taken out by cops in a cycle that seemed to have no end in sight. Exhausted from seeing the death of Ahmed Arbery; a young man chased and gunned down by 2 vigilantes in Georgia for the crime of jogging in the wrong neighborhood, you could feel the anger swelling in those who have become too accustomed to this sort of action playing out.
Then, on May 25, ‘20, George Floyd was killed on camera in Minneapolis, Minnesota with impunity as officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The look on Chauvin’s face appeared blank yet drawing pleasure from Floyd’s screams of pain.
“Sir, I can’t breathe.” George Floyd pleaded, gasping for air.
Four additional cops stood by as Floyd’s nose began to bleed and his breath ceased; screaming for his mama as his last words. The phone-recorded video is forever engraved in the psyche of Americans and people all across the world. Typical politics followed from every side but George Floyd’s death seemed to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Immediately, Minnesota went up in flames as well as almost every metropolitan area around the country, if nothing else, one thing was clear. The people were pissed; they had finally had enough!
Through the public outcry, demands for the arrests of the officers responsible were starting to be heard. Soon, Derek Chauvin and the others involved were arrested leading to another volatile situation that had been bubbling up for quite some time. No one could avoid it any longer, the conversation about race and equality had forced its way to the forefront of the world as the people joined together to put the system under a microscope and show its truth while exposing the scars that it had left imprinted on so many for far too long. From this point, the atmosphere has been lively with protests, marches, riots, conversations and actual change although very incremental. Pandora’s Box has been opened and all the ghosts of the past have re-emerged to end the battles that had been suppressed for at least the last 40 years. In addition to the race issues, class, poverty, economics and overall inequality arose simultaneously.
What followed was the routine cycle of smearing the message, scaring the public and justifying more money for the upcoming budget year. Nevertheless, the narrative behind the marches and peaceful protests began to become lost. Drowned out by the passionate voices of the younger generations who, as they marched, used their rallies and outcries as a way to hold up a mirror to the face of the powerful for the first time.
The defensiveness of the other side spoke volumes as it had become clear that it was time to face the reality of a broken system. At this point I wish there were a clearer answer to where this is all leading but from what I can see, it feels like we’re actually at the crossroads. We can either choose to hold onto antiquated ideas from a bygone century that has long since passed or we can embrace what it was that made America Great, coming together, innovating and joining the rest of the world in the 21st century.
One thing is for certain, the movement for equality is only multiplying in momentum as the wave has reached numerous other countries. With energy like that propelling it there’s no telling where the path they’re creating will lead.
*Jhantu Randall is a regular staff writer for UBO MAG and a few other publications and currently lives in Tacoma, Washington. Learn more about him and his published work here (for example) and on his Social Media page! If you are interested in contributing to UBO MAG about this subject or any other subjects that pertain to music, art and culture please email us your query letter/story and/or your resume and up to three writing samples to firstname.lastname@example.org