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Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal/Prison Radio
"The Culture Wars "
1) 3:10 short essay Mp3
2) 3:46 long essay Mp3
THE CULTURE WARS
[Col. Writ. 3/20/05] Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
When I was a young Panther, one of the worst things
to be considered was a cultural nationalist. Members
of the Party used that term to deride their critics of
the Black nationalist movement, and to distinguish
themselves, called themselves revolutionary nationalists
(that is, until Huey P. Newton developed the idea of
'intercommunalism', of the emergence of communities
as bases for power, as, in an Empire, real nations
In recent years, I have increasingly thought about
the impact of culture, especially as to Black youth, and
those millions who consume Black youth art.
I have heard many young folks refer to 'hip hop
culture', as if it's a separate thing, that, like Athena from the head of Zeus, gave birth to itself.
I have seen and heard the roots of this music,
this branch of a deep-rooted African tree, like
the baobab, which gives rope, cloth, shelter,
food, and medicines.
All youth music upsets elders. The older
generation of most white Americans was weaned
on rock and roll, which their elders derided as
'jungle music'. My mother used to hear
the R&B that flourished in my youth, and call
Rap and hip-hop, like its older relatives,
gets criticized today by preachers and parents,
many of whom are themselves fans of the
genre's earliest days.
Yet, their criticisms, like that of their own
parents, fall on deaf ears. Kids, like kids of
almost every generation, have a rebel gene
within them; part of the human process of
Yet, this isn't just 'art for art's sake.' This
is art for the sake of corporate profit; to
build the profiles of record companies, and
to establish the logo of the hottest radio
What is lost in this fake gangsterism, is
young Black lives and young Black minds.
I am reminded of a young Black man I
met on Death Row recently. Fresh out of the
superheated projects of North Philly, the
brother was rapping about 'pimping' when he
got home. He wasn't rapping to anybody in
particular; for he was in a cage, alone. I
think he was trying to work out some rhymes,
and then commit them to memory as a hard
When I heard him I asked him why he
wanted to be a pimp. He answered that he
saw the old movie, "The Mack," and he
enjoyed what he saw. He thought the
movie accurately portrayed life in the
Black community during the 1970s. I
assured him that it did not; that the movie
was just a movie, not a real portrayal of
either that time, nor of pimping. He
seemed genuinely shocked. He didn't
know any better.
I told him that people in the community
looked down on pimps, for they had sisters,
nieces, aunts and mothers, and that anybody
who exploited women like that wasn't
cool, and in the part of North Philadelphia
that I grew up in, as well as California that
I lived in during the '70s, pimps would get
their asses beat.
He seemed surprised, and again asked,"Well, what about what I saw in 'The Mack?'
It wasn't like that?"
I explained that it was just a movie, a form
of entertainment; nothing more.
What is now projected as popular in the
music world is just that; entertainment.
It ain't history. It doesn't tell the tiniest bit
about Black life in America.
It may claim to be about 'tha realness';
but it ain't real. It's a form of art: nothing
There are hundreds of varieties of spoken
word, and rap that will never be given a
record contract, because it won't sell. It
won't give them the return they want.
It's just as 'real'; it is just not heard.
Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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