Today marks the 52nd anniversary of one of the darkest days in this nation’s history.
On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis Tennesee. As the world remembers this icon, we are currently experiencing a very different kind of challenge with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic than King would have ever imagined. While it would seem that this universal challenge would have people turn in it has not. It has also afforded the most bigoted amongst us to peek their ugly heads up to insert racist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist language like never before.
King is often reduced to just a dreamer. But he was more than that. He was a unifier and also a man that believed in the economic development and empowerment of poor people. Believing that the first step to achieving this is by coming together in times of crisis, pulling your resources and gifts together to ease through the struggle ahead of you.
He didn’t live through SARS-CoV-2. He did not have to use a mask to cover his face, worry about death if he hung out with his friends. But he did see the thousands of American bodies being brought back from the Vietnam war. He did tap into the entertainers around him to inspire the movement.
It is scary and ugly now, but Dr. King’s legacy reminds us that we can get through it.
All is not lost. Just look at how Hip-Hop has moved to gather people through our Instagram concerts, battles, and parties. D-Nice uses his Club Quarantine sets to raise awareness for medical professionals, COVID-19 victims and just settling the restlessness of fear throughout the music-loving world. He is not the only one. DJ Ron G held it down on The Source’s IG page with an influx of celebrities and music fans. Questlove has opened is heart-tirelessly to inspire with his sets. Kid Capri has made us have flashback after flashback. DJ Jon Quick pushes a daily dose of AfroBeats. Bev Bond and Reborn rep for the ladies, Kwame is doing an interesting mix of concerts, parties and old school Saturday morning cartoons and Mad Skillz is doing style clashes in his set. An almost 24 hr. cycle of scheduled jams, the DJs have been putting it down.
Battle Rappers are coming together to find ways to empower each other with online battles. URL, RBE, and the Hood of Brothers have pushed forward new ideas to show ingenuity around the art of battling, a sport centered around the response of the crowd.
Then you have the DJs out of the Atlanta University Center network of HBCUs, putting their heads together in an act of unity, to recreate a virtual Block party for the four schools: Spelman, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse and Morris Brown. DJs donated their time performing hour-long sets: DJ Mars, Tron, LV, Trauma, Doc, Battle, and Braxx made many forget that they were sheltering in and danced like crazy in their quarantined rooms. The idea of Unity was what Dr. King fought for when he was yet a student under Dr. Robert Brisbane at Morehouse in the mid-forties.
Then musical icons have paired up to really display unity through fake musical competitions: Neyo vs. Johnta Austin, Scott Storch vs. Mannie Fresh, Timbaland vs. Swizz Beatz, Lil Jon vs. T-Pain and Teddy Riley vs. Babyface.
So how is this in any way a remembrance of Dr. King and his legacy. King died so that people of color and poor people can have upward mobility, equity in commerce, resources and the quality of life. He pushed hard for people to see decency and value in each other— with the hope that those people would then harken to each other in times of trouble with support and uplift.
Has Hip-Hop not done that in these awful times?
King said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ” Hip-Hop remembers this and uses this to bring light out of this time of fear.