“You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.”
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (1968), Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s no secret: I love talking about issues of identity. My two great loves at the moment seem to be race and gender. It’s fascinating stuff, and pop culture often provides us with a myriad of incidents to discuss. But lately, after spending a few months abroad, it seems I’ve become more and more aware that these -isms don’t only occur on the entertainment blogs – they’re happening right now, in our daily lives. It happens when some of us are asked where we come from and “California” isn’t a good enough response. It happens when people suggest that your “no” wasn’t clear enough. It happens when people try to label you instead of you defining yourself. This stuff happens. It’s happening in France, it happens in the States, and I’m positive it happens everywhere.
It happens. It happens and it builds up and it weighs on you and before you even realize it, it starts to hurt. So what do you do?
You scream. And shout. And let it all out.
(Literally, figuratively, whatever works for you)
But really, all will.i.am and Britney Spears collaborations aside, screaming is a form of expression. It indicates that something has happened. It indicates that you’re feeling something, and more often than not, that you need support. I’m finding that right now, with all that I’ve learned and encountered, I cherish these support groups and safe spaces a great deal.
However, as much as I enjoy my screaming, shouting, and let it all out-ing in support groups, there are moments when I wish I could have these conversations more openly, with more people. So I try to branch out. But, as expected, many people feel uncomfortable when discussing an issue that they themselves don’t identify with. Or, sometimes, when people don’t feel uncomfortable, there’s this deep-rooted sense of entitlement that makes it difficult to actually want to discuss anything.
So will we be able to hear people scream? And how will we respond? Are we going to listen to their experience? Or are we going to insist that we know better than the person who was injured?
Will the screams turn into shouts of empowerment? Will we faction off or unite? Will we fall into discord or harmony?
Given my neverending love of pop music, it should come as no surprise that I stay hopeful for the harmony. Creative works often help to bridge the gap, despite the fact that art and self-expression often end up twisted and commodified. In the case of hip-hop, we have an amazing medium for self-expression that often only gets a surface-level understanding from many mainstream consumers. But now’s not the time to pit the sub-genres against each other. Rather, let’s take a look/listen at some of my favorite works that promote some type of unity across identities, particularly with Asian/Asian American artists. And maybe after some listens, you can scream, shout, let it all out… and then make some music with others. It’s not all that fun to keep fighting with each other.
(All songs use profanity)
“Yuri Kochiyama” – Blue Scholars
The last one to hold him could have been somebody else / You’d still be remembered for the people that you helped / They said to keep trying, never losing hope / Revolutionaries die, but the revolution don’t / And it won’t
“Heart” – Rocky Rivera
Rocky tells us about some amazing women of color – Gabriela Silang, Angela Davis, and Dolores Huerta
“Moms” – Bambu
I wanna make us work / so I read Grace Lee Boggs and bell hooks’ work / but real shit, that practice so much harder than the theory / and when we get to fighting, I get to fighting the demon in me
Got any other works you’d recommend? Share in the comments below!