Skip to comments.Brother Ali reflects on his arrest & involvement in Occupy Homes movement(White Muslim rapper)
Posted on 06/24/2012 3:10:43 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Hip-hop artist Brother Ali has never been one to shy away from social justice causes. But his participation in last night's Occupy Homes protest and subsequent arrest are by far his boldest political statements to date.
I called up Brother Ali this morning to learn more about where he was coming from last night. As is common practice with Ali, we touched on far more than just what happened over the past 24 hours; the conversation quickly evolved into a deeper meditation on our current cultural climate.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of our 30-minute conversation.
Local Current: I am excited to talk to you about this because everything Ive heard so far was second-hand, and Im really interested in hearing your perspective. My first question for you is why now? What happened yesterday and last night that led you to make the decision to be arrested?
Brother Ali: Well, I mean, I think the way I kind of got to this point was that Ive always been really involved in community and have always taken a really spiritual approach. Im a spiritual person, a religious person. And the community that Im involved with -- the Muslim community in north Minneapolis -- is very engaged, very involved in the community and was really happy about the work that was going on.
I started realizing that community was trying to advocate for people. To say, OK, we love the fact that we see certain people all the time, but why are the same people constantly in need of food? How do we get to a place where people are able to live dignified lives? How do we get them the resources? How do we actually empower these people rather than just feed 'em and feel good about it? That kind of forced me into thinking about politics and, you know, the way that power is used for good and for bad. I was one of the people that was really vocal for Barack Obama in his first election, and I think that I was that way because Keith Ellison is such a dear friend, and I saw the reality that people do -- there are rare cases of people getting into politics because they want to help change things from the inside, and I saw Keith do that. And he's continuing to do that, and I'm really proud of the work that he's doing.
And then watching what didn't happen [laughs] with our president with his first term not only the things that didn't happen, but the things that did happen, honestly the expansion of the wars, and the expansion of executive power to arrest people and kill people. It's very troubling to me. It really put me in a place -- and I think it put a lot of us in a place, if we werent there already -- where we realized that people should come together and act. The power right now is really in the hands of the elite people and their corporate structure, the banking industry. That's where the real power is in our society. We are in a corporate state where the political world and the social life and everything is really at the mercy of big business. And the only way that I can see to really counteract that, or to really at least resist and try to maintain some level of dignity, is for common people to work together. And demand it in intelligent ways and dignified, classy ways and non-violent ways and really loving ways that highlight our likeness and our unity. Its a unified situation of the common people across the board, so Occupy was really exciting to me. I went to Occupy. Loved the sentiment. Loved the idea. I was kinda like everybody else, was like, OK this could turn into something, but it needs to turn into it before I could really get excited.
Minneapolis was the first city where [Occupy Homes happened]. A woman named Monique White, who was in foreclosure unjustly -- this was a woman who made payments on her home faithfully for 10 years, had a job, did everything right. She worked in a program helping kids. They lost their funding, and she lost her job. It took her two months to get back on her feet and resumed making her payments. But the bank sent her payments back, and told her, Theres nothing you can do. Were not going to meet with you. She never got a meeting face-to-face until Occupy stepped in, and what Occupy Homes is doing is just bringing pressure to bear on the bank and on the authorities to postpone things, to spotlight the situation, and pressure the bank to sit down with the homeowner and come to a solution that allows them to keep making their payments. Were not asking for free homes. These people arent trying to get a handout. To sit down with the person, negotiate, and keep families in homes, and keep money going these people are paying off their homes. So that was a victory.
We have a crisis a foreclosure crisis, an epidemic in this country, not because millions of Americans just got lazy or just became bad financial money managers or something like that. This is an epidemic because of predatory lending, because of the economy that were in, because of deregulations of banks, because of banks doing these tricky deals where they give out all these bad loans, and then they sell the loans to different people. They get people to call the loans solid when theyre not. Sell them. Other people invest in them. And then they make money betting against their own loans. They make money on the interest that they charge, and they make money when they seize the house, and they sell it again. This is something that these banks have done.
And so common people sticking with our neighbors is when victory happens. Monique won her house. An elder white brother marine fought in Vietnam, and the community came together, he won his home. A Native American woman just the day before yesterday, the bank called her, the president of her bank called her, and said Im sorry. Were going to renegotiate with you. Were going to accept your payments. Please tell these Occupy people to stop calling and stop talking bad about us.
And she said, OK, as soon as the renegotiation is signed, the calls will stop and the pressure will stop.
So what do you think the act of getting arrested can contribute to this?
This particular case, the Cruz family on 40th and Cedar -- this is particularly interesting because they didnt even miss a payment. There was some sort of glitch with the online payment that they made and the payment didnt get processed properly. So whether that was a computer error or someone made an error at the bank is unknown. But that one payment is what started the foreclosure process on them. And what were seeing is that the banks this problem started in communities of color. Its become a national epidemic, but for 15 years, weve been hearing about and talking about predatory lending in black and brown communities specifically. And theyve been targeted because the idea is that society doesnt care as much about black and brown people. Society isnt going to stand with the family the Cruz family because some of the members of the family may not have all the [loan modification] documents that they are trying to get yet. But the reality is that they bought a home. Theyre college students. Theyre working. Theyre contributing to society. Theyre important parts of our community, so the bank came in and the Minneapolis Police Department has spent tens of thousands of dollars evicting this family from their home. This a bank that's in Pittsburgh, this is PNC bank.
So what happened was the Cruz family with some of the organizers went to Pittsburgh to try and have a meeting with the bank. They went to the bank yesterday morning in Pittsburgh with the help of Occupy Pittsburg and Occupy Philadelphia, and they said "We want to sit down with somebody important, a decision maker at this bank, look at my paperwork, look at this case, and look into my eyes and tell me that you are evicting me from my home. And if you can do that, we will walk away."
But, they wouldn't even meet with them. They scheduled a meeting and they had a PR person come and say "There is nothing we can do."
And so what happened was, we were ready to go in 18 different cities across the country in solidarity with this one family in Minneapolis. To say, if you won't even give them the respect and show them the dignity of even sitting down at a table with this family to hear what's really going on, then we will have a national day of action. And that's what we did. And so there were actions in, like I said, 18 cities. In Minneapolis right there at the home, 13 of us made the decision to take the arrest. Our voices have been in this for a long time. And all we have is our voices, our bodies. And so we made that sacrifice to make that statement of solidarity, that we are not going to sit quietly while these institutions destroy our communities, our neighborhoods.
So we're standing up for our communities, we are standing up for each other, we're standing up for our neighbors. It's a very grassroots thing. There's no big money coming from anywhere. Nobody has appropriated this. This movement isn't attached to any of the political parties. The thing about this is that these are common people organizing, working together, to bring that power of collective grassroots action.
This is the real thing. Im not just going to jump in with anything because I dont need to. I dont have to. And honestly? I have difficulty traveling. My Uncle Sam Goddamn song -- I was contacted and had to register with the Department of Homeland Security. Im monitored or at least have been at one point or another. You know, with the arrests -- and who know if there will be charges or not, we all go to court together in July -- but theres a potential for this to put some strain and extra challenges for us to travel. Canada is really tough. We tour Europe and we tour Australia and we toured Asia. I traveled in the Middle East. So these are real sacrifices were making and I wouldnt do this if I didnt think that this is the type of action that weve been wanting to see. Im really excited about it, really honored to be a part of it. Our protest yesterday was very calm. Very friendly. Between the protesters and the police was very friendly. I was the first one to get arrested, last one they let out.
We have a video up on the blog of you getting arrested. It is almost eerie how quiet and calm everything is.
Yeah! You know, I didnt need to make a speech. Its pretty public how I feel about stuff, you know? [laughs] I figured the statement of actually being arrested was the biggest statement to make. There were about 50 cops in front of the house. It was actually a female officer who took me into custody. And you know, it was very polite and very friendly. And then I got around to the back and there were about 50 more back there cops and paddy wagons and all kind of equipment just in case. They were prepared for it to be bad, but our intentions were to make a peaceful statement. So I got around to the back and said, Aaawwww whyd you arrest the famous guys first? And they were kinda teasing me: You sacrifice yourself for the cause, huh? And I said Yeah and you guys are just doing your job, right? Youre protecting us right? Youre just protecting and serving, right? And it was kind of a sarcastic moment. And I said, You know, honestly? Everybodys back there ready to protest. Honestly we know you guys are out here doing your job and were doing what we feel is right. And so theres no reason for this to be ugly. Theres no reason for this to be venomous in any way. Youre doing what you feel you have to do. Were doing what we feel we have to do. Lets all just do our job.
And its very different being in jail when the police know theres 100 people outside the jail. There was 100 people outside and they stayed out there until they released me. They didnt release me until 1:30 a.m.
I was there for part of that, actually. I was there until about midnight.
Nice. Nice. Yeah they stayed out there. Those brothers and sisters stayed out there until 1:30. Until I got out.
Making a lot of noise, too..
Yeah! And it was very different. So in that sense, you know if youre just picked up and youre just some lady or some guy on the street, who knows how theyll treat you? But the fact that they knew that all of us were in there together and that somebody was outside keeping track of everything -- we got a certain kind of treatment. I mean, we were in the general holding tank with everybody else. It wasnt like we were segregated or anything like that. But it definitely was a lot of politeness on their part. They clearly were doing their job. And we were doing ours.
It sounds like a very human experience. One thing that I was really struck by when I was talking to one of the Occupy workers, Ben Egerman, he said he was really impressed with how you had been participating in these events. Youre not just coming in as an artist and saying Im a celebrity, Im using my celebrity to make a statement, youre approaching it as a citizen.
Yeah. I think our whole approach to the way we make music and the way we present ourselves [is that] were underground, independent artists. We dont have a huge media machine behind us. And so anything that we present that isnt sincere is going to be rejected. So I wouldnt have said anything publicly about this stuff unless I was ready. Im really trying to be involved and trying to participate. I would say guys like Ben and Anthony Newby and Nick Espinosa, they are in a situation to dedicate their lives, their day-to-day lives to organizing and to making sure that things are thought out and strategic and classy, and that the message is very clear. Were here to stand with these people, but lets make it about the people were standing with. Lets not make it about ourselves. We all have different issues that bring us to this. Racial justice is whats close to my heart, but that made me focus on dignity for all people, seeing people being robbed of their dignity or that attempt being made along racial lines is what made me have to really focus on human dignity. Every person deserves to live with a certain amount of human dignity.
Were really realizing that were all together and the focus and the priority is for human beings to be valued again. For human beings to say that you dont need to have a certain identity to qualify for full dignity and full respect, that basic dignity is a human right, and that were going to keep track of human dignity on a group level. Man. Its such an amazing time were living in.
certain identity to qualify for full dignity and full respect, that basic dignity is a human right.
It seems that all this is expected without having to do anything but breathe and if you dont give it to me I will take it
What a total bunch of socialist BS.
The problem is that Brother Ali was arrested last night and out today.
Keep this turd for a month and put him to picking up trash on the Capitol beltway, he won’t be back so quick.
Did he pay his bail in dinars, rials or Obamabucks?
> certain identity to qualify for full dignity and full
> respect, that basic dignity is a human right.
I tell my children all the time.
* Respect is EARNED.
* Trust is GAINED.
* Dignity is SELF-RESPECT, not “self-esteem”.
“because of banks doing these tricky deals where they give out all these bad loans”
Ignorance is bliss.
These “tricky” loans were instigated way back, by ACORN and their then “attorney” B. Obama. The practice was then made into law by then president B.J. Clinton, at the behest of the whining, crying activists J.Jackson and A.Sharpton, et al. This is where the whole real estate collapse got its momentum.
Victims of Lawful Plunder
Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter by peaceful or revolutionary means into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.
Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws! Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.
It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears, for everyone to suffer a cruel retribution some for their evilness, and some for their lack of understanding.
The Results of Legal Plunder
It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.
Socialism Is Legal Plunder
Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law their own weapon. And when once the law is on the side of socialism, how can it be used against socialism? For when plunder is abetted by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes, and your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help.
Italicized quotes from "The Law" Frederic Bastiat 1801-1850
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