Head-Roc lives up to his name. He is a passionate, hard hitting, no-nonsense, rock solid kind of guy who is going to tell you straight. I was introduced to his work while attending a panel discussion about the experience of black men in America at a Democracy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin where I was presenting … Continued
Head-Roc lives up to his name. He is a passionate, hard hitting, no-nonsense, rock solid kind of guy who is going to tell you straight. I was introduced to his work while attending a panel discussion about the experience of black men in America at a Democracy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin where I was presenting for the “Earth Democracy” team and he was presenting in the “Racial Democracy” group. I wanted to hear what the panel thought about the recent Trayvon Martin case and “Stand Your Ground” legislation. And I wanted to hear what the brothers might have to say about the progress of racial democracy in America.
Head-Roc and four of his peers spoke about their experiences growing up as black men in America. There were differing opinions about Trayvon Martin’s case; Head-Roc shared a poem-in-progress about how it’s “not the hoodie; it’s the skin.” He spoke to a mostly white audience sharing how black parents must have “the talk” as a rite of passage for their adolescent sons. “The talk” that all black males must grow up with is not the birds and bees one, but a cautionary tale about police; it’s an “assume the position” conversation about not if, but when, you are stopped or questioned by police.
It goes something like… “answer ‘yes sir;’ do not get cocky; keep your hands where they can been seen at all times; do not reach for anything; do not move toward the officer; do not argue; do not sass…” It’s about all the ways to stay alive when stopped “walking while black, driving while black, being while black by police who are disproportionately—white. It’s not something a white family routinely discusses with its adolescents; that’s white privilege.
Head-Roc said “Don’t lose your hope and don’t be cynical; you play your part in your lifetime. You can’t undo 500 years of indoctrination overnight. The problem isn’t that black life doesn’t matter; it’s that life doesn’t matter.” He talked about the deliberate de-masculation of black men to diffuse their power and how the plight of black men reflects the plight of the planet as a whole. “When you treat people as property without human rights, you treat the planet as property and trample humans’ rights to it.”
The discussion held no bitterness, no blaming, and it was a conversation designed to inform and educate in a respectful and thought provoking breakout session. Educational disparity, job opportunities, living wage and housing issues have been long standing problems in urban predominately black communities and that comprised some of the discussion as well as how these community leaders solve their community problems. There was no whining, just a factual discussion of what is assumed and how little is really known about black people, what is going on in the country’s major cities, and the social and political concerns faced in the urban environment.
Wouldn’t you know, an older white gentleman in front of me raised his hand during the discussion while each panel member was weighing in. As directly but diplomatically as I have ever seen, Head-Roc informed this gentleman (and the room) that this was a perfect teachable moment. He asked why it was always so impossible to let ‘brothers’ talk uninterrupted when they had the floor. Without calling it “white privilege,” he illustrated it with a perfect example and a reasoned response. The savvy way that, and other stereotypical events were handled was impressive. It was a stunning lesson for those who got it including the gentleman in front of me. For the ones who indignantly left the room, not so much.
I liked his style and had to tell him so. We exchanged introductions and he gave me a CD of his latest campaign “Empower DC” and showed me some of his work as a writer, hip hop artist and activist. His work is an example of alternative education and how to change the world. ~ Barbara Kaufmann
The Voices Education Project offers tools, philosophies, and learning methods that will help young people understand the roots of conflict and the trauma of war, confront the pain and fear at the heart of conflict, and help to build healthy human communities in the wake of war. We use the arts and education to transform the consciousness of young people, give teachers and students a way to explore the most important and terrifying issues of our day, and create a dialogue in which all voices can be heard, and all points of view included, without engendering fear, hatred, or anger.