regarding your gang

I was very impressed by the disarming clarity and frankly the compassion of this reflection by film maker, photographer and journalist, Brandon Hill.

To follow, I've shared some songs it brought to mind, which are less disarming but none the less honest.


"So when I was in eleventh grade. I got suspended from Male High School in Louisville, KY. It was Monday April 17th, 1999. I was subsequently kicked out of school at the end of the year.

It was the same week of the Columbine Shooting. The teacher that I had for homeroom and 1st period was named Mrs. Pasqual. She was an awful teacher who told me within my first week of school that she was going to make sure i failed. Why? I don't know. She never told me why. And my mother never cared to question if she was telling the truth.

During that year, I struggled through school. It was also the year I first began to read some of the most influential books of my young life. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The Browder Files by Anthony Browder. The Isis Papers by Francis Cress Welsing. And a few other books. At that time I was difficult to find books about the Black condition.

At the barbershop I saw a couple of grainy VHS tapes of Dick Gregory and Dr. Ben.

On my radio I kept Makaveli on repeat. Combined with De La Soul, Lauryn Hill, N.W.A, Scarface, and so many other artists.

In the school library, there were books about Abraham Lincoln and the "freeing of the slaves".

What I am saying is that when I was 16, I had began to be exposed to a number of influences that were radically from the canned education that I had received at Male High School. I had began to see that our condition in America is contrived. That both Blacks and Whites (my reference was limited at the time and didn't really include Latino/Asian/Native American) were under a system of oppression that dictated that we keep our mouths shut and just follow without questioning.

It was on April 17th, after four silent protests. In which I refused to stand up and got in trouble.
I stood up and refused to say anything or put my hand over my heart and I got in trouble.
I stood up, put my hand over my heart and refused to say anything and I got in trouble.
And on April 17th, before the pledge of allegiance even was spoken, I got a slip saying go down to the principals office.
I refused. The assistant principal named Mr. Alexander, a quiet, small Black man (one of only a couple of Black men who taught there or in administration) came to escort me to the office. And from there I was suspended for a week.

I didn't have support. I didn't have anyone to talk. It was the same week as the Columbine shooting on April 20th.

The school called the FBI in to go through my locker and ask about the teachers about me. What was submitted to the FBI was my papers to my English teacher about Abraham Lincoln.

What I am saying is this. Too often, the real education you get in life is not from school. It is outside of school. My education and experience of the time led me to the conclusion that this country was not built for the benefit of Black people and really not to the benefit of poor whites either. I protested against this system the best way I knew how at 16 which was to not stand for the Star Spangled Banner or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

And so I made a stand at the time. A weak stand. A compromised stand. A silent stand that really only mattered to me.

And for that I was beat down.

I was officially kicked out of school at the end of the year. I had to beg and basically grovel in order to graduate from that school that next year.

I promised that I would never beg again. I promised I would never allow my children to compromised either.

I support people who have an independent mind. I support
Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, The St. Louis Rams players who came on to the field with their hands up, and a whole bunch others.

If you are upset with me and others who feel the way they do about this country and its history, then you should feel like you have work to do in order to make the future of this country better."

~ Brandon Hill (2016)

This song "Tonz O Gunz" by Gangstarr, came to mind because of the Malcolm X quote used in the introduction. If the same sense nationalism, and the obligation to defend the nation were applied to the Black Nationality (the African diaspora) as is applied to the United States of America, the results would be problematic for the world as we know it. The other reason this song came to mind is because of Brandon's reference to Columbine.

This song, "America" by Nas, came to mind because of all the different America's that have existed within the geographic confines of North America. When I think about AMERICA the questionability and eventual acceptance of it's citizens that were once immigrant and outsiders, none have had a higher hurdle to cross than we of African descent. At one time the Jews, Italians and Irish were neither White nor American. Yet, by the fact that they were not BLACK, not AFRICAN, they were eventually able to pass as American and/or White in whatever order this occurs. The nature of the ex-slave's relationship to America has remained intact, thus its stomach turned for 8 years having to tolerate a president that looks like those it deemed 3/5th a human.

This one, "The Homeless" by Boogie Down Productions, because I've been feeling this way with fluctuating intensity since middle school ...
That feeling has really intensified in the last few years ...

This song, "I'm A African" by deadprez, because it is more conceptually sound and rational as an identifier of who I am...
We are told we are American and treated as if we are something else. Perhaps WE indeed ARE something else. OUR RIGHTS ARE CONCEPTUAL, because the nation itself is conceptual, thus if the conceivers left you out of the conception, maybe fighting to be included in the conception is not a wise ambition. Maybe you have to establish your OWN concept.


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