Motivation and Mission (Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder)
by Jasiri X
This year, I spent Valentine’s Day with the parents of Trayvon Martin at the Day of Remembrance for their murdered son. It was both painful and powerful to hear his family not only speak about their loss, but also encourage us to get involved in the movement that was borne from their tremendous sacrifice. Being with his family made the news of the Justice Department’s decision to not press charges against George Zimmerman even more heartbreaking. Despite Zimmerman’s history of racial profiling, identifying an innocent Trayvon as someone “up to no good,” his outright ignoring of instructions from the dispatch not to follow Trayvon, and his previous and current criminal history, they decided to let him get away with murder.
On March 1st, in Los Angeles, another disturbing video emerged of the LAPD shooting and killing a homeless man. The day before, another Black man was killed by police in the St Louis area. The autopsy of 17 year old Jessica Hernandez, who was killed by Denver police officers, was released and directly contradicts the officer’s account of what happened. Additionally, the city of Cleveland actually had the audacity to blame 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was playing across the street from his home before he was shot seconds after the Cleveland police arrived at the scene, for his own death. I guess he should have given himself first aid as well. Will the families of these victims receive justice for their loved ones, or will they suffer the same fate as Trayvon’s family? How may more injustices can we take?
I started writing the song, “Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder” right before the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. Unfortunately, I believed all along that this system would not indict him because it’s a broken system. After the non-indictment of the officer who choked Eric Garner to death on camera, I feel this song became even more relevant. Unarmed people of color are being killed by police officers wholesale and their deaths are being ruled as homicides; however, no one is being held accountable. Why are we being killed by those in authority at such an alarming rate? Why are we being criminalized in death like we are the killers and not the victims? Why are the perpetrators of these crimes allowed to get away with murder?
I knew I wanted to make a song that could serve as an anthem in the current political climate. I have been incredibly inspired by the movements that have been happening in the streets, malls, and college campuses all over the country. Young people of all races, genders, cultures, sexual orientation and religious denomination have organized, raised their voices and risked imprisonment to demand a change in this unjust system. Led by the heroism of the people of Ferguson who faced down tanks, tear gas, and machine guns to get justice for their murdered brother and friend Mike Brown, protests have continued almost non stop since August.
Visiting Ferguson changed my life. The resilience of the community was astounding. Plus, I was able to witness first hand the strong-arm tactics of the police and state troopers who chose to antagonize the community instead of allowing them to grieve. I remember talking to the father of a newborn, who had to wrap his daughter in wet towels and place her in the bathtub to prevent her from being harmed by tear gas that had seeped into their home. But still he was out on the block, fighting back and exercising his first amendment rights as an American, even though the right to a peaceful assembly was taken away from the people of Ferguson.
As an artist I believe I have a responsibility to raise my voice, whether it’s to call out an injustice or to support the youth of my generation who are risking their lives to make a change. This is what Harry Belafonte has taught me. Almost every time I have been in his presence he quotes the legendary artist/activist Paul Robeson, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” I want to loudly state my dissatisfaction with our current injustice system and proudly state that we are ready, we are coming, and we will make a change or die trying.
Justice should be a human right. But what happens when a group is continually denied it? What happens when cries for justice go unanswered? The fact that police officers, security guards, and vigilantes can murder unarmed people of color in this country and go unpunished is a very serious problem with grave implications. Almost every day (every 28 hours) a new story emerges of police brutality and violence. How then are we supposed to feel safe calling the police? Why would we have faith in a system that so routinely fails us?
“Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder” is a call to abolish the troubling pattern of black and brown men, women, and children being killed by the police, often under suspicious circumstances. “Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder” is a demand from oppressed people emphatically stating that our lives matter too! If America is ever going to the be the place of freedom, justice, and equality for everybody, we have a lot of work that needs to be done. Not now but right now.
A new millennium leader leveraging the transformative power of Hip-Hop, Social Media and Technology into a new brand of social change, Jasiri performs worldwide, delivers keynote addresses and speaks on scholarly panels. Jasiri has worked in underserved communities as a mentor, educator and community leader. He is a founding member of the anti-violence community organization, 1Hood. After garnering over 1.5 million YouTube views for his conscious elevating Hip-Hop, Jasiri felt that it was imperative to provide training for young people in new forms of digital media, empowering them to change their own communities and to tell their own, often maligned and marginalized stories. In 2011, Jasiri founded 1Hood Media Academy in Pittsburgh, where he leads a team of educators and artists in teaching young people media literacy, photography, videography, music production, creative lyricism, entrepreneurship, journalism and other 21st century skills. Jasiri X is a new millennium Civil Rights Activist working closely with his mentor, Harry Belafonte to address social ills of today’s society. Jasiri is poised to lead a global generation in changing Hip Hop’s bad rap (rep) by staying true to his artistic intention – FREEING MINDS ONE RHYME AT A TIME.