It was an honor to be standing at the edge of the stage last Saturday night, April 7, 2007, at the We the People Music Festival in Watts (www.wethepeoplefestival.com). Staring at the heads and eyes of all those young people of color coming together to celebrate the human voice by the thousands--with folks from all walks of life making the day possible--I was humbled to be greeted by such a lively response. As co-host of the event, and my good friend, Fidel Rodriguez handed me the microphone, I didn't know what I was going to say or how far to hold the heavy piece of steel from my lips. But as I spoke from my heart, words manifested the years of praying for the day when I could share my story with you, my community, friends and family, pueblito y patria, and I truly appreciated the warm welcome home. Gracias.
I am grateful for Fidel, a true brother in the struggle, who helped my family organize on my behalf while I was imprisoned. In 2004, he co-organized a screening of the first documentary to feature my story, Dreammakers (co-directed by Paloma Suau and Susan Koch), at his wife Sol's bookstore, Imix Books, in Eagle Rock (www.imixbooks.com). He then continued to be an active and vocal supporter of my cause during my last--and most troublesome--years in prison. While graciously standing in solidarity with me and my family, Fidel also provided us with a strong and keen spiritual mentorship, teaching us with his actions how to be smarter, healthier, better human beings. His friendship has eased my oftentimes difficult transition back to a society where, in the words of Eduardo Galeano, "Advertising enjoins everyone to consume, while the economy prohibits the vast majority of humanity from doing so." (See Upside Down, 25.) In other words, knowing him, and knowing that he is on my side, has made it much easier to adjust to a culture that I had long been extracted from. Thanks to him and to Devine Forces Media, I was able to share the stage with artists I have long respected--the RZA, GZA, DJ Muggs, Psycho Realm, X Clan, etc.--whose music I used to listen to before my incaraceration, when I was a kid.
It is important that we continue to support Fidel Rodriguez in his efforts to spread the messages of hope and healing in our communities. On top of being the host of the best underground hip hop show in L.A., Divine Forces Radio on KPFK-LA 90.7 FM, Fidel is a dedicated community organizer, teacher, spiritual mentor, martial arts facilitator, yogi, father, husband, and exponent of indigenous culture and knowledge. Visit www.divineforces.org to learn more about his many projects.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, many believe, for bravely exposing the illegal and inhumane wrongdoings of racist cops as a young radio journalist. Today he is an acclaimed author, radio commentator, and scholar, still speaking truth to power from Death Row, but imprisoned, with his fate in the hands of the state, nonetheless (www.mumia.org). Like Mumia, Fidel Rodriguez has become a "voice for the voiceless," walking shoulder to shoulder with others who are marching for a better future, and speaking out for those who are caught in the war on gangs, the war on youth. As keepers of the knowledge his voice brings let us continue to recognize and reward him for being, like Mumia, a true warrior for justice.
"Much love, brother!"
Keep the fire alive!
Gripping the ximalli with honor,