Revolution by the Book: The Rap Is Live

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9780962785436: Revolution by the Book: The Rap Is Live

Book by Jamil Al-Amin, Imam Jamil Al-Amin

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About the Author:

Brown, the youngest of three children, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. His father worked as a laborer for Esso Standard Oil; his mother taught children at an orphanage and also worked as a maid. As a youth, the 6'5" Brown was an excellent athlete, excelling in basketball and football. The name given to him by his parents was Hubert Geroid Brown. The street named him Rap. He had a scathing dexterity with the language, combining profound intellect with blunt coarseness. "We played the Dozens, like white folks play Scrabble...a mean game, where you try to totally destroy somebody else with words." Influenced by his readings of many writers committed to the struggle of Blacks for freedom, the nineteen year-old H. Rap Brown found the environment around Howard University in Washington, D.C. inspiring and motivating. He had attended Southern University for a while but spent summers with his brother who attended Howard, and by 1964, Brown had moved there and become politically involved in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael, SNCC, in 1966, rejected its earlier policy of nonviolence. It adopted a strong anti-white direction, dissuading whites from participating in the organization and disdaining their support. As chairman of SNCC, Carmichael criticized many of the tactics of the civil rights movement and demanded "Black Power" for his people. Brown's boldness and commitment were soon recognized by the SNCC leadership. He took on the political establishment with fearless verbal assaults that moved and inspired audiences. He helped break the spell which years of slavery and segregation had cast over the African-American masses who held white leaders in awe and reverence. In May 1967, at the age of 23, he was elected chairman of SNCC, succeeding Carmichael. Newsweek magazine described the new chairman as:

...a disenchanted ex-poverty worker who affects sunglasses indoors and out, a droopy mustache, a bushy "natural" coif and a curdled view of the white world...He preaches armed eye-for-an-eye self-defense for Negroes and packs a 12-gauge "cracker gun" in his own dusty Plymouth. A national figure, H. Rap Brown was in great demand as a speaker. In July 1967, he addressed a civil rights rally in Cambridge, Maryland, an Eastern shore town of approximately 13,000 people. Brown arrived late and a crowd had already gathered in the streets of the city's Black neighborhood, along with a contingent of police and National Guardsmen. Reportedly, Brown addressed the crowd in his usual fiery style. From the hood of a parked car, he stormed: "...take your violence to the honkies...You've got to get some guns...Burn and tear Cambridge down! If Cambridge doesn't come around, burn it down...Get yourselves some guns. This town is ready to explode...If you don't have guns, don't be here. You have to be prepared to die..." The aftermath: Pine Street Elementary School, along with two blocks of homes and businesses, went up in flames. Brown disappeared, some say concealed in a coffin and driven out of Cambridge in a hearse. Maryland State Police and the FBI issued warrants for his arrest. Two days later, he was arrested by FBI agents in Washington, D.C. and charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Three weeks later, the State of Maryland charged Brown with inciting to riot. Freed on $100,000 bond, Brown continued to speak boldly to the nation. In 1967, within hearing distance of the White House in Washington, D.C., he roared, "If you're going to loot, loot yourself a gun store. You got to arm yourself, brother." By 1968, much of SNCC's leadership had merged into the Black Panther Party, which had been organized in Oakland, California, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The Black Panthers supported th

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The struggle is an ongoing process. Many times, people mistakenly identify movement as struggle. Movement is only a phase of struggle. When the first slave rebelled against being a slave, he gave an alternative to slavery that has been built upon until now. That's struggle, and there have been many movements in the struggle -- the abolitionist movement, the antislavery movement, the civil rights movement, the free speech movement.

It means they come, they serve a purpose, and they go out. We grew to understand that it was a vehicle that moved people from one level of understanding to another level. The civil rights movement had to go out. It's ridiculous [in 1992] to try to re-live it; but, the struggle still goes on.

After I spoke, people were just milling around. A young lady who lived up towards Race Street, where a bunch of white policemen were, asked me to walk her home, because she was afraid to go by herself. Myself and two other people were walking her home, and some dudes opened fire on us with shotguns from the bushes. We found out later [the gunmen] were black policemen. I was hit. They were shooting at us a long time, and after I got hit, I dove to the ground, rolled over, and made my way over to a ditch and went into somebody's yard.

After the shooting, there was a lot of commotion, man. People went out in the street and just started tearing everything up, and a few hours later, they burned the school again...Two weeks before I came over and spoke, people had burned the Black elementary school, because it had been a rat-infested, roach-infested place. People were paying their tax dollars, and the students were forced to go to a school in that condition. It was terrible, man . . . conditions cause riots, not rhetoric.

[In the struggle], we were familiar with Islam in different ways, because there was a lot of conversation in the media . . . of [Malcolm X], his odyssey from early life to being a Muslim when he died; he was a visible image and I'm sure his conversion to true Islam had an impact on many different people. It made me look at [Islam] even more seriously than I would have . . . I began to ask myself, "in terms of what they are talking about, what's wrong with it? I couldn't find anything wrong . . . [It] caused me to investigate it even more, which required my becoming a Muslim.

It became evident that to accomplish the things we had talked about in the struggle, you would need a practice. Allah says He does not change the condition of people until they change that which is in themselves. That is what Islam does, and it points out right from wrong. It points out truth from falsehood. Allah has allowed me to understand that it is not race or color that is the issue. The only important thing is the word of Allah. Since Islam, I understand that truth is not relative. Truth is universal. There is no god but Allah. It is the truth on which the whole universe rests, and nothing changes that.

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