Op-Ed

The Police Are Cool, Totally Kidding They Are the Worst

Op Ed: Abolishing the criminal injustice system is the only way forward.

The following essay will be accompanied next week by an interview with a leader of the prison abolition movement.

One day, clouds clouding in the distance, I was at my parent's house looking through old photos. My first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh birthdays, all beautiful affairs, my family and I smiling, cake and colorfully wrapped presents, and then a sudden jump to my thirteenth birthday. Where had my twelfth birthday gone? Confused, I asked my mom.


She looked at me deeply, paused, and said "you know why you didn't have a twelfth birthday." She took a deep breath, time slowed, a small smile appeared on her face. "Fuck the pigs," she whispered gently. She raised her voice to a frightening war-cry like yell, a strong bass present in her normally soft tone, her melanin shining with the stunning glow of an Ethiopian anti-fascist fighter "Gang, gang, young nigga. West-side. All power to the people."

"The police in our community occupy our area- our community- as the foreign troops occupy territory. And the police, they are not to- in our community- are not to promote welfare or our security, our safety, but they are there to contain us, to brutalize us, to murder us because they have their orders to do so. Just as the soldiers in Vietnam have their orders to destroy the Vietnamese people. The police in our community couldn't possibly be there to protect our property because we own no property… so it's very apparent that the police in our community are not for our security, but the security of the business owners in the community and also to see that the status quo is kept in tact."

- Huey P. Newton

I been trying to write this article for a minute. It feels like I've been trying to write it since been, been.

My first real attempt at writing this article was last, last August. A piece connecting the 28th anniversary of N.W.A.'s track "Fuck Tha Police" and how the police and prisons are inherently oppressive and violent institutions, their main purpose being to control populations that demand justice and an end to exploitation.

I wrote, a lot, I didn't think it was any good. Anxiety and whatever else were tugging me to my depression naps. I wasn't able to get the point across. More police killings, more police getting off for those killings. The date came and went, data was compiled, essays and reports. August came and past, and it came and passed again.

Maybe a piece on how the police and prison industry have grown since the arrival of neoliberalism, deindustrialization and the rise of that racially tinged "tough on crime" rhetoric.

I, no matter how much I tried, couldn't articulate the points I wanted to make about prisons and the police and racism and capitalism in a thousand word article.

I could have written about how the police are useless and spectacularly fail at their job. How they rarely stop crime. How they show up one hour later with a gun, their fists, and pen to write a fabricated report. I could have written about how the police are spectacular at accomplishing their job, a job that isn't about stopping crime but protecting the wealth and power and privilege of elites.

I might have written that the main function of the police is to maintain racial, economic and gender hierarchies and to uphold the foundational unequal power relations that prop up our socio-economic order - white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.

I could have written about the obscene amounts of money spent on increasingly militarized police departments while folks in Flint, Michigan don't have access to clean drinking water. I could have written about the obscene amounts of money spent on imperialist wars that steal the lives of millions while folks don't have decent paying jobs. I'd probably have touched on how the United States is a police state that incarcerates more people than any country in the world. How this police state is an extension of slavery and Jim Crow and at times an auxiliary for the KKK.

I'd have written about the mythology built around the police as necessary and brave and patriotic and how these myths are disseminated through our schools and featured prominently in our favorite movies and television shows.

I told myself I'd write about how we need jobs, mental health services, education, opportunities, better infrastructure, love, understanding and an end to the insidious norms embedded within our country's vile institutions.

I wanted to write that we don't need trigger happy cops doped up on toxic masculinity occupying our neighborhoods.

I promised myself I'd write about how my views on police come not from hate and bitterness but from a deep feeling of love for humanity. How I want to see suffering, millions of people ripped from their families for non-violent drug related charges and people gunned down in the street because the color of their skin has been criminalized, end.

I made a note to myself to write about the horrifying human cost the police and prisons have exacted on black and brown and poor people and their families.

I most likely would have written that the abolition of the police, of the prison industrial complex and other oppressive institutions will not occur without the abolition of the larger forces that necessitate their existence. I fasho would have written about how you need state violence to uphold a system that keeps the majority exploited and alienated and that both need to go.

I have written too many times, fear and indignation swelling within me, about the long list of murders police have committed with impunity. The names crash into each other, their faces combining with each hyperlink I add, with each sip of yak I drank, with each beating, each death, each cry. You can get away with anything if you created the law and filled the positions that adjudicate with your homies.

I should have written that if you seriously want justice, equality, and an end to the mass campaign of terror waged by police departments across this country, you must be honest. I would have continued that if that's what you want then there is no other solution than to disarm and abolish the police and put an end to the criminal injustice system and mass incarceration. I'd have written that it's 2017 and I sincerely, for really real, believe that we, as a society, can do better.

I don't know if I'll ever really be able to write that piece and do it well. But if I did, I'd most likely end it by writing: Fuck 👏🏿The👏🏿 Police👏🏿.

popular
Image by Mohamed Nanabhay via Flickr.

Activists Demand the Release of Omoyele Sowore and Other Political Detainees, Amidst Growing Attacks on Freedom of Press In Nigeria

"It feels like the '90s again," says Sowore's wife Opeyemi Sowore, about the recent crackdowns on political dissidents in Nigeria.

On August 3, activist and founder of Sahara Reporters, and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowere was arrested for planning a peaceful protest in Nigeria. Fifty-four days later, he remains in custody.

Sowere has been hit with a seven-count charge, including money laundering, treason, as well as "cyberstalking the president," Sahara News reports. He is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being jailed for nearly two months, according to his wife Opeyemi Sowore.

He, along with several activists who have voiced political dissent in recent months have been detained by Nigerian authorities, denoting an upward shift on crackdowns on members of the press and attacks on basic civil liberties in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari's administration. "This truly is a threat to freedom of press, freedom of speech and expression," Sowore tells OkayAfrica. "As much progress as we thought we had made, a lot of the events truly sadden me."

Keep reading...
popular

Thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis Shut Down Tel Aviv To Protest the Death of 24-Year-Old Yehuda Biadga Who Was Killed By Police

"There is racism everywhere. I feel like I don't belong to this country."

An anti-police brutality demonstration consisting of thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis that was held Wednesday in Israel is yet another wake up call that state sanctioned violence against the black body is a global, ever-present issue.

These young people took to the streets and gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the death of 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga, an Ethiopian-Israeli from the coastal city of Bat Yam, who was shot and killed by police, Haaretz reports. He was known to grapple with mental illness.

Keep reading...
popular

5 Women Doing Amazing Things Behind the Scenes in South African Hip-Hop

Behind every successful South African rapper of the last decade is a woman helping to get ish done. Helen Herimbi spoke to a few of them.

South African hip-hop had a great run in the last decade. As we start a new era, it's important to highlight the women who have played a pivotal role in the growth of the genre.

​Thuli Keupilwe

Thuli Keupilwe is the founder of LAWK Communications, an artist booking and representation agency that now works closely with the likes of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

But she's not all about the yanos. Thuli has worked with urban music brands like Dreamteam SA and Homecoming Events, but in 2016, she cast her booking agent net wider and started LAWK Communications where she worked with DJs Capital and Sliqe.

The following year, Thuli received a phone call that would force her to level up. "Boom," she exclaims. "February 2017. PJay from B3nchMarQ called me. I was the one that pushed A-Reece to get onto his first Maftown Heights around 2014 and we're all from Pretoria so I'd known them since forever."

B3nchMarQ and A-Reece were gearing up to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and when she agreed to be their booking agent, Thuli hadn't anticipated how much it would stretch her. Partly because the artists weren't initially permitted to perform their own songs—problematic for an agent who is meant to book them for gigs.

"I didn't see that coming at all," she says. "I was going up against the big guys, people I looked up to. I realized I needed to get a lawyer." Eventually, the artists were legally permitted to gig. "I had one of my biggest years with Reece after that. I am still with him till today."

A-Reece had managed to amass an enviable fan base size mostly from his online and streaming presence. Thuli works closely with him and counts using A-Reece's "Rich" song in a sync deal with the gambling website BET.co.za as a milestone in their partnership. "It was a good check," she chuckles. "And he was being himself and that's the most important thing to me."

Kay Faith

Authenticity has been the drive behind Kay Faith's work. The Cape Town-based engineer, producer and budding vocalist began her career behind the boards during sessions for the likes of Yasiin Bey, Nasty C and E-Jay.

She put out her own EP, In Good Faith, in 2017, and in 2018, she became the first female producer in the world to be featured on Apple Music's New Artist Spotlight.

She has also given us hip-hop bangers like "Slam Dunk" by Da L.E.S and YoungstaCPT. The latter is a frequent collaborator of hers. So much so that when his album 3T won the Best Album category at this year's South African Hip Hop Awards, she felt it was a win for her too. Especially since projects she'd worked on had been nominated and lost before.

Read: Meet The Woman Engineering Your Favorite South African Hip-Hop Releases

"When we started [the song] 'YVR,' I had this emotional feeling that it would be something big for Cape Town," Kay excitedly says. "From recording to mixing to mastering and featuring as a vocalist on 'The Cape of Good Hope' and 'KAAPSTAD NAAIER,' I was behind all of 3T. I even co-produced the 'Pavement Special' intro and the 'Outro' with Chvna.

"We spent 11 months crafting and him trying to get it to be perfect so it was a surreal feeling when we won Album of the Year. I even sent out a tweet saying: 'Can we just take a moment to realize that the South African Hip Hop Album of the Year was entirely engineered by a woman?'"

Kay's upcoming album, Antithesis is slated for a 2020 release. "It's going to be the first album of its kind, I believe," she says. "And I'm really trying to play with that idea of being the antithesis of hip-hop. I am a woman, an Afrikaans kid, in hip-hop. When I walk in, people don't expect me to be an engineer or a hip-hop producer and when I roll out my accolades, then they're like, 'damn, Kay's got game.' That reaction is what this album is about."

Phindi Matroshe

For Phindi Matroshe, the outside reaction to her work is not the most important thing. Phindi is a publicist and talent manager who owns At Handle, a PR and social marketing solutions firm. She was there before Nadia Nakai became a Reebok or Courvoisier ambassador and before she had sold-out ranges with Sportscene's Redbat.

She was also there when Nadia bagged a Best Female pyramid at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards. And she was right beside her when she scooped awards at AFRIMA 2019 for Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop as well as Best Female Artiste: Southern Africa.

"Winning awards was never the mission," Phindi confesses. "Honestly, we have never done things to try and get awards. Nadia truly loves what she does and it feels great when that is acknowledged and someone pats us on the back for work we've done. I really love and respect what I do and don't see it as a job."

Having handled publicity for the likes of JR, Tumi Masemola (of Gang of Instrumentals), Shane Eagle, Major League DJs and more, Phindi pivoted to managing Nadia. She says: "Seeing the things we talk about come to life or when we're in the boardrooms signing those deals, those are personal milestones for me."

​Ninel Musson

Ninel Musson has been brokering some of hip-hop's biggest deals for over a decade. She co-owns Vth Season, a boutique full-service entertainment marketing agency with Raphael Benza.

A former party promoter and publisher of the wonted.co.za website, Ninel helped start a record label wing of Vth Season where AKA was their first signee. Together, they turned AKA into a mainstream success that the artist could bank on when he started the now defunct BEAM Group independent record label with Prince Nyembe in 2016.

Recently, Ninel and Benza, together with the Sony Music team, presented AKA with diamond and platinum plaques for several songs at a surprise dinner. "The music we went on to create became some of the best-selling records of all time in South Africa," Ninel says matter-of-factly. "When we started with him, the major labels said SA hip-hop would never go this far. We said we believed it would and then we did."

​Sibu Mabena

Cassper Nyovest seems to make it a point to work with women. In addition to Cassper's sisters running his Family Tree store, several Fill Up dates have seen PR maven, Sheila Afari at the helm. And while it's clear that the Fill Up series was always the brainchild of Cassper and his longtime friend and business partner, T-Lee Moiloa, bringing it to fruition has also included the skills and power of women behind the scenes. Women like Sibu Mabena, a multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur who owns the Duma Collective.

"The day I landed back home from the EMAs, I went straight to The Dome," she remembers. "I said: 'yo, T-Lee, give me a job. I want to work on this thing.' He was like: 'bra, there's nothing for you to do.'" Sibu stuck around at the Dome, watching the production come together when a lightbulb went on in her head.

Read: Sibu Mabena Works Behind The Scenes in South African Hip-Hop, And She's Kicking Ass

"I thought: 'Cassper has 11 outfit changes. Who is helping him with those?' So Gareth Hadden from Formative, who was building the stage, said they needed someone to help with those changes. I forced myself into the Dome, and the next year I pitched to T-Lee to run the stage at Orlando Stadium. The following year was Fill Up FNB Stadium and there, I got a bigger job to run the talent operations. That's how we started doing the Fill Up Intern Search."

In the next decade of Mzansi hip hop, Sibu has her heart set on parties with a purpose. "All the things I have learnt along the way have led me to contribute to AKA's Fees For All Mega Concert," she shares. "I'm not coming on as just a creative or event organiser or marketer. It's demanding all of me. We're all tapping into a more philanthropic and less commercial role than we usually have so the pressure is that much greater."

There are plenty more women who've got game. From Lerato Lefafa, who has been a part of the team that brought us the SAHHAs and Back to the City to Bianca Naidoo who is a big part of Riky Rick's triumphant trajectory to women like Spokenpriestess, Caron Williams, Azizzar The Pristine Queen, Loot Love and way more who have, in the last decade, used their media platforms to lift up Mzansi hip-hop. In the next decade, women will still be a huge part of hip hop. It'll be interesting to see where that contribution takes the movement next.

popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.