Twenty years after social unrest gripped the city of Los Angeles, a new report on 2012 security force killings of Blacks in the United States has one rapper, Jasiri X, asking if no justice is done, "Do We Need to Start a Riot?" in a song and video released this week. The lyrics are provocative to be sure, but so too are the updated findings of the study that motivated him to pose the question musically.
Taking a look at the first six months of this year, the "No More Trayvon Martins" campaign and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement have put forth a newer but no less disturbing statistic that every 36 hours, a Black child, woman or man is killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes. The latter, of course, immediately brings George Zimmerman to mind in the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in February.
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Jasiri X, an activist MC whose songs often dig beneath the surface of the headlines, runs parallel with the report rhyming, "No trial no jury no sentencing / And you saw how foul this system is / but they keep telling us to be patient / They keep tell us to keep waiting / They keep telling us that we hating." Prior to this week's update, most of the original 110 killings examined took the lives of those between the ages of 18-31.
Overall in 95 cases, only 9 people have been charged in connection to them with outcomes pending. For the majority, the song's lyrics ring all too real.
Brimming with indignation, Jasiri X continues on, "They call us monkeys say we ignorant / So we get killed they don't give a shit / Now what would you do if you were living this? / To protect your kids from this?"
Concluding that the killings are part of a systemic devaluation of the kind that once led Tupac Shakur to rap "Here on Earth / Tell me what a Black life's worth," the main proposal recommended by the report outlines the need for a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to be pressured and forced upon the administration of President Barack Obama by a mass movement. After the killings of Trayvon Martin and Remarley Graham sparked outcry and protest, killings actually intensified signaling a need for a more organized effort.
To that end, Jasiri X calls out rappers, preachers and leaders on their silence while shouting out the names of lives taken, including Kendric McDade, an unarmed young Black man killed by Pasadena police gunfire in March.
Meanwhile, the memory of Julian Alexander, a young Black man slain by an officer's gunfire in Anaheim in 2008, is kept alive among others at Sunday protests outside of the city's police department.