400 Years of Resistance

An Open Letter to Kanye West

Selma to Montgomery March, Alabama, 1965 / Photo by James H. Karales, “Road to Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement 1958–1968, and Beyond,” The Bronx Museum of the Arts at The New School

Brother,

Four hundred years of slavery? A choice? Is that really what you think? Our ancestors, our culture HIP-HOP. You are a black millionaire. In America. In 2018. Do you realize how incredible that is? The mere fact that you exist. That you could become an influencer in America. That your craft, HIP-HOP, could be born out of resistance and become the most popular form of music in America today. Do you realize that you exist at the very same time when black grandmothers and grandfathers still alive today can remember surviving through sharecropping — slavery by another name.

Rather than celebrate your existence, rather than praise the ancestors who chose, not slavery, but survival so that you could exist, so that you could create, so that you could reach your full potential as a human being, you choose to denigrate their sacrifices.

The poet and educator Clint Smith said something profound on Twitter the other day. “The insidiousness of racism is that it can make certain black people mouthpieces for white supremacist ideas.” That is, the idea that black people can be “singularly blamed for the conditions they find themselves in.”

The black people who built this country did not choose slavery. They chose resistance when, as Professor Blair L.M. Kelley said, they could not escape. They chose to survive because they knew that if they survived through the pain and the trauma and the torture that was the condition of being enslaved that maybe, just maybe, their children and their children’s children could have a better life.

For our people, survival is resistance. It is resistance when that group faces a system of violence so brutal, so inhumane, that no words can truly do justice to the actual experience of being enslaved. And even in the face of such violence, by the tens of thousands, those who could escape, those who could fight back, did.

From Nat Turner to Harriet Tubman, from Ida B. Wells to Marcus Garvey, from Ella Baker to Angela Davis, from Muhammad Ali to Chuck D — the history of black Americans is steeped in glorious resistance and liberation. Unity. Struggle. Unity. That’s our real history. Don’t let anybody, especially those who seek to oppress you, convince you otherwise.

Our history, our culture, our future — these are all beautiful things. We are more than our pain. We are more than our oppression. We are survivors. And like our ancestors, we will continue to choose freedom. And when freedom is denied, we will continue to choose resistance.

Sincerely,

Dennis Ojogho

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this piece and you would like to support my writing in other ways, please check out my first short work of fiction, Frederick Douglass and the John Brown Scouts, available now on Amazon.

Lawyer in the Making | Writer | dennisojogho.com| Author of Frederick Douglass and the John Brown Scouts https://www.amazon.com/dp/1985289326

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