On the murder of and by NYPD

There is nothing that can “justify” murder, there are only things that can *explain* it. Cause-and-effect operates outside of morality. Which is not to say that murder (or any human action) can be boiled down to a single cause but rather that a confluence of circumstances can be understood to have a certain potential to lead to a specific outcome, not unlike the way we understand the physical sciences. For example, different plants grow in different areas of the earth, they require a specific set of ecological circumstances in order to thrive, and changes to the environment consequently change the way plants grow, evolve, or die.

Human behavior is of course more complex, but I believe it still operates under the same basic laws of nature. By extension, I would argue that when you live in society dominated by a tiny minority of wealthy individuals who use murder, torture, exploitation, oppression, deception, etc. as a way to maintain their rule, you can expect to reap all sorts of unhealthy outcomes, including a police force that murders with impunity and individuals who see no other recourse than to murder back.

I do not believe we should seek to justify either side of this cycle of violence; rather, we should seek to expose the underlying causes of violence and move forward with the project of transforming this society into one that is capable of producing good rather than evil. Your individual morality does not change the inherent immorality upon which our current society is based. Only collective action can do that.

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Rapper Lupe Fiasco Honors Dr. King’s Legacy With Act of Civil Disobedience

by Stavroula Harissis

Lupe Fiasco

It’s Monday, January 21, 2013. Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States of America, is being inaugurated for his second and final term in office. As is custom, he takes his oath of office with one hand on the Bible, this one extra-special for having once belonged to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Some see this as a wonderful symbol of the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. I see it as pure blasphemy.

Thankfully, another African American man representing Chicago decided to honor King’s memory in a different way.

Rapper Lupe Fiasco, known for his criticism of President Obama and the U.S. government in general, was invited to headline an unofficial inaugural celebration concert Sunday in Washington DC. Reports state that he was forced off stage after performing the song “Words I Never Said” for 30 minutes straight, along with ad-lib criticism of the President and his penchant for drone assassinations.

In response to the incident, event promoters stated: “This was not about his opinions. Instead, after a bizarrely repetitive, jarring performance that left the crowd vocally dissatisfied, organizers decided to move on to the next act.”

In any case, I admire Lupe’s openly critical lyrics and his courage to perform them, even in the face of repression and reprisal. I’m glad he was given a chance to make this statement on the eve of the day we honor Dr. King as a nation.

And I invite you to ask yourselves, who has truly honored Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend: President Obama, who rests his hand on the Bible in order to accept his continued power to assassinate innocents with impunity? Or Lupe Fiasco, who wraps his hand around the mic in order to speak truth to power and demand justice?

Arts to Oppose NATO

Hi friends! Sorry that I haven’t been writing more frequently. I definitely have a lot to say, especially after attending the amazing People’s Summit at Occupy Chicago this weekend. But my ability to focus and compose my thoughts into words is still lacking. For now, I will let you know about an event I am honored to be performing at this Friday, International Voices for Humanity & the Planet: An Evening of Arts to Oppose NATO. I will be reading my poem “Hear No Evil” in three languages! There will be many other amazing artists there, so if you are in the Chicago area, please come by! And spread the word!