"Don't Talk About It. Be About It." - Mos Def
Katrina was a wake-up call to the Hiphop generation. And we didn’t even know we were asleep! But Katrina Knew. We knew about injustice, racism, class elitism and regional arrogance. We knew we had a president, congress and a country that seemed to be clinging to old school notions of the American dream, where the perfect America was one without cities, diversity and Hiphop. Katrina came with a vengeance and with all the lessons from the past and lessons for the future. It's like the storm knew we were asleep at the wheel!
Before Katrina smacked us with its wake-up call, Hiphop was on a roll. We were talking about taking care of bizness and not just business, the South was as dirty as it could get, Jesus was walking and Bad Boy and all the Mr. Carters had come into their own. But Katrina was coming as a hurricane surrounding a volcanic tsunami caused by the arrogance and irresponsibility of people at every level. Yet “wake up people” yelled by Lawrence Fishburne at the end of Spike Lee’s film School Daze came in stages. First, was the alert, the warning, then the dire warning, then the turmoil, and then the survivors began looking for everything that was there seconds before. The survivors looked for mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, cousins, neighbors, pets, homes, photo albums, food, churches, home, someone who cares.
Hiphop does not forget or forgive. Redemption is possible if you recognize what happened and what you did and did not do and say. Hiphop can get over what some did and did not do if current actions demonstrate that you will never again do the same thing and think the same way. Katrina happened on our watch and now the criticism that the civil rights and Black Power Generation has not stood up for young people and the Hiphop generation might be true for this generation as well.
Proudly, Hiphop and the youth of the world did not hide. They got angry, felt ashamed and betrayed, and they cried and then organized. The response has been tremendous and now more youth are awake and interested in social justice, politics, and the power and importance of art, education, spirituality and health than ever before. Hiphop didn’t run away from the problem, and many people addressed it head on. Hiphop is neither afraid nor apologetic. We now know whom we can count on to represent. We now know our fears, dreams and our power. It continues to be a hard lesson. Anyone who does work around Katrina and lived and continues to live through the devastation of Katrina - knows.