Jasiri X: The message is only white life is protected

“Every 28 hours a black person is killed by a cop.”

Jasiri X visited NMU on Wednesday, Feb. 11. A hip-hop artist and founding member of the anti-violence group One Hood, Jasiri uses music as a way to bring communities together. He was brought to campus and hosted by the Multicultural Education and Resource Center.

His speech stressed the fact that over 300 people of African American descent died at the hands of the justice department in 2012. At the beginning of his career, Jasiri was motivated toward social commentary because he found no other mainstream rappers doing it.

“I didn’t want to be a tragedy rapper,” Jasiri said, “Suddenly I was talking about all these very real issues.”

His speech focused on racial discrimination. One example of this he shared occured in Jena, La. In 2012, six black students were charged with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy for their reaction to three nooses hung from a tree that had been declared whites’ only.

Jasiri X responded by writing a song, “Free the Jena 6,” which ended up on the front page of the website All Hip Hop.

“I was getting mad Myspace plays. I was getting record deals,” Jasiri said. “People do want to hear music with a message.”

Jasiri then spoke about Sean Bell, who died the morning before his wedding. He, along with two other men, were shot 50 times. Three of the five detectives involved went to trial for charges including first and second degree manslaughter, assault and second degree reckless endangerment. They were found not guilty.

In 2009, Oscar Grant died after he was shot in the back while facedown and handcuffed by Officer Johannes Meserle in Oakland, Cali. At the time of his arrest he was unarmed.

“They tried to portray Oscar Grant as a thug ‘til the video,” Jasiri said, referring to the cell phone cameras that served as video evidence to the shooting. Johannes was eventually incarcerated. “Did less time than Plaxico Burress did for shooting himself,” Jasiri said.

The speaker then talked about social media and that the Grant death occurred the same day that NBA star Lebron James made his decision to leave Ohio. Twitter’s trending feed had Lebron in the number one spot. Oscar Grant was listed second.

The shooting inspired the documentary, “Fruitvale Station.”

“You need to see this—it’s on Netflix,” Jasiri said. “The best portrayal of a young black man I have ever seen in a movie.”

The movie had a delayed release because of the George Zimmerman ruling, Jasiri said. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of another black man named Trayvon Martin.

“Where is the refuge for young black people when they get killed?” Jasiri said.

Acquitted by a jury of second degree murder and manslaughter charges after claiming self-defense, Zimmerman has since been arrested multiple times, Jasiri said. He then explained the media portrayed Martin as a thug after an autopsy report found marijuana in his system.

“The last three presidents have admitted to smoking marijuana,” Jasiri said.

Jasiri explained that he had previously become desensitized to it all, but after Trayvon Martin he couldn’t shake it. Writing the song “Trayvon,” the artist faced some flak for the final line of the song.

“The message is only white life is protected in America,” Jasiri said.

The artist participated in an open dialogue with students while making his speech. One active participant was Levi Warnos.

“It’s refreshing to me to have someone in hip-hop that is conscious of the issues like race,” graduate English student Warnos said.

When the speaker arrived at the topic of Ferguson, Mo., he stressed that the media’s initial story wasn’t about Mike Brown being shot by Darren Wilson.

“It was more about how angry the crowd was that this unarmed student was killed than it happening,” Jasiri said. “The body was just left in the street in front of the whole community for four hours.”

The preliminary police report stated an unarmed Brown was shot six times, twice in the head. He died 150 feet from Wilson’s police car.

“When they got his body, it wasn’t even in an ambulance,” Jasiri said. “You would think if this was an accident someone would try and provide aid.”

The artist then flipped his powerpoint presentation to pictures comparing the initial media portrayal of Mike Brown to James Holmes, who’s been accused of a mass shooting that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo.

The message, Jasiri said, was how the black man was portrayed as a thug in the picture while Holmes, who’s white, was not. Jasiri explained that Michael Brown did not have a criminal record at the time of his death, while Wilson had previously served on a police force in Jenning, Mo. that was disbanded over racial tensions.

The next picture on the slideshow was of police officers in riot gear.  Jasiri said the police response escalated tensions. He questioned why the cops showed up with dogs instead of allowing a community to mourn.

“They came to frighten, and I think it had the opposite effect,” Jasiri said before explaining that Ferguson was different than other past incidents. “The difference between Ferguson and before is who stood up.”

Jasiri went on to explain that multiple journalists were arrested while covering the Ferguson riot, that a no-fly zone was instituted and the right to assemble was suspended.

“News couldn’t put choppers overhead,” Jasiri said. “What’s happening that can’t get covered?”

One of the final slides was Ferguson’s 2013 traffic stops. Blacks made up  4,632 of the  5,384 incidents, or 86 percent of the total.

“I don’t feel safe and protected in America,” vice president of the Black Student Union and junior international studies major Azairian Cartman said. “It’s time to break white privilege. I know many people are aware of it, but I want those that aren’t to be too.”