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Real People vs. Real Gangstas

This weekend I was blessed to do a workshop at the Community Justice Network for Youth National Conference in Washington DC. My co-presenter was a dope young organizer named Armando, from an organization in Tuscan AZ called Skrappys. As the conversation about Hip-Hop inevitably turned to the misrepresentation of our community by mainstream rappers I began to show some of the videos we’ve produced at One HOOD Media, to bring consciousness back to the forefront. I ended the discussion with my favorite video from this season so far “Real Gangstas”, where I compare the entertainment industries glamorization of a “gangster” lifestyle to the actual continuing criminal behavior by Wall Street and corrupt bankers, most of whom, after fleecing the country of billions of dollars, have never served any time or even been fined.

With its introduction by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and closing remarks by iconic comedian George Carlin “Real Gangstas” always sets off a lively discussion, but this day it caused a response I could have never imagined. I was approached by a girl in her early teens who had a strange look on her face. She asked me about a scene in the video that takes place at the 1:45 mark where I show a family from Miami living out of a bread truck. She said, “Where did you get that footage?” I told her that I got it from a movie called, “Capitalism: A Love Story” by controversial filmmaker Michael Moore (I actually attended the World Premiere of the movie in Pittsburgh, PA on the eve of the G-20 summit in 2009). She said her name was Annie, and that was her and her family that was forced to live in that bread truck. I was amazed to say the least.

As politicians seemed more concerned with extending tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest citizens then preserving unemployment benefits for millions of her poor, real lives and real people are being affected. Our children are being forced to live in unspeakable conditions. They are not simply statistics or stories in the city’s newspapers or on local news. They have feelings, dreams, hopes, and needs that too often are not being met. They are our future. As we rush to the malls in the next few weeks to once again fill the pockets of that 1% that control over 95% of this nation’s wealth, let’s not forget that many of America’s most vulnerable citizens are becoming even more at risk. In Pittsburgh children under five are poorer than in any city in the United States. This is indeed America’s shame. This weekend I learned Annie is a real person and I’m praying and working to see she has a brighter tomorrow.