Since Public Enemy released “Fight the Power” in 1989, it’s stayed one of the most relevant revolutions anthems. I’d say it’s more relevant now, 31 years later, but that would be a lie – because the state-sanctioned war on Black communities in America has been constant and brutal, and it hasn’t stopped since the day the The White Lion landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. “If you ain’t tryna have your city on fire//Put some respect on our name, we come from gold and diamonds,” says YG – one of my favorite lines from this 2020 version featuring Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Jahi, YG and QuestLove. Because gold and diamonds are at the root of why Europeans and their descendants continue to steal, rape, pillage, and erase African history. “If racism is the cancer, Black thought’s the answer,” says Black Thought, because our education system has deliberately left Black thought off the curriculum, off the prison book lists, and hopes that none of us will educate ourselves on where the European scholars we’re taught about got their ideas from. “You love Black Panther but not Fred Hampton,” says Rhapsody – because real Black Power is a threat to the state, and the government, the military, and the federal and state “authorities” have shown time and again through the passage and enforcement of racist laws that they will murder, terrorize, and dehumanize to keep Black people from organizing; meanwhile the entertainment arm of the state will placate us with fantasy to make us feel like progress is being made.
In 2020, we’re witnessing what four centuries of violent oppression looks like. And it looks like brilliance, resilience, and fire.
All of us, no matter our skin color, have been manipulated by the powers that be into accepting a system that only truly benefits those who can get their hands on stolen wealth and those who can control the story of humanity. Since Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, the American ruling classes saw the danger of the races unifying against them, and passed laws to breadcrumb the White middle and lower classes so that we wouldn’t challenge their wealth and ownership. Today we’re watching White billionaires explode with wealth unchallenged, while they feed the system Black bodies and thank White supremacists for their service.
I fucking love what’s happening on the streets today. I see the powerful trying to gaslight us and having it blow up in their faces. I see people who refuse to be silenced. I see people protecting their parents, children, families, friends, and communities. I see violence being met with violence and love being met with love. This isn’t the end, it’s a transformative new beginning.
I grew up with “Fight the Power” – it came out when I was 9, and as a White kid from Canada, Public Enemy were some of my first real teachers when it came to Black culture and state violence in North America. In 2020, I’m watching this video with my 9 and 6-year-old Black daughters and Public Enemy is helping me teach them to fight the power with me.