If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area you need to get to this event. Respect ✊🏾.
If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area you need to get to this event. Respect ✊🏾.
In this episode Roger welcomes the founder and CEO of “I love being black” and “Traveling Black” Mr. Kumi Rauf. They discuss global blackness, quitting your job and bossing up, and racism in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to all of this in a thought provoking session of “Black Decisions” Kumi begrudgingly reveals how he likes his grits. From Brazil, to South Africa, and back to Oakland this episode covers every major part of the black diaspora. Tap in and be forever changed. Click the link below.
I was at the McDonald’s on 14th and Jackson and I was hella disappointed because anytime I’m eating at McDonald’s something has gone terribly wrong. Like I forgot to bring my lunch to work, or I ate my last meal at 3:00pm and mistakenly thought that I would be full all night but now my 6:00pm lecture is less than an hour away, and I question whether or not I can be on my feet for 3 ½ hours without more food. So, on this day I panicked. I walked down the street and around the corner to Mickey D’s.
I suppose I could have gotten inside my car and drove to Lucky to buy a chicken salad, but then again fuck salad. I don’t even like salad. I’m one of those strange people that believes eating should always be pleasurable. No matter what you say about the negative side effects of fast food and how it doesn’t decompose and how the chickens are treated—Yo! That shit tastes good. The fries are magnificent and the sweet and sour sauce is the best thing to ever happen to a nugget. McDonald’s is cheap and there’s always one nearby. They say that relapse is a part of recovery so on this day I went on a binge like Pookie in a Crack house. “It just keep calling me.”
At any rate, I’m sitting at my table eating my food in record time so I can get back to the college where I teach before my class starts, when this brazen unsheltered man walks to the back near where I am. He’s white, mid-thirties, sagging pants and has a confident gait that seems to move him from side to side rather than forward. One of his hands is holding up his baggy pants while the other is free. He goes up to a table of four older Asian men and says in a forceful voice with three fingers out as if he is about to pick something up “Aye, can I get some of them fries!” Then he actually puts his nasty ass fingers on their tray and gets some fries. I am astounded. In a city full of homeless people, I have never seen anyone living on the streets do such a thing. I was perplexed. Was this white privilege? After all a shocking 70% of the homeless population in Oakland is African-American, so maybe this guy viewed himself as a member of the homeless elite.
Even though this man was addicted and down and out, he felt like he was above begging in front of the McDonald’s like all of the darker skinned homeless folks. He was entitled enough to walk in and take what he thought he deserved. This was all conjecture on my part. Obviously, I didn’t know anything about his thought process. Then he looked at me and I got the same feeling that I’ve been getting since elementary school when I know there’s about to be a confrontation. It’s a moment of intense anxiety and instantaneous preparation for battle. Because no one was going to touch my fries. I would have given him every dollar in my pocket but if he would have touched one French Fry there is no doubt in my soul that very bad things would have happened to that man. Bad things that would have made me drop to my knees and pray for forgiveness after it was all over. However, he did no such thing. Our eyes locked. My right hand held a freshly dipped nugget. My left hand was clenched into a fist on my lap. It was a real Tombstone-esque Doc Holliday showdown moment. I took a swig of my small coke until it made that slurping sound that you hear when there’s nothing but ice. Then he looked away and gangster walked toward the front of the restaurant.
I didn’t see it coming. Why did he retreat? Surely he wasn’t full. Was the beat down that I would have given to him conveyed through my eyes? I doubt it. I can’t look intimidating to a homeless dude. Especially since I had on a collared shirt, slacks, and hard soled shoes. I mean I had a damn nugget in my hand. Was it because of my race? Did he feel more comfortable extorting French Fries from four Asian men than one lone African-American gentlemen? Or was he under the impression that my French Fries were below him because they were tainted with my blackness. Similar to those southern whites that wouldn’t let negroes swim in their pools during segregation because they thought we would dirty up their water. Was this unsheltered white man a southern transplant that moved to Oakland to avoid the comparatively harsh winters of rural Virginia? It was all very confounding. What was going on with me? Did I actually want to fight this man or at the very least verbally reprimand him for plotting on my fries? And why was I willing to land an overhand right on a man who was at the absolute bottom of society for a few pieces of fried potatoes? And there it was.
My anger stemmed from the fact that he was not on the bottom of society. Though he may have lost his family, fell into depression, been priced out of his home, and abused drugs and alcohol just like any other person living on the streets—he still had his whiteness. And his whiteness was enabling him to separate innocent people from their French Fries. This made me irate. That’s why I wanted to confront him. It wasn’t about that crispy goodness or even the four packets of ketchup that my fries were doused in—it was about the culture. I was there on 12th and Jackson ready to defend my culture from this white, delusional, French Fry Jacker.
I was ready to get down for mine
I live in a house
Yet in his eyes, he still had something over me and every other nonwhite person in that restaurant. He had placed himself at the top of the homeless hierarchy. Or maybe…maybe he was just really, really hungry. Two more minutes had passed and all of my food and drink were gone. I left the restaurant totally full and ready to lecture. Feeling like I had proven something to myself—but only to myself. I had gotten the victory. I had consumed all of my fries, but not in peace. For my mind was full of turmoil. Among many other concerns I wondered was that homeless man feeling like he had lost? Did it even matter to him at all? I may never know. And in this lifetime, on this earth, in this country that we call America, inside that McDonald’s in downtown Oakland—that will have to be enough.
When one’s beautiful memories begin to drip with the blood of potential, and when one’s future is frightening and full of the torment that only unknown things can bring. And when these two inevitabilities, one’s past and one’s future, begin to collapse on a body unexpectedly; one throws his hands up hoping that he isn’t hit with something heavy enough to take him out. But one does not have faith because he has never learned faith. One does not have hope because he has never been taught hope. All one seems to have is his primitive instinct that enables him to try to save himself. He smiles through the suffering and checks in on other people all while he himself is being buried alive.
How do we master the art of fronting at such a young age when so few of us ever truly learn to love? We rarely learn how to give ourselves the attention that we require to grow. We don’t know how to appreciate what’s real yet we know how to be fake. And isn’t it a shame that so many of us die feeling unloved? So many of us are never taught how to be loved. We never learn how to be vulnerable enough to allow someone to carry us at least a part of the way.
This is the brief story of the long tragic demise of a man. An individual with a haunted past and a horrible future. This individual is currently being buried alive in pieces of the same structure that once protected him. His whole body is immersed in everything that he tried so hard to avoid. This individual is now totally out of options having realized that his death isn’t really his fault but he is the only one who is seconds away from dying—as far as he can see. He now begins to pray, but it’s too late. It’s far too late.
I just want Kanye to own everything he said yesterday in his oval office meeting with President Donald Trump. I want him to stop blaming his strong reverence for The President on mental illness. He needs to keep that same energy that compelled him to claim that Donald Trump is a father figure to him when he goes on black radio and talk shows. And I’m not saying that everything that Kanye said was negative because it wasn’t. Some of it I can only describe as brave and profound. He said marvelous things about former Chicago gangster and community leader Larry Hoover in hopes of getting him sprung from prison. He spoke about bringing honor and dignity back to the black community and making sure black fathers are in the household. He placed himself in a position that makes him impossible to simply dismiss as ignorant. He cooned with compassion.
Yes, he definitely put on a show for the white president, the white photographers and journalists, as well as all of the white republicans watching at home, but isn’t that what the American political game is all about? Any time an African-American lobbies hard for white people isn’t that cooning? So, would you feel better if he would have given that speech at the feet of Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton? Would it be more acceptable then? I don’t think so. I feel like a lot of African-Americans are upset because they snuggled up to the wrong white person. Kanye aligned himself with Trump and Kanye won. He now has a direct line of communication with the president.
Yesterday Yeezy tap danced on the master’s desk until all of the polish wore off of his shoes, until the soles cracked, and until his feet ached. He went ALL in and no one forced him. He called President Trump his daddy and gave him a hug. He took arrows in the back for the President and teetered the line between calling black people out and being their representative. Kanye is not a victim of the Republican party or Bi-polar disorder. He is doing exactly what he wants to do. All that I ask is that he stands strong when the black tide of judgement washes over him. Don’t blame it on being crazy then Sir. Please don’t, for there are too many people who are really suffering with mental illness for you to hide behind it whenever your people hold you accountable. All that I ask is that you keep that same energy.
I’m a town dude. There is no doubt about it. What I mean by that is the lens through which I view the world is totally Oaklandcentric. So, if you ask me Jason Kidd is the best point guard of all time with Gary Payton being a close second, Oakland completely shaped Tupac Shakur, and the Bay Area sound deeply influenced the present-day Atlanta hip-hop scene via local producers like Ant Banks and Zaytoven. In general, Oakland has always been the most popping place on the planet—that’s just my totally biased opinion. Oaklanders are very prideful but we demand that our representatives remain humble. And dare I say that if a celebrity claims to have the town on their back then we believe that they should actually be deep in the trenches putting in work. The self-styled rapper turned pop star G-Eazy does not do that. His relationship with Oakland is largely touch and go. And one gets the overwhelming sense that Oakland has never really been enough for him but rather it’s just extremely marketable for him to continue to claim it.
There is a line that triggered me from his most recent single 1942. In his laid-back braggadocios flow he spits “Flooded all my diamonds, Poland Spring/ Back in Oakland I’m a king” and when he said it I cringed. My reaction was so visceral because G-Eazy moved from the Bay as soon as his career took off. One cannot be a king and reside 400 miles outside of one’s kingdom. Also Oakland has never been a place that has had a king. There is an ongoing debate about who is the reigning King of New York. Snoop Dogg once declared that he was the king of the Westcoast but no artist from Oakland or the surrounding Bay Area has ever claimed this title for himself. We historically have never played that game. We have always preferred a person’s character to be thorough rather than their appearance to be flashy, but alas the Oakland of old is gone.
Gentrification has nearly chopped the cities African-American population in half since the days when Too Short was a fixture on the Foothill strip and in Eastmont Mall. We no longer demand that our MC’s be down to earth players that don’t like drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. This code was so strictly enforced in the early 1990’s that many in the town renounced MC Hammer and deemed him a sellout because of his shiny hammer pants and multimillion dollar Pepsi deal, even though he went broke trying to uplift the city and built a mansion in nearby Fremont in order to stay close to his family. But now Oakland has become a trendy town with countless brunch spots and beer gardens, and G-Eazy is Oakland’s trendy MC.
G-Eazy stated on his breakfast club interview earlier this year that he’s always wanted to be a superstar outside of the Bay. He also alluded to wanting to be as big as Kanye West. And as I watched I wondered when did my hometown full of contradictions, replete with the most positive vibes yet satiated with crime that used to sit a world apart from the high society bohemian snobbery of San Francisco, become a place where our most popular rapper can get away with speaking this way in a studio in New York before flying back first class to his mansion in Los Angeles? Why is there no accountability? I mean surely there would have been a backlash if Keak Da Sneak would have taken the same approach after he dropped “Super Hyphy” in 2007 following his massively successful feature on E-40’s “Tell me when to go” the previous year. Can you imagine Keak saying that he wants to be the biggest name in entertainment and although he loves Oakland he always wanted more for himself? The hate would have been so real. But we let G-Eazy claim our struggle all the way to the bank, give us crumbs, and go back to LA.
And this is why I don’t view him the same way as I view all of the other rap legends to come out of the town. From the Mobb Music era through the Hyphy Music era to say that you were from Oakland meant that you spoke for the people in the hood in a way that no one else could. The Oakland that I love will never be a place that accepts pop star rappers who never come to the ghetto. I could never stand behind a hometown MC who flies into the town, gets the bag, and leaves. G-Eazy represents the coopting of the town swag and as I look at the world through my Oakland lens I look right past him and back into the past. For if he represents the future of Oakland hip-hop then I will not be able to watch this mockery for much longer.