Monday, March 18, 2019

#KripHop As a Change Maker

Back in 2016, I was in a private chat room and witnessed an ambitious, aggressive, disability rights activist dis KripHop and one of its founders, Leroy Moore. The same activist was lobbing ad hominem attacks on me as well, but what matters here is a stain of ableism within the criticism of KripHop as a force for change.

 We are talking about a person who should have known better. A person who should have been more aware of the history of every hip-hop genre as a voice for dissent and transformative change in the world. But disability rights is rampant with this subtle form of internalized ableism, deeply embedded in the presumption of incompetence. This activist should have had our backs. Instead, full of their own view that only certain types of physical disability are somehow more competent to achieve than developmental disability, they trolled this form of delivering the message of civil rights to audiences in a form they are more willing to hear. Said activist probably never heard a KripHop joint.  I posted Krip-Hop Nation's Hub Week performance above so everyone can hear it instead of dissing it in ignorance of how it speaks truth to power.

I chose last week to write about this because I was expecting my KripHop comic book, the next expansion of the KripHop social justice project, in the mail. I had no idea that this would be the week comedian Hasan Minhaj would choose hip-hop as his topic.

KripHop Comic first edition.©Leroy Moore 
On this week's episode of the Netflix series Patriot Act,  Hasan Minhaj used humor to discuss how hip-hop is impacting geopolitics. The most striking moment of this segment was about the THRap hip-hop group  Rap Against Dictatorship, whose protest rap song, "What My Country's Got"  was inspired by Childish Gambino's "This Is America." As rap becomes a resurgent global vehicle to express dissent and artists literally risk their freedom and this lives to speak truth to power in defiance of oppressive regimes, KripHop is still being dismissed by those who hold the largest platforms within our disability justice community while it continues to expand globally just as quickly as mainstream hip-hop.

The music video for "What My Country's Got,"  has garnered 58 million views and counting on YouTube. "What My Country's Got recreates the most graphic scene from the Thammasat University massacre, and was shot in one take.  Thammasat was Thailand's Tiananmen Square protest moment. Imagine the courage of Rap Against Dictatorship to even consider recording and posting such a video. KripHop Worldwide collective rappers globally are possessed of the same valor, and rapping with the same intensity. They take the stage to fearlessly confront stereotypical ableism and demand acceptance as they are. Within a greater movement where the continuance of a very clear hierarchy of disability persists and one's own colleagues don't take the time to educate themselves about the collective and the way it drives change, this project needs such valor and heart.

Sadly missing from Minhaj's discourse was any mention of  KripHop, despite the same critical importance to our causes, our intersected community's culture, and living history. KripHop Nation, given the funding and platforms needed to grow and allow the collective to get its message out to wider audiences, has the potential to be just as impactful a transformative change agent. This begins with our own community members suspending their dismissal and disbelief and supporting  KripHop and other disability justice collectives' labor in the struggle for disability justice. Watching Minhaj's discourse on hip-hop's global impact, in general, might be a good start. Reaching out to founders Leroy Moore and Keith Jones would help too.

Some don't care for hip-hop in general, so that is a preference. But for Intersected disabled folk, this is part of our culture and like spoken word and music, is part of our historical method of delivering truth and expressing dissent. So what we all need to ask ourselves when we are discussing not just disabled culture but activism, is what it means when KripHop is excluded from the disability justice conversation.

There are ways we can all support this cause and make it relevant. Buy the KripHop Comic for your libraries, groups, and projects. Cite it in your academic papers. Invite the KripHop Collective to your universities and all places where folk are receptive to music with a message.

Most importantly, when disability rights activist colleagues diss or dismiss the labor of KripHop or any activist collective addressing the concerns of marginalized community members speak up and call them out on their ableism.

I'm going to go read KripHop volume one to my wheelchair using disabled brown son.


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