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Hip-Hop Fridays : RapCOINTELPRO Part XV - E-Letter To The Miami Herald, Evelyn McDonnell and Casey Woods Re: "Hip-Hop Discussion Extends A Bridge"

I think that your article, “Hip-hop discussion extends a bridge” was a concise and fair representation of the panel discussion that I participated in, hosted by the Miami Beach Black Host Committee, and which featured Miami police chief John Timoney, artist Luther Campbell, and Source magazine publisher David Mays, among others. This panel largely grew out of your ground-breaking reporting, along with Nicole White, specifically your March 9, 2004 Miami Herald article, "Police Secretly Watching Hip-Hop Artists". As you now know, in fourteen installments, I have been writing on this subject for just about four years, receiving a healthy amount of raised eyebrows, criticism, and skepticism along the way. Your article, maybe more than any other, even those coming from the New York-area newspapers in 2002, bears witness to the truth of what I have been writing on. I appreciate your hard investigative reporting.

I think the most important part of your recent work is that it indirectly approaches the nucleus of this entire matter, which raises the focus on the subject of surveillance of rap artists above police harassment and racial profiling, and properly placing it where it belongs – at the federal level. Getting to the federal level allows one to see the issue in historical context, which is why I have included “COINTELPRO” in the title of my series – alluding to the FBI’s program to work against and undermine social, cultural, progressive, revolutionary, and nationalist movements. One of the greatest fears guiding COINTELPRO, where Blacks were concerned, was the idea that youth would one day be married to Black nationalist movements and charismatic nationalist leaders. To understand it all, you really, at least, have to read and study two memorandums written by then-FBI Chief, J. Edgar Hoover – a Shriner – dated August 25, 1967 and March 4, 1968. In addition to seeking to prevent the “rise of a Black messiah”; and the growth of nationalist movements among youth; the initiative set as its objective that no leader or group deemed as a target, should ever be able to spread “their philosophy publicly or through various mass communication media.” I hope you will listen to my March 16, 2004 appearance on Davey D.’s Hardknock radio program on KPFA in the Bay area, along with Luther Campbell, and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney . On that show I explain how Hip-Hop, among other things, has become the mass communication media of the youth and oppressed communities in America – Chuck D. was absolutely correct years ago when he likened Hip-Hop to Black America’s CNN.

While we are decades removed from the heyday of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as organizations the FBI targeted and worked to disrupt and keep youth away from; that reality should not confuse one into thinking that the spirit, motive and objective of COINTELPRO no longer exists in the minds of many influential people, inside and outside of the federal government or local police departments. If one carefully studies the five elements of Hip-Hop, its origin, and its evolution; along with the thinking of certain ideologues who advise police chiefs and federal law enforcement agencies, it is not hard to understand why rap artists would be targeted the way they are. As I stated on the panel more than once, the key to understanding what is going on lies in obtaining details of how street organizations, “gangs”, are viewed by those within the United States’ national security nexus; understanding the increased morphing of the local police officer into the United States armed forces; and the merging of the war on terrorism with the war on drugs. You can get an indication of this in how much of the intelligence that has been gathered and compiled on rappers has been the work of agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and even the White House through the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). That is why the letterhead on many of the documents, like that on Jay-Z’s portion of the infamous, “rap binder” is that of The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program. This is much bigger than local police departments following rappers around while they are in town for business and pleasure. As I stated on the panel, in most cases the police officers are the pawns, or foot soldiers in a war that is being coordinated at a much higher level than the police chief’s office. A real clear picture of this can be seen in the third part of the “RapCOINTELPRO” series, Congress Holds Hearings On DEA Rap-A-Lot Investigation"

Attend any major law-enforcement gathering where police chiefs and officers are being trained and exchanging information and you will see that a disproportionately focal point of attention is youth street organizations. Read the writings of ideologues currently operating in little-known law-enforcement-oriented think tanks, or academics who advise government officials and national security officials and you will see in writing, the thesis that the greatest emerging threat to the national security of the United States are the gangs that are likened to terrorist organizations (Interestingly, it was just reported that an alleged gang in the Bronx is the first to be indicted under New York state’s anti-terrorism law). I did not exaggerate when I compared these ideologues who surround police chiefs, law enforcement and members of the national security community to the neoconservatives (“neocons”) who have surrounded President Bush, seeking human vessels to embody their ideas for war. It is actually more than an analogy once you get deep into the very small nexus of scientists who study gangs in America and groupings in the non-Western world from the lens of social science and history.

There are very influential, wickedly wise individuals, operating inside and outside of government who are seeking to include street organizations as a domestic component of the international war on terrorism. Their analysis does not at all differentiate between Bloods, Crips, El Rukens, Latin Kings, the 5% Nation Of Islam, Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, for instance. And in literature that I have seen given to top law enforcement agencies and police officers, the rapper is categorically described as “the spokesperson of the gang". In other words, the rapper is the spokesperson, in the mind of these people, of terrorist organizations; and as I stated more than once in Miami, the youth gangster is described as “the new warrior” – the biggest threat to United States national security if he receives paramilitary training. If you look at the surveillance of rap artists from the perspective of COINTELPRO and the current thinking in gang intelligence you will see in a new light the following quote from Miami police Sgt. Rafael Tapanes, ''A lot if not most rappers belong to some sort of gang,'' in the Miami Herald’s historic March 9th article.

I hope that you will explore this avenue in your investigative work, we will be going further into it, in detail, and with documentation, in subsequent parts of this series.

Keep up the good work.


Cedric Muhammad

P.S. You may be surprised to learn that this domestic component - involving Black youth and street organizations – as part of an international war; was publicly announced in Washington D.C. in October of 1989 by Minister Louis Farrakhan. His announcement grew out of a spiritual experience he had in September of 1985 in Mexico. The Million Man March in 1995 also grew out of that experience. He speaks openly about this.

All of this is related to how cleaning up the grotesque international image of Black men in America impacts the pace of the domestic component of this war. Remember how in the 80’s and 90’s Black parents actually called on the national guard to come into Black and Latino neighborhoods to deal with gang violence? Some still do today - loosely likening gangs to terrorist groups. Consider this from Part XIV of the RapCOINTELPRO series:

Has a "cover story" been written to justify a war against Hip-Hop and Black youth, in such a way that civil rights violations, mistreatment and even the killing of young Black and Latino youth could take place and the majority of Americans or the majority of the world would think that such actions were warranted? Has rap music been a battlefield for this larger initiative, if it exists? Some might say that such a plan is unthinkable today. But is it a stretch or unreasonable to believe that the more brutally honest or negative aspects (depending upon whom you speak to) of rap music lyrics and videos have been projected domestically and abroad in such a way that it has enabled an unattractive image of Black youth - males in particular - to dominate the opinions of many people who might not regularly interact with Black Americans? Consider this from an article from the November 16, 2003 issue of the New York Times written by a Black American Muslim traveling in Egypt:

One night during Ramadan, a skinny hustler in knockoff American clothes joined us for dinner. He was one of those 20-something lotharios who haunt downtown Cairo, seducing tourists. After dinner, we sat alone in front of the shop.

"Do you know the story of Tupac Shakur?" he asked me. I nodded and smiled; I was intrigued that he knew anything about rap and proud that he did. "They killed him in the ghetto," he continued. "I love all the rap, all the niggers."

My face went hot. I told him he shouldn't use that word.

"Why not?" he asked. "All the blacks use it. All the blacks have sex and sell drugs like Tupac and Jay-Z."

Not since grade school had such talk so upset me. "Look at me," I said. "I'm black. I don't sell drugs."

"Please, don't be upset," the young man said, offering me his hand. "I'm a nigger. I'm a hustler like Tupac."

Friday, May 21, 2004

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