“The revolution will not be on demand, brother: the revolution will be live,” sings rapper poet Black Ice in a new viral video (see below) out to promote the new doc “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” which opens in theaters on April 5. It’s a witty line, among many, in this timely update of Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 protest anthem. While the song references the original, the lyrics are altogether contemporary, admirably sending up many of pop culture’s current distractions — erectile dysfunction, American idol, Real Housewives, the Kardarshians, YouTube clips, Taylor Swift, and a host of black stars that presumably have done little to foment substantive revolutionary change. Or at least that’s my interpretation of it.
I, for one, am happy to the see the protest song resurrected. It serves as a potent reminder of the media’s complicity with political apathy. And if it gets one new person to be interested in Angela Davis and what she stood for, that’s good news to me.
Last year, I wrote on this blog about what I called the “best political monologue of the year,” featuring a scene of Davis from “The Black Power Mixtape,” in which she rants about what violent resistance means to a black person.
“You ask me, whether I approve of violence?” she responds to her interviewer. “When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is that the person asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.” And it goes on and on, gathering even greater conviction and evidence, as her expansive afro dominates the screen, creating a kind of graphic representation of her power, despite her confined surroundings.
Steely, wounded, angry, frustrated, defeated and defiant, Davis expresses so many emotions, and such a fierce rhetorical argument, that I don’t think anyone who sees the clip could argue with her about the need for a strong–and yes, possibly violent, if pushed–response to oppression.