What comes first; the movement or the music? After hours of debates with friends about the relationship between culture and struggle I’ve come to the conclusion that culture is a reflection of the reality people live in for better or worse. In music we can hear the aspirations and torment of a people. We get a glimpse of a reality that stems from what Selma James’ refers to as a groups’ caste relationship to Capital. In her piece, Sex, Race and Class James explains how under capitalism race and sex are social constructions which designates ones’ relation to capital as a worker through the hierarchy of labor. In other words race and gender have been used to designate what type of labor, if any; certain groups of people (castes) are prepped to do. As a result, cultures develop influenced by the relationship of their caste to capital.
“The life-style unique to themselves which a people develop once they are enmeshed by capitalism, in response to and in rebellion against it, cannot be understood at all except as the totality of their capitalist lives. To delimit culture is to reduce it to a decoration of daily life. Culture is plays and poetry about the exploited; ceasing to wear mini-skirts and taking to trousers instead; the clash between the soul of Black Baptism and the guilt and sin of white Protestantism. Culture is also the shrill of the alarm clock that rings at 6a.m. when a Black woman in London wakes her children to get them ready for the baby minder. Culture is how cold she feels at the bus stop and then how hot in the crowded bus. Culture is how you feel on Monday morning at eight when you clock in, wishing it was Friday, wishing your life away. Culture is the speed of the line or the weight and smell of dirty hospital sheets, and you meanwhile thinking what to make for tea that night. Culture is making the tea while your man watches the news on the telly.”
Sex, Race and Class by Selma James
If culture is a reflection of a given groups relation to capital as workers and thus the world around them then it only makes sense to resist the material and ideological structures that this systems stands upon. This requires more than poetry nights, art showcases, and reinforcing nostalgic ideals about one’s people. Though maintaining culture and the history of such and utilizing the aforementioned forms of doing so are essential in assisting to build resistance, practicing culture on its own with no analysis as to how that culture came to exist or be altered may lead to dogmatic stagnation.
This truth is not lost upon our generation. It is for this reason we are proud to introduce a new network to the struggle, please welcome Hip Hop Occupies (HHO) . HHO emerged out of the contradictions of struggle during the initial phases of Occupy Seattle. It literally began with two emcees, a beat boxer with a harmonica, and a megaphone. Recognizing that music, which itself is a powerful force, doesn’t create movements HHO members aim to reach out to existing networks both locally and nationally to develop groundwork to effect change. So far has intervened with morale boosting music and ciphers, actively challenging local efforts to co-opt the struggle (https://blackorchidcollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/democrat/), and building networks has made HHO a force to be reckoned with in its short existence.
Recently, HHO has collaborated with other networks/organizations nationwide to support the Rise and Decolonize Call to Action. We find inspiration in HHO believe that we need to “not make demands of those in power” but rather “create power and frame the alternative.” This is the spirit of revolution.
For more info checkout ttp://www.hiphopoccupies.com/