In the nineties, the inner-cities of America were seeking to recover from the devastating crack epidemic and the ever-tumultuous “War on Drugs” waged by the Reagan Administration. Gone were concentrated and realistic efforts for education, employment or opportunities for social mobility; instead, drugs flooded the already impoverished communities that were suffering from sky-rocketing unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Due to the nature of the capitalist system, many manufacturing jobs in the inner-city would be shipped overseas, eliminating the only source of employment for many hard-working African-American families. John M. Hagedorn writes: “The conditions in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods came to resemble impoverished Third World countries, and police harassment was ever-present.” In 1996, Nas released his sophomore album ‘It Was Written.’ In it, he vividly describes a common occurrence in the ghettos; he spits, ”Niggas shoot in broad day light. With the broke mac-10 that don’t spray right. Niggas don’t give a fuc* who they hit, as long as the drama’s lit.”
When the drug economy took over, many youth hustled to make a living, going in and out of jail. The nineties in Chicago was a period in which Yummy Sandifier, a child born into this very lifestyle, was making his moves; while most kids during this time period were trading Pokemon cards, Yummy was trading drugs for profit, committing burglaries and breaking into houses. When Yummy sought to shoot down a rival gangbanger, he shot into a crowd missing his target entirely, and unfortunately he ended up killing a school girl instead. This prompted a widespread police insurgency for young Yummy. Fearful that if Yummy was captured he would tell gang secrets, the child was subsequently executed by fellow gang members at the age of only eleven years old. The same violence and poverty was the dominant lifestyle in many other inner-cities, including New Orleans, Baltimore, Compton, L.A., Queensbridge, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis as well as others. The ghettoes of America are not impoverished due to a lack of morals, work ethic, or ‘business’ savvy among the population; rather, they are internal colonies which are deliberately and intentionally kept in miserable social conditions by its mother country, America. The U.S. maintains neo-colonies in the Middle East and domestic internal colonies within its borders for access to cheap labor via the prison-industrial complex.
During the Cold War, America was competing ideologically with the Soviet Union over their economic systems of capitalism and communism. As a result of this period, dubbed the “Red Scare,” many corrupt leaders were installed by the United States in countries seeking their independence. Patrice Lumumba was a Pan-Africanist seeking to uplift the colonized people of his country after years of oppression and tyranny from the Belgians. He was dedicated to his people in every way, but fearful that Lumumba might be a communist, he was quickly assassinated by rival forces with full support from the C.I.A. In place, the U.S. selected candidate Mobutu Sese Seko quickly created an authoritarian regime in which he squandered his people’s wealth on personal lavish luxuries while the people of his country continued to starve and had their wealth plundered by American corporations
Similarly, the same situation has regularly occurred for numerous leaders within the black community. Fred Hampton, a Black Panther of Chicago, provided political education classes for youth along with free-breakfast programs. He even worked to forge an alliance between various gangs in Chicago to mitigate the violence. Hampton emerged as a real leader in the black community – and the FBI, CIA and government in general took note of him. A secret government project called COINTELPRO explicitly sought to prevent and quell various radical black movements. In conjunction with the Chicago Police department, the CIA and FBI orchestrated a raid and, during which, assassinated Fred Hampton. FBI, Special Agent Gregg York had this to say:”We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” It was leaders such as Fred Hampton that worked to combat gang violence. One author notes:
“Of course, there’s also the legacy that, without a young leader, I think the West Side of Chicago degenerated a lot into drugs. And without leaders like Fred Hampton, I think the gangs and the drugs became much more prevalent on the West Side. He was an alternative to that. He talked about serving the community, talked about breakfast programs, educating the people, community control of police. So I think that that’s unfortunately another legacy of Fred’s murder.”
Fred Hampton’s murder left a power vacuum and, like in the colonies abroad, the Chicago government would install various corrupt puppet leaders. This relationship between internal colonies and the non-representative government officials is a theme discussed in Nas’ “I Want to Talk to You.”: “As a young black man from the ghetto,” Nas indigently raps, ”Fake black leaders of puppets always talking ‘bout the city budget.” Inner cities are notorious for corrupt and non-representative leadership, one example being Jesse Jackson Jr. who squandered the wealth of the Chicago people (as well as Sandi Jackson). These people are supported by the larger white establishment and should be viewed as puppet leaders within the black community. Nas continues:
“I’m just a black man why y’all made it so hard damn
Niggas gotta go create his own job
Mr. Mayor imagine if this was your backyard
Mr. Governor imagine if it was your kids that starved
Imagine your kids gotta sling crack to survive
Swing a mack to be live cart ack to get high”
The job that Nas discusses creating is, of course, the lucrative career as a drug pusher. Like impoverished third world countries, ghettos are essentially a war torn area with starving kids. Like the child soldiers in Uganda, the ghetto has its own child soldiers who swing macks and sell cracks. Like the independence movements of the ‘60s, many nations such as Ghana and the Congo were yearning for their independence to make it out of this exploitative relationship in which it’s population was decimated, impoverished and hungry. In the song “Every Ghetto,” rappers Naz and Blitz further elucidate:“Still I’m sayin’ why do we reside. In the ghetto with a million ways to die. What the fuck will tomorrow bring?”
Like foreign third world countries, the ghettoes in America are without stability. “Jay-Z, who said he “was born the day Fred Hampton died,” comments on the sentiments of wanting to escape his internal colony and the desperation he faces:
“Some how some way I gotta make it up out the hood someday. Some how some way I gotta make it up out this life. Some way I gotta make it up out this hood someday”
Barack Obama was elected- the masses were disgusted by George W. Bush who presided over the mass extermination of black people under Katrina with lackluster care and numerous wars seeking imperial ambition. Thus, a shift was made to a more benevolent form of imperialism. White power presented through a black face and chants of “change” lured black people in supporting Barack Obama. Far from an real “change”, Obama’s presidency has not changed the colonized/colonizer relationship the ghetto has with its mother country. The Government orchestrated assassination of Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, Marc Clarke, is apart of the same imperial logic as the government orchestrated assassinations of Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba. To sustain the U.S Empire, corrupt leadership is need within the internal colonies and abroad in its neo-colonies. Blacks within u.s borders are subject to search and seizure, killed in indiscriminate attacks of police brutality, subjugated from the war on drugs, and made to suffer from the prison-industrial complex. Similarly, Obama’s presidency has contributed to drone strikes of innocents in the Middle East and imperial wars for economic benefits. In blacks in domestic colonies suffering under repression looking to “make it out the hood” and those in neo-colonies suffering under drone strikes, the street scriptures serve as a viable way to link social conditions within the internal domestic colonies and foreign neo-colonies of the American Empire and struggle for independence.