talib kweli Archives - The Jose Vilson

talib kweli

A few notes:

  • Michael Doyle: “If you want to teach children, you have to know them. If this is a problem, get the f**k out of the classroom.” [Science teacher]
  • Elianne Ramos (of LATISM fame) is nominated for Yahoo!’s “Women Who Shine.” Go vote. [Yahoo!]
  • Big Daddy Kane joins Jay-Z at the Barclays Center. As I said, “Amazeballs.” [Rap Radar]
  • Kids in a NYC public school were stuck watching Shrek instead of, say, learning in a classroom. Ben Chapman investigates. [NY Daily News]
  • Josmar Trujillo (full disclosure: classmate at Xavier High School in NYC) believes every parent is fighting for the same thing. Good read. Check the comments, too. [SchoolBook]
  • Obama makes finding money for charters easy. Not so much for public schools. [US Department of Education]


“Convincing people to vote takes more than saying “people died for you to vote.” The masses are smart enough to see the cracks in the hull.”

- Talib Kweli



Sonia Sanchez

Tonight, my organization, Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University, got a chance to co-sponsor a book event featuring Craig T. Williams, the author of The Olympian, a story based on the life of Dr. John Baxter Taylor, Jr., the first African-American (and one of the first Americans period) to win an Olympic gold medal. Williams’ retelling, compiled from obituaries, Penn State Relays records, and other articles from the time period, brings Dr. Taylor’s life back into the consciousness of Black America. For many of us, we recognize Jesse Owens as the first, a mistake considering the contributions so many Blacks made to track and field Taylor to Owens, a span of almost three decades.

Williams reminded me of this piece Sonia Sanchez did for Talib Kweli’s Eardrum, in the song “Everything Man“:

I don’t…
Remember the first time I heard Kwe-li
I don’t remember what I was doing
There were no remembered witnesses to my doings
But it seems like I’ve known him, forever
He who has, moved through mornings and midnights
Through, deaths and dawns
To document our bones our blood our lives
Listen, listen to his exact wings
Strumming mists from clouds
Listen, listen a man always punctual with his, mouth
Listen to his, revolution of syllables
Scoping lightning from his pores
Keeping time, with his hurricane beat
Asking us to pick ourselves up and become, THUNDER

Holy cow. For anyone familiar with Sonia Sanchez’s persona and work, they know she puts her entire soul into each word she puts down. Dually, she’s saying something about Kweli that we all ought to take heed.

The history is more than just a retelling, but a call to action. When you chronicle the lives of people so consistently with your own perspective, and have the talent to do this with few barriers, you’re not just commemorating Black history: you are Black history. The lives of millions of people not just in the United States but all over the world might only get told if you do it. The story of Dr. Taylor doesn’t get told if someone doesn’t reach out and find it, especially since Dr. Taylor, who died early with no descendants of any sort, only had a history through obituaries. Even if it’s our own words, we’re contributing to the zeitgeist by thrusting our voices into the collective consciousness about our experiences.

When I first saw Sonia Sanchez at Syracuse (for a Black History Month event), she kept pushing us to create new words. We already had Malcolm’s words, Martin’s words, or Rosa’s words. We needed new words, new things to say, new ways to say things. Black History isn’t some relic we celebrate for 28 – 29 days with ready-made posters from Scholastic Inc. or a placebo for guilt-ridden teachers needing to flex their knowledge about people they rarely interact with. It’s an acknowledgement that until all of our histories become part of the American tradition, this American tradition must suffice.

A few weeks back, I watched BET, abnormal for me except on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday when they run the whole series of the critically acclaimed mini-movie King. Every year, I watch like I’d never seen the movie before, and every year, I manage to weep a little. Part of it is the acknowledgement that a great man / father / brother / son died, but another is the brutal way our country still treats folks of color. Our books get banned, our young men and women get imprisoned at higher rates than any other group in the world, and our aspirations normally limited to music and athletics.

The question then becomes: how do we document our bones, our blood, our lives? Just listen. The stories need to be told, waiting for us to say them.

Jose, who has the same birthday as Arturo Schomburg

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Talib Kweli at Rock the Bells

A few links:

Talib Kweli’s “NY Weather Report” off the album Eardrum rings true now as it did with such quotes as

“Revelation is first and Armageddon is after
Tsunamis and hurricanes, natural disasters …”


“I send this out to my people facin’ the storm, homey we ridin’ it out
You inspire what I’m writin’ about …”

In the song, Talib Kweli takes us through a virtual state of the world, at least the one around him. That’s probably the beauty of rap: the ability to expound and lyrically. With an artist like Talib, he’s able to integrate his real core beliefs over a great beat in ways that others can’t.

Also notice the couplets I pulled out. In a strange turn of events, I was listening to the song right about when the unfortunate news of the 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, and caused panic all across the Pacific. The power of this dynamic voice to relate things that happened 3 years ago (the song came out in 2007) says lots about how we as a culture have become more global. Rap, when used effectively, becomes the oral tradition and record for the culture under its influence.

One of the side effects of empires like the United States and other “Western” countries becoming more global is the alertness and sensitivity we have towards other nations and their struggle, as we see some common threads in the needs within their governments and others. The interconnectedness one feels when the reports come out from those countries essentially holds us together. The same feeling we got through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina penetrated us through the tragedies of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Becoming global and humanitarian doesn’t just mean knowing where the countries are, or their dates of “independence,” but also their struggles and the themes and ideas behind those struggles. Also, are there glimmers of hope in these places? Do we still hold imperial biases against these countries, castigating them to the “Third World” that makes no sense if we’re still on the same planet?

This is the energy that moves us. We just gotta feel it.

Jose, who is still developing this ideal himself …


Look, I’m In A Nutshell

September 9, 2007 Short Notes

Did you ever get someone or a group of people just stare at you for no good reason? I don’t mean kids, because that’s their natural tendency. I mean adults. I’d understand if I was breathtakingly handsome, but I consider myself cool, at most photogenic. Of course, people offer different opinions on that matter. Personally, […]

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Everything Man

August 24, 2007 Jose

As if you didn’t know, I am fully in support of Talib’s latest effort, Eardrum. For the most part, it’s hot as hell. Don’t believe me, though; read the article I wrote for Blogcritics.org. Right now, my favorite tracks are it might be much easier to list the tracks I’m not a fan of. 1. […]

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More or Less

July 18, 2007 Jose

Many of you are familiar with Talib Kweli the artist. Since the days of Black Star, he’s blossomed into a premier face for hip-hop music. Unfortunately, because of the topics he discusses (politics, hip-hop, and urban community issues are among his favorites), he’s often type casted for a niche audience. What that usually means is […]

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