Dead Prez on Zimbabwe and Cuba

US artistes take on sanctions

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed hip hop group Dead Prez recently announced plans to make a song that would call for the lifting of the US-EU sanctions against Zimbabwe, as well as the US blockade on Cuba. En route to Washington DC, one of the group’s lyricists, brother Mutulu Olugbala whose stage name is M-1 gave The Herald’s US correspondent, Obi Egbuna (OE) an exclusive interview and shared thereasons behind the decision for a song focusing on both Zimbabwe andCuba.

OE: Brother Mutulu, thank you for granting The Heraldthis interview. Could we begin by having you share the reason for doinga song concerning US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade onCuba?

M-1: In the case of Zimbabwe, the US-EU sanctions areapproaching 10 years very rapidly, and the monstrous US blockade onCuba, is approaching 50 years old.

This tactic being used by ourformer colonial and slave masters to politically isolate countries andstifle their economic growth and ability to strengthen basicinfrastructure is as destructive as war, military invasions (and)natural calamities like hurricanes and tornadoes. But (it) hasn’treceived the same attention.

We feel the US Government is extremely hypocritical when it labelsboth Zimbabwe and Cuba dictatorships, boldly claiming both countriesdeprive its people basic democratic freedoms.

However, the international community vehemently opposes US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba and the White House, US Senate and Congress won’t budge at all.

I sincerely hope this song will not only bring more awareness to thesufferingthese policies have caused in Zimbabwe and Cuba, but also celebrate theresilience of the leadership and people on the ground in thesecountries, who overcome daily challenges therefore standing firm in theface of adversity.

OE: Brother Mutulu, the timing of the decision to do this song will be received very well in Zimbabwe and Cuba.

In Zimbabwe Akon, Sizzla Kalonji and Maxi Priest have all performed there recently, and in Cuba earlier this year Kool and the Gang performed and received an award. Will Dead Prez do this song alone or reach out to other artistes to have more impact?

M-1: We will definitely reach out to the artistes you mentioned whoperformed in Zimbabwe and the artistes who we know have performed inCuba. We also want to involve artistes in both Zimbabwe and Cuba becausein the final analysis who else canspeak better for their leaders and people?

I was amazed when Iwas told that Zimbabweans affectionately refer to their country as theland of musicians, and we know in the case of Cuba, it would be hard tofind a country that has used art in a revolutionary framework betterthan they have.

I am getting excited just thinking of the potential of this song. Itwill cross genres and generations, and complement the genuine effortsof countless freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to buildingbridges between people driven by an unyielding passion for freedom andjustice.

OE: Brother Mutulu, what in your opinion are the broaderimplications of having the first US president of African descentextending sanctions on Zimbabwe two years in a row, and approachinglifting of the US blockade on Cuba on the Democratic Party’s timetable, instead of the ties of the world community?

M-1: First and foremost, it is important forPresident Obama to look at Zimbabwe and Cuba as a US Democrat and notan African; therefore he is mainly preoccupied with US interests in bothnations, not what is in the best interest of the masses.

If heis not challenged he will maintain the course of his predecessors.Frederick Douglas taught us, "Power concedes nothing without demand",therefore we must intensify the battle to lift US-EU sanctions onZimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba in the streets of the UnitedStates.

In our case as artistes, until we match the pressure of theinternational community in relationship to US policy on Zimbabwe andCuba, the US government will go on with business as usual.

If wedon’t aggressively confront President Obama about lifting US-EUsanctions on Zimbabwe and the US blockade on Cuba, we give theimpression his failure to do so has our political blessing.

OE: Brother Mutulu, inside the United States we saw the leader of theNational Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton recently organise a march in commemoration of the historic March on Washington in 1963 where Dr Martin Luther King, Jr made the "I have a dream" speech.

BecauseZimbabwe and Cuba were both liberated through armed struggles, do youthink that's what makes Africans born and raised in the US who considernon-violence as a cardinal principle reluctant to embrace these nations?

M-1: This is a rational explanation but nevertheless is notacceptable. The most moderate and conservative elements in our communityall celebrate the Civil War as the driving force in relationship toabolishing slavery, but ignore 200 slave revolts in response to forcedfree labour, rape and torture.

These same groups amongst our people have also written the Deacons for Defence out of the history of the civil rights movement.You have touched on overcoming the colonial and slave mentality,therefore embracing allgenuine forms of resistance, because you celebrate true progressregardless of the political manner in which it was brought about.

Zimbabwe defeated the second most powerful European army on the African continent, and Cuba launched a guerrilla war from the Sierra MaestraMountains. This meant both countries overcame almost insurmountableodds to attain independence. Both stories bring tears to my eyes, andmust be taught to our children without apology or hesitation.

OE: Brother Mutulu, what would you say to this generation of Zimbabweans and Cubans who might not appreciate Dead Prez wanting to stand with them, and would like the opportunity to relocate to the US?

M-1: The inability of the formerly enslaved and colonised to fullycontextualise their political significance and succumb to pressure ispart and parcel of thestruggle to defend your sovereignty.

Our artistic mission is tocapture for the African world, the true plight of the African in theUnited States, which defiantly contradicts the colonialist andimperialist version of our story.

This will make not only this generation of Zimbabweans and Cubans,but all young people not yet in touch with their fighting spirit realisethat the battlefield for oppressed people is truly heaven on earth.

OE: Thanks for your thoughts and time!M-1: Long live the heroic people and leadership of Zimbabwe and Cuba!


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