There isn’t a word that can quite describe the frustrations of being black in America. The President is black, yet when nine black people are killed in a terrorist attack, in a church, the limits of power are pretty clear. Obama is still left singing “Amazing Grace” with the rest of us. That hymn is surely getting old now and I feel more like how Earl feels on his album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.
While I was awkwardly carrying packing boxes, on the 4 train headed to Brooklyn, a young white man, in his early twenties, asked where I was moving to. He seemed to have a speech impediment but was perked up and ready to debate. “Back to Baltimore,” I said. “I wouldn’t go there if I was you,” he responded commenting on the Freddie Gray protests/riots. I shook my head, sensing where the conversation was going. “It’s pretty crazy there lately,” he continued. The whole train paused, waiting for my response. I briefly told him that it’s not “safe” anywhere. He suggested that I speak more to my neighbors, as if mere conversation is the solution to what’s going on in black America. I could tell he was off. I didn’t answer, dumbfounded at his weird remarks. I got off at the next stop, deciding that anything I said to someone on that tip wouldn’t resolve my issues.
Since moving to Baltimore, I haven’t heard the incessant noise of the J train circling my apartment in Bushwick for about 15 days. While riding around playing that new Meek Mill with my cousin, I saw the plight of my city, especially those with idle time and no job. I spent the 4th of July here with my family and although seeing the fireworks is tradition, this year it was awkward standing there as the fireworks blasted through the air, celebrating our “independence”. That awkwardness has recently felt heightened, especially with the deaths of Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, at the hands of the police.
Once a slave in Baltimore, Frederick Douglass worked sealing the cracks on the bases of slave ships. I thought about him as the fireworks set off into the harbor. He once wrote about the American Slave’s take on the 4th of July, “ Your shouts of liberty and equality; hollow mockery; prayers and hymns, your prayers and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity are to him mere bombast fraud and deception, impiety, and hypocrisy- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.” With recent events that have challenged our community, it remains to be seen what we can do to change our position. Despite that, there are talents that still sprout up from the pavement.
More than ever, our generation is aware of the tools of our age, like the internet and social media. Every day someone emerges with some new energy or a new movement. When we started this publication, we wanted to provide a space to express ourselves and the movements of today. Sandra Bland, who died tragically in a Texas prison, after being harassed by a state trooper for a traffic violation, spoke about our tools publicly on her Facebook. She said, “If we want to create change, we can truly make it happen.” Léte doesn’t want to assume the role as political front, but the culture we live in is affected by what happens on the street first and foremost. It’s important that while we discover culture, we include the framing that surrounds it.
Our conversation with Philly creative Gianni Lee incorporates a discussion of these racial issues into the bigger picture of his path and community. Within six years he’s been able to refine Babylon Cartel and his career by listening to that voice within his head. Despite roadblocks, he’s been able to make a lane for himself and he openly discusses that with our writer Erin Duncan. Our roads may be muddy but don’t make the mistake of thinking that we’re giving up. We must create our own realities and not depend on anyone else's validation for respect.
- Ryan Lyons
"The western world to me is all wrong, and Babylon becoming unstable."
- Oddisee, Belong To The World, The Good Fight, 2015