Using the Knowledge of Hiphop to Transform Self and Society Article Five: Pimp My Ride

Pimp My Ride.

Ever since humans have walked on the earth there has been conflict and beef with others from different backgrounds. From war to racism, to poverty humans have had to learn how to deal with the brutal realities of life. The legacy that Hiphop inherited is the understanding that we can overcome these conflicts, and  by connecting with a force greater than ourselves and can overcome our challenges and change our realities. One thing that the Civil Rights demonstrated is that by connecting with each other and with our faith we can overcome any oppressive reality no matter how large.

A couple of fantasies that those in power want us to believe is that the brutal realities of poverty, racism, and oppression have always been around and will never change. The reality is that systems of oppression are created by human being and human beings can change these systems. Hip-hop took the reality of growing up in the Bronx, a community that some estimate to have 30,000 fires occur during a five year time period (This was mainly due to land lords paying folks to commit arson so they could collect the insurance claims) The banks only lent money to white people so they could move, and without the financial support necessary business diminished, unemployment rose, and schools started to cut their arts programs. Feeling rejected, abandon, and unwanted, young people felt the heavy hand of society trying to silence them and sweep them away.

Created to make noise, and without the proper support to make their voices heard, many of these young people joined gangs and began to burn each other through acts of violence. Pissed because of the lack of support from banks, government or local institutions young folks mistakenly took out their aggression on each other claiming that folks from different sets were the enemy. Murders, gang fights, and individual beat downs became an everyday part of life for many living in the Bronx. However due to the visionary leadership of Black Benji and Benjamin Melendez, they began to communicate a different option.

Inspired by the legacies of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Fred Hammond, these leaders began to realize that the real enemy was not the other gangs but society that was not giving them equal opportunity. With this newfound understanding, these young people began to organize various gangs while promoting their message of peace and hope for a treaty. Unfortunately during one of his peace campaigns, Black Benji was brutally murdered. Upon hearing this news, Benji’s gang prepared for war. As they were getting their weapons one of the members asked if this would best honor Benji, and one by one they all dropped their weapons. Instead of fighting, Benji’s gang decided to let Benji’s death be the catalyst for extending forgiveness and calling all the heads of the gangs together to form a peace treaty. Shocked that Benji’s gang would not retaliate, gang leaders came together and in 1971 signed the gang peace treaty.

It would be due to this act of forgiveness that allowed gang leaders to identify the real enemy, and come together to start to battle it. By signing the peace treaty in 1971 youth were able to come together from various neighborhoods and share their ideas, their expression which would eventually lead to Kook Herc starting a party that would allow Hiphop to bring folks from all the burrows to unify. Coming together with the belief that reality could be changed and acting on that belief allowed not only for the transformation of individuals, but the transformation of a community and a movement that has sparked hope in the hearts of young people world-wide. The truth is that facing our realities, identifying the real enemies, and stepping out on faith collectively we can face any challenge and win any battle.


About goodlifealliance

This blog is dedicated to the engagement, empowerment, and equipping of young adults who are using the arts to create change in both themselves and the world. It is connected to a global network of cultural change agents that are using the arts, primarily hiphop, to name the world and in doing so also changing it. Key topics include Hiphop Culture, Liberation Education, Social and Emotional Learning, Social Justice, Hiphop as a movement, and Spirituality. It is authored by Roberto Rivera, Hiphop artist, educator, and author of educational curricula such as Good Life and Fulfill The Dream. Roberto speaks publicly around the nation on issues covered in this blog.
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