By AJ Vicens
Earlier this summer, when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, there were marches across the country. But the protests largely faded out, folding in on themselves before they had a chance to create any lasting change. One place that isn’t true is Florida, where a group calling itself the Dream Defenders took over the state capitol building, and called upon GOP Gov. Rick Scott to support the Trayvon Martin Act. The bill was an attempt to address racial profiling, the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, and zero-tolerance policies in schools that funnel kids into the criminal-justice system.
The Dream Defenders were able to gather a lot of national and high-profile support. Among the bigger names who turned out to support their cause was the Brooklyn-based rapper Talib Kweli, among the most enduring and successful “conscious” hip-hop artists of his generation. I caught up with Kweli last week for a chat that ranged from his new album (Prisoner of Conscious), to stop-and-frisk, feminism, and homosexuality in the hip-hop community.
Mother Jones: What made you want to go to Florida to support the Dream Defenders?
Talib Kweli: Harry Belafonte hit me to the Dream Defenders and I liked what they were about. When I asked them how I could help their movement, they said, “You can help by coming down here; you can tweet.” But I was like, “That’s easy, what else can I do?” What I like about Dream Defenders is they’re taking all the fly shit from activism—they’re taking the right energy from civil rights, from black power, from Occupy Wall Street, all these movements, the Arab Spring. They’re not protesting, they’re not demonstrating; they’re just coming with a plan for action and they’re not going anywhere until the governor addresses their plan.
MJ: After the Zimmerman verdict, some artists said they would boycott Florida. You said you wouldn’t. Can you talk about that?
TK: I support the idea that artists have to make a stand. I’m with that—you’re putting the discussion on the table and you’re letting people know. You’re being brave as an artist and responsible to the community. Stevie Wonder saying he’s going to boycott Florida—that’s one strategy. I just don’t necessarily see that as a strategy that I need to employ. Dream Defenders are mostly students. They can’t afford to boycott Florida. So I want to support them in their efforts.
Read More Talib Kweli Stands His Ground | Mother Jones.