REVOLT.TV is home to exclusive interviews from rising stars to the biggest entertainers and public figures of today. Here is where you get the never-before-heard stories about what’s really happening in the culture from the people who are pushing it forward.
Last Friday (June 5) was Vic Mensa’s 27th birthday, chillingly the same date that Breonna Taylor would’ve turned 27. But, aside from indulging in a quick haircut, he had other things besides celebration on his mind. Chief among them: Compiling a list of demands that would unite different organizations under one banner to demand one platform.
“One of the demands we are talking about is that there’s a civilian-elected police accountability committee, and having the people be bestowed with the power to police the police,” says the Chicago rapper, activist and founder of the organization SaveMoneySaveLife, which offers Street Medix training to help civilians act as first responders to gun violence, Know Your Rights training; and in recent weeks has provided food, hand sanitizer, masks and other supplies in more than 50 neighborhoods.
“We’ve also been demanding that our Chicago public schools cut ties with the Chicago police department,” he exclusively tells REVOLT. “And something I personally want to make sure lands on that list is an idea I’ve been kicking around for some years and I’ve been seeing get some traction. That the millions of dollars paid out in police settlements be taken from officers’ and partners’ pension plans and insurance policies as opposed to tax-payer money.”
Mensa adds: “We want to defund the police obviously and we want to reduce that massive [portion] of the [Chicago] budget that goes to the police, and we demand that, that it be invested in our communities to the tune of health care, mental health care, housing, employment. These are the things that comprise the opposite of rioting and pandemonium. People are frustrated. They’re tired of generational poverty. This is an unavoidable reaction to one specific demographic of people being pegged as the permanent underclass in America.”
Here’s what else is on Mensa’s mind:
How have the past two weeks been for you? Does it feel different this time around?
The streets are militarized, the national guard and tanks are all through the city, definitely up and down the South Side. You hear “F**k the police” coming out the mouths of Black, brown, white people everywhere. It feels at once very freeing and also extremely overwhelming because as someone who’s been so vocally anti-police for so long, it’s gratifying to see society at large rally behind something you’ve been crying for — screaming for, for years. And it’s also infuriating because there’s such an opportunity for increased racism and brutality for our enemies and those who wish to destroy us.
Do you feel like there is an opportunity for real change right now?
Michelle Alexander and Ava DuVernay with “The New Jim Crow” experience and 13th, they already laid out how mass incarceration is just an extension of slavery. The framework for the modern-day police department being a modern-day extension of the slave patrol, it’s all there. And the reality is that America was designed with Black people as the permanent bottom of the barrel, the permanent under-caste, and that’s not in our DNA. That doesn’t align with the way that our souls and spirits operate. These ideas of permanent slaves, they don’t exist in ancient African societies. But, that’s always been the plan in America. They can tell you differently and try to pacify you. But, make no mistake, the foot has never been lifted from the neck.
How can we keep moving forward?
I think we need to maintain pressure and we need to educate ourselves, cross-pollinate, and learn from the successes of our comrades around the nation and around the globe. And be intentional. Be intentional with the things we fight for. Be international with the things we march for. Be international with the things we loot for and we riot for.
I was giving a speech yesterday at a march against looting, and in support of small businesses. And I told them that the real looting is the foundation of this country. The real looting is the looting of this land from the Native Americans, the looting of the Africans to build the White House. The real looting is the closing of schools across the south and west side to open a new police academy. The real looting is the life of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald. White supremacy doesn’t exist without looting. So, we don’t want to hear about looting.
You also said you would march for an end to police brutality and defunding the police, noting, “We need to cut the tree down and replant it.”
Yeah, when we talk about bad apples, you’ve got to cut down the tree. But, this is the experience of Blacks in America. We were raised being victimized by the police. My earliest memories with police were all some extension of violence.
You’ve been speaking out on systemic racism in the police departments across the country for years.
It’s like at this point in time, and always for me, if you’re not woke, if you’re not conscious, if you’re not fighting for something… then you must be sleeping. You must be subdued, pacified. Coming from Chicago and having such a clear lens on the inequality that exists between races and classes, it’s almost impossible to not be driven to speak. For me, it’s always been paramount I speak about what’s going with any platform I have. That was my angle from the first rhyme I ever wrote.
How has your focus evolved?
Six months ago, maybe a year ago, people close to me, plenty of people close to me were like, “You need to stop being so political. Why are you so focused on those things?” And I’m like, just because the popular music industry at large and entertainment industry at large are often tone deaf to what’s happening in the f**king streets and the world… people often forget until you get thrust into these moments.
What did you think about Black Out Tuesday, which originated in the music industry?
I didn’t know too much about that… I don’t really participate. The music industry and executives and record labels are not the most of my worries right now. They’re not my primary target or focus, you know what I’m saying?
Your music and activism have always gone hand in hand. How does that process works for you?
I definitely looked up to musicians and learned from rappers who were that way in their music… and from around the same time I started taking rap seriously, I was also reading Malcolm X and reading Huey Newton; and grew up studying the lyrics of Common and Lupe Fiasco and Kanye, who are all going to teach and educate and acknowledge, and at the same time be fly and be high-level lyricists. Those are the people I strived to emulate as a kid.
You’ve done some pretty dope music activations including holding a concert on the back of a flatbed truck at a detention center on the US-Mexico border.
That was fresh, that was a lot of fun. I was thinking about doing something like that out here, low-key. I thought it would be a cool way to use music as a weapon for change, and for awareness and for revolution, so that was where I deemed the need to be at that point in time. And that was the best way to bring the music there.
What did you learn from that experience?
I thought the police would be more reactionary to someone yelling “Burn the White House down” outside a detention center of ICE headquarters in L.A. and they played it pretty cool, I’ll give ‘em that. What we’ve been peeping out here is when they really start to act the fool is when the money is threatened. When they have really taken the biggest stand in Chicago is when the crowds approach the Trump Tower.
Do you think you’ll be incorporating your current experiences into new music?
Right now seeds are being planted in my mind. I have a project I’ve been working on for a while that’s coming very soon. It’s not explicitly political, but I’m sure the music I’ll be writing in the coming weeks and months… a lot of this will exist in there.
What can you share about your new project?
It’s about rebirth and resurrection and reintroduction. It’s at once small and at the same time aggressive, and it gives insight into why I do the things I do, why I have done the things I have done, why I am who I am. It’s coming in the summertime. I don’t have the exact date right now because things have gotten a little crazy.
What do you want Black America to know right now?
I want them to know I will always fight with you, fight for you and believe in you, and believe in us. And that we have to be able to dream into the unseen to accomplish the impossible.
What do you want white America to know right now?
White America, umm s**t… Black lives matter. I want white Americans to know that if you want to support us, you have to recognize and be willing to relegate your white privilege. And you have to understand that for you to have that privilege, there needs to be someone getting the shorter end of the stick. So, you need to be willing to give that up.