It may not be in the news at all anymore, but the revolutionary spirit of “Occupy Wall Street” is “still alive” in the U.S., according to political hip-hop artist Immortal Technique, who spoke to Raw Story ahead of a show in Austin, Texas.
“I think Occupy Wall Street is still alive,” the 35-year-old rapper said. “Those people are still out there. The difference is the TV cameras aren’t there all day. I think someone made an executive decision to say, ‘Let’s stop portraying this as a revolutionary movement. Let’s show it as some marginalized group of people.'”
Technique, known to his parents as Felipe Andres Coronel, was a key voice during the New York City protest that captured the world’s attention, giving voice to the urgency of the causes that crashed together in Zuccotti Park. More importantly, he drove home the protesters’ dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama, insisting during interviews that “Occupy” was an organic movement and not part of the president’s re-election campaign.
“To be truthful, part of the movement died down because it shifted into activism and cut a lot of the fat — people who were just there to be there, to be part of it,” he said. “There’s still lots of dedicated people who are doing things with ‘Occupy Sandy.’ When we put on a benefit concert out there, they connected us with local stores that gave us goods almost at cost, so we were able to buy from local places and help people rebuild their homes.”
He added that helping people get food and shelter isn’t quite as attention-grabbing as several women “getting pepper sprayed on the sidewalk by some douchebag cop,” thus the movement’s disappearance from the media. Still, Technique said, that must not deter people who are truly committed to working for change.
For Technique, whose lyrics are often charged with righteous anger over the world’s litany of problems, that sort of direct action is not a hobby or something he does after the shows to look good. It seems to be the goal of his whole existence.
The 2011 documentary “The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique” details how he’s used proceeds from his bootstrapped music career to build an orphanage for children in Afghanistan. Standing outside the building his lyrics helped construct, Technique’s often bombastic energy and anger on stage is completely absent. He looks almost like a different person.
Confronted with this observation, Technique hung his head and sheepishly grinned.
“[Afghans] are people who still have bullets lodged in their bodies from fighting the Russians and the Taliban,” he said. “They have buried their brothers and sisters. They have buried their children.”
He added that working in Afghanistan was “a huge ego check” and reminded him that “we have to live for revolution, not just go die for some cause.”
“I’ve learned over the years that you teach people with love, you don’t teach people with hatred,” he continued, explaining why the film featured so much footage of his charity work. “You can’t teach with hatred because they’re not going to listen to you. You make them not want to learn. You’ve got to show people how they are wrong or how things can be made better, and do it with love.”
To better illustrate his point, Technique used an example: CNN host Piers Morgan debating conspiracy talk radio host Alex Jones.
“I just had an interview with Alex Jones [on Friday], who I don’t agree with on everything, but we had a productive, calm, rational discussion,” he said. “Nobody yelled, nobody raised their voice, nobody disrespected each other. It wasn’t some Piers Morgan shenanigan. It was an honest debate about immigration, gun control, the right-vs-left mirage, fake libertarianism and fake liberals, and we ended up coming to some mutual agreements and some mutual disagreements. I think it’s wrong to think that people have to agree with everything you say in order to get along.”
Constructive communication, he said, is also important in his prison outreach and gang mediation work as well. “I sat down with a young brother the other day, a crip,” he said. “First thing I said was, ‘Yo, the anagram on your set means committed to revolution in progress. That’s where you started and getting back to that is the only way you’ll evolve.’ But if I had said, ‘Yo, ya’ll niggas are just killing your own people’ … That’s unfortunately what the civil rights movement, or what’s left of it, did. They turned their backs on us. They rolled steamrollers over hip-hop CDs. You think that’s gonna teach 18-year-old Ice-T to walk with love?”
“If you’re a father, you don’t have to be Superman to the world, but you’re supposed to be a hero to your child,” Technique said. “If you want to change racism in the world, you don’t have to start a peace march like Dr. Martin Luther King. Start with your family. I have racist people in my family. You talk to them first. You know people who have an irrational hatred of Islam, approach them and say, ‘Hey man, stop making yourself look bad, I’m only telling you this because I love you.'”
Original photography by Stephen C. Webster, all rights reserved.