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I didn't want to come. And I don't want to be here. I'm the son of an Atlanta city police officer. My cousin is an L.A. city police officer and my cousin, East Point police officer. And I got a lot of love and respect for police officers down to the original.
You might remember Michael render our killer Mike, from a speech that went viral four days after George Floyds death protest in Atlanta were escalating. And so was the damage and violence. The mayor needed help turning the temperature down.
It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.
It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize. It is time to beat up prosecutors. You don't like it? The voting booth. It is time to hold memorial officers accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs. Atlanta is not perfect, but we are a lot better than we ever were and we are a lot better than cities are.
I'm mad as hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I'm tired of seeing black men die. That impromptu eight minute speech wasn't the first time killer Mike made waves, he got his start in music and quickly broke out on outcaste Grammy winning the whole world in 2001.
Focus his crime with the final segment, the slam dunk out of my spin them out of sight. Now he's won half the critically acclaimed duo Run The Jewels, which the Times called the most politically timely hip hop act of the day.
This is just a choice not to make myself go insane. It's typically make you want to lean on a couple of things, but you need to clean out another jacket.
Fucking rap will be killer. Mike's lyrics have nuance just like him. He's a famous rapper. He's also an activist, a family man, an enthusiastic gun owner and a serial entrepreneur. He's even opening a bank. Borrowing from Walt Whitman, he is large, he contains multitudes, and he happily contradicts himself. Killer Mike is a capitalist who backed Bernie Sanders socialist campaign and after he endorsed Stacey Abrams in her run for Georgia governor killer Mike welcome the Republican Brian Camp, who many say stole her seat to get a haircut and a photo op at his barber shop.
These days, it feels like everyone is forced to pick sides and stick to rigidly drawn lines, but not Killer Mike, which is why I wanted to talk to him. Well, that and our mutual love of Xmen.
OK, let's start off, I want to tell you my favorite quote of all the quotes you've said is about Xmen, which is one of my favorite movie series, one of my favorite comics.
And you say you may start off with Professor X, but Magneto got a f ing point. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Because I thought that was not the quote I expected you to know. All right. I'm glad you did. Just because I was introduced to the X-Men by my dad and the X-Men, much like Planet of the Apes, gave me a sense of racial and class disparities in the context of the comic book character. So it didn't feel real world and white versus black. And what I meant by that quote is we all want harmony and peace and for people to understand and for good will and the hope that if I show you, you know, for lack of a better word, I'm more human than that, even though I'm a mutant, you'll have to have sympathy, compassion, morality, where because of Magneto's past here to understand that humans are much like our cousins, the chimps were capable of being very awful for reasons that are unknown.
Well, it's interesting because he's seen as a villain, but he's really not. And that's what it is. His background is Holocaust. And he was experimented on. Magneto was. And of course, that's where he found his powers.
Yes. So as I got older, I began to understand and sympathize and empathize with Magneto side more, even though as a kid, I was very enthralled by Professor X and his ambitions, I had to understand it. In the real world, the brutal reality is that oftentimes the people who have been victimized have to be more aggressive in not being victimized.
And initially you think you're against him. But you're right. Every time he made one of those speeches, I'm like, he's got a point. These humans have to go, you know?
I mean, this is a very true thing. And I think what comics provide is the amazing opportunity for us to take our personal teams out of it and to really see the character of the of human behavior. Right. To me, there, as worthy as any Shakespearean play and I agree a lot of holy books, because you get that sense of morality and you get it at such a young age that it's impossible to unthink to unlearn it. So I see your reader, too.
But you also mentioned Planet of the Apes, which is one of my favorite series. All of them. I've seen all of them twenty six times. And, you know, it's same thing with Dr. Zayas when he's saying at the end, be careful for what you find. Even though he's the villain, he's right. The destruction of the planet by humans created the situation that created Planet of the Apes, even though they were brutal and awful. So it's an interesting way to think of the world.
And it made me think a lot about power, like what is power? And so one of the things you do when you talk about politics is you're right on the edge of that and yet you always return to the positive.
Well, I have to. Why otherwise? I'm Magneto. Mm hmm. And I mean, not quite in the literal. We have the ability. To burn this whole thing down tomorrow, when I say we, I mean people people could walk in tomorrow, every 18 year old boy across the globe could not agree. And we could send the leaders of our nations to fight gladiator style and coliseums. And I guarantee you the oligarchs would end war tomorrow.
Right, because it's their blood on the line. It's not the blood of poor children right on the line. We as a collective have not been organized enough or have not done so. So I have to think from the positive, what is the best way that I contribute to the protracted struggle of being someone who pushes people to questions the whys so that they come to the Enlightenment if there's a need for an end to war. So I find myself aspiring to be Charles Xavier and in helping people understand the power that they have and controlling that power versus burning the whole thing to the ground because the instinct is always to burn it to the ground.
Well, let's get into your music then, because you broke out, you know, as a performer, an outcast. But the album that put you on the map was the 2012 album RHP Music, which was less commercial, much more political. There's a song about Ronald Reagan and Iran-Contra, which I remember very well, some super old.
The end of the week. You have a 12 year old enough to understand that she did change for Al Gore, declared the war on drugs like a war on terror. It really was only temporary. And they would take out drugs in money that they pick up pocket. I get to talk to me about the shift in the music.
Well, rap music was an acronym for rebellious African people's music. So you have to be black or African. But it was from, of course, someone who was a descendant of African, but it was peoples music in much the same way people interpret that as black power. But that's all power to the people, to the proletariat. So that record was I had other political records from my very first record of Columbia Records. I had moments from God in the building to put the pressure on featured Ice Cube.
But that record was a concerted effort to put all of that in one place without the influence of a bigger company, saying, but you need a dance song. You don't have a crunk song or a trapped song real bad.
Like like, no, but Shelly, I'm a woman in the homeland, and I don't give a fuck about a party and about them. It was just Michael Rinder pouring his experiences with the help of one producer who later became a rap partner LP. And it was put together in the imagination of Jason DeMarco. Jason DeMarco gave me an opportunity to produce it and do a record at William Street Records. Only requirement that we had was you got a car yourself Killer Mike, as you were not the MC big a moniker.
So because because we don't care about you being safe. And I want you to make your version of Ice Cubes, America's Most Wanted. And I got a chance to do that. And I think that record took off from me because it was the first time as an artist, the audience got to see me and told right who I was. And that's that that's me. With all the nuances of someone who was politically sophisticated enough to make a Ronald Reagan and get Southerner ratchet enough to praise his wife on a club about strip clubs, you know what I'm saying?
Yeah, of course. You go with your wife to a strip club.
I do know the White House, when you go to a strip club moment, I'm not going to tell the story, but I go to a strip club to meet Internet people and they're always like, don't tell my wife.
I'm like, why don't you bring your friends anyway. Exactly. I grew up on a strip club thing I to go back. So you've called your music the soundtrack to progress, but on your latest album, RTG for Let's play a section from Walking in the Snow.
OK, in the middle of the post may look like me and every day on the evening news they feed you feel for free and do so. You watch the cop talk to a man like me. It's on my phone calls from a shrink to whisper I can't breathe.
And this is about Eric Garner, who died after he was put into a police chokehold six years ago. But the same words could apply to the police killing of George Floyd.
Talk a little bit about that.
Well, I can't I can't talk about that without acknowledging not only Eric, but Eric Garner. And I get chills talking about her because she was his daughter. She kept his legacy and the legacy of justice alive. And she died of what they call a heart attack is a broken heart. She was an amazing, an amazing woman. And one day when the battle between citizens and the police ends and police are better regulated and citizens feel safe and not overseen, she will be one of the breaks in the foundation that caused that to happen.
So, of course, I wrote that it references Eric so he's not forgotten. It ends up being applicable to Floyd. But I bring it straight to your next door to saying this is a human being that's being affected. So not only are children in cages and stuff, and it's murder porn. If you're watching on the television now, it is to the point where I am here in your living room, you're watching me as the police murder me.
And that is simply meant to put the gravity of what we see in the theater of music so that you can listen to it and absorb it. We know that it is easier for the police to kill someone who looks like me in this country. And that is a terrible thing for us to allow, because if we believe in what the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution has promised us, and if we understand that the history of policing, growing out of slavery and things of that nature, then we should be compelled as Americans with the higher ideal to to change that relationship.
So why is that? You know, you could have written those lyrics now. Yes. And before. Yes. So what is progress to you? Is there actually progress because you talk about the soundtrack of progress?
Yeah, it's a protracted struggle. There is progress. You know, Eugene Debs ran for president from prison in the early nineteen hundreds. Bernie Sanders actually stood a shot four years ago and a few months ago. It's one hundred years of progress, unfortunately, that it took, but that is progress.
But when you're writing a lyric that then just continues to be accurate year after year after year, how does that feel?
Well, it's hurtful, but I mean, it was true of my grandfather's time. But you get to feel like this is the way it is because it is not the way it should be, not the way it has to be. But I would argue that part of that is less about how I feel, because you're going to feel shitty as a woman if you keep getting cheated on. And we know that the protracted struggle of women's suffrage, women's rights and now equal equal rights and beyond, we know that that's been over a hundred years.
There was a time the abolitionist movement was married with the women's suffrage movement. And it's Flindt, you know, and much of us know. So it's we could have faster progress if we all attacked our common masters together and said, I'm not going to accept this unless everyone gets this, but we don't. What are we not doing to progress us faster because we don't have to stay here?
One of the things you said in this lyric is every day on the evening they feed you for free. That's a real condemnation of the media.
What we. We have a warrant. What am I what am I wanting? Why do I keep going to the bloodiest of headlines? Why why don't I read two different newspapers for two different perspectives? Why do I simply find something that makes me comfortable in my opinion and belief in listening to that? And why am I not demanding better news stories of my media? We seem to enjoy watching or talking about or discussing the worst more than we do the better.
Except that these videos did create protests that did lead to shock and horror. That wouldn't in a lot of social media actually is where that happened. So how do you balance that? Because you've got to see these things.
Well, that's not. Yeah, the opening of Emmett Till's casket is a version of that. Yes. That's not what I'm protesting when I'm protesting. If the three hundred and sixty three days where they show you black men as evil, villainous creatures that make half of your work off office, that they say, well, he should have just complied. That's the feed you fear for free, that's the fear, the act of seeing someone die on camera is a brutal act to see, right.
But it is a necessary act, just like the pictures of lynchings were necessary, just like the opening of Emmett Till's coffin. But the fear that I'm talking about your being free for free is the fear that white people.
Are fed to be afraid of everything nonwhite, non Western and non American, right, and that fear and I'm not saying it's in combination of judgment, but scare white people scare me because violence comes soon after. You know, when those women pick up their phones and say, I'm going to call the cops on you, they're using the power and privilege of being a white woman in that moment in a park. And the power of the state will be used to potentially talk about that.
So you grew up in the west side of Atlanta City. You called Fortress for Black America. Let's talk a little bit about police and the city itself, because you meant you went viral in a very powerful speech recently with protests breaking out there over George Floyd. Rioters were vandalized, part of the cities. There were peaceful protests going on. And you stood up and you appealed for calm. I was mad.
I didn't want to be there. Yeah, I was I'm afraid to maybe go to is a very dear friend of mine, is a business partner. And we are from the like the same neighborhood. There's a we have a business called Vacancy Food. And I was taking other rappers around, taking them food. I was playing salesman and drinking champagne and eating fish. And the next thing you know, Tip says, you know, the mayor wants us to come down.
And after about an hour of us arguing back and forth, you don't let your friend go and do stuff by themselves.
Why didn't you want to go? You were angry or. I was like, so why didn't you want to go? Because I watched a man of two hundred some pounds put his knee on the neck of a man for eight minutes and kill him. And, you know, as a person who hunt and fishes, I wouldn't allow a deer, you know, that I had shot to spend eight minutes dying. You know, there's a there's a humanity in ending the suffering that the cop didn't have.
So I wanted everything to be a part of me. And I was very it very it was more Magneto's and not. And with that said, my father had been a former police officer. My cousins are on the force and our good police officers. And as we walked in police headquarters, I saw a lot of good men and women of color. We have a large black police force, you know, started from those first eight black coffee in Atlanta.
And those people are people I know from the community and not just in a police uniform. I know they've done good in the community. I've seen the product, their work. And I knew that my community, although angry and bubbling over, I knew that we have been a safe haven for black organization and organizational power here. And I knew that if we allowed ourselves to fall into the hopelessness and despair of burning our city to the ground, black America may not have that in the same way.
And that scared me because for the first time in my life, I saw us angry enough to be chaotic enough to not organize, to simply watch it burn. And the problem with that is if you're already on the low rung of the totem pole and everything goes to chaos, how do you feed, clothe and shelter the people that you're fighting for? Right. How do you make sure they have the base bare minimum necessities? How do you make sure that beans and bread are going to be provided?
How do we make sure that water gets to? And, you know, I heard people say, well, he was standing up to defend businesses. Well, a week after that brother was shot, was killed at that Wendy's the the the mother of his children and his wife was given a car. The people who gave him the car did not work for the city, was not city money, was not state money. It was private money. And one was Pinki, who owns a slutty vegan, Clark, Atlanta University graduate, and the other Big Dave Cheesesteak.
His business was nearly destroyed. They smashed out his windows. He spent what it took to finish his windows. He gave money to other businesses that had suffered. And then within a week, he didn't hold anger. He didn't hold rage. He understood why the riots happened. But within a week, he was given a car to the family of a man who had been robbed of an opportunity to raise children.
But you've gone there. You've you I'm not sure if you supported a burning down police in Minneapolis, for example, when you said what what was radical was not that they burn targets, they burned down police stations. And the governments now were fed up with this, had to reconcile those things.
I'm not calling for violence against the police as individuals, as human beings, as working men and women with families. That's not what I'm doing, is saying that by any means necessary, defend yourself against murder from the state. And when the proletariat is fed up, yeah, the proletariat must, in protest, let the state know we are fed up. Burning a police building or a government building at all is a much more effective means as a proletariat of letting the people who you entrust with your money and to lead you is a much more effective means of letting them know I'm fed the fuck up than burning a retail outlet.
That's how you paid for the buildings. You bought the. Your tax dollars paid for them. So what you're saying now is we paid for this, we're not satisfied with the outcome. We are letting you know much the same way the Boston Tea Party did much in the same way of even those who sympathize with the Confederacy the Confederacy attempted to do. That's the American way. The American way is to say, I'm fed up, I'm going to burn some shit down.
So, you know, I'm serious. In a capitalistic system, that's what you do when you let the government know that we pay for the buildings, we pay your salary. We've had enough of this. It seems that measures get taken into consideration a lot faster in the progress it could have taken. One hundred years all of a sudden starts to take ten months.
It also creates a backlash and an ability for, say, the Trump administration to make ads about that. They don't try things as anarchy in the cities. It's not your preferred method of change.
No, no, it's not. It's not my preferred. And I'm not saying to do it. I just say if I see it done, you know, all people in the South are saying you ain't wrong. They say, they say and I agree with it. But like you said that, as I said, you know, it's like I say, well, I can't help that Trump is a marketing master. Mm hmm. But I can say, remember why you did it and take that into the booth.
As diligent as you were about seeing the government understand your anger, take the same vigilance into bringing ten people to the polls with you and vote down ticket because as as effective or ineffective, if you think any president is your city council person, your county commissioner, your local judge and prosecutor, your local sheriff have a much bigger effect on your life on a day to day basis. And we need you to be politically organized and nuanced enough to attack them.
If you hate policy, make sure it doesn't get to them.
That's right. I see. So you've talked about the importance of having a podium and you seem to think a lot about your power and how to use it. You use the word a lot when you're a lot of your your speeches, including giving voice to the powerless.
So before I take a podium, I seek the wisdom, the knowledge, the understanding and the experience even from organizations that are working locally that people should pay attention to. I believe nationally, the Gary Davis Next Level Boys Academy is an academy that provides an alternative to long prison sentences for boys who made a mistake. You may have a nephew who makes a stupid mistake. He sees a stupid thing on a movie. He decides he's going to take a gun and do something stupid, like rob a Family Dollar.
The court may want to give your nephew twenty seven years, Gary says. Didn't know this kid has dealt with some trauma. This kid is not a direction. Let's we think that two years with us is a better alternative. Twenty seven years of incarceration. His his his academy is turning boy's life around. And if it were not for finding Willis, who's the new Fulton County district attorney who's a progressive minded district attorney, wants to find restoration versus imprisonment.
If it wasn't for her pushing this a few years ago, it never would have been set up. So when it came time to help her get elected, it makes sense to help her get elected. I want to give voice and podium to that. So that's why I pick up Gary. Know, when you look at racial justice now, a lot of times racial justice becomes a badge or a beige. It becomes beige, it gets watered down.
Racial Justice Act now specifically deals with racial justice from a black perspective. And that's very needed in this time because black people have grievances that are nuanced to us that other groups may not understand.
Talk about that, because five years ago you said on Colbourne that white people discovering just how bad it is for black people in America are more blind than you thought. And George Floyd seems to have broken through to white people. Do you think you're seeing a shift?
I hope I'm seeing a shift because Americans as a people, they're tired of the fucked shit racism gets in the way of us all. Racism enforced by the state enslaves us all, because if it can happen to George Floyd, it can happen to someone better than him. Next, the state is not an empire meant to rule over you. And a lot of times in our understanding of what government is and what this republic is, we lose sight of that, that that this is a collective of individuals that should have equal, say, equal play, equal push in matters of the state.
And we're not we're quickly giving our power over to the state. Absolutely. I grew up in an all black enclave in a city that is virtually all black. And I never had to worry about white people. I didn't worry about what they thought of me. I didn't worry about what they thought about my grandparents version of Christianity. And my stores weren't owned by white people. As we went to a big department store, the gas station was owned by a black woman.
My school was named for Frederick. Our rivals were Benjamin Dimmeys, so my entire world was engulfed in blackness, so all my heroes and villains were black. I got a chance to understand that it is the character of someone. It isn't just a color of someone. So I understand a white kid that may be from Illinois or Iowa or upstate Michigan in New York that may have never had any, you know, black people at all, not understanding.
But what I wish to invite is the ability to say why and then to find understand now there are there other people that have simply been hypnotized by the news or comfortable in their own opinion or have been told they're like that because it's like that they understand. And that's a willful ignorance. They've gotten an image and that image, that image makes them feel better and they never have to challenge themselves. Right. It makes you feel better to say, well, those people are just like that, because then you never have to challenge the fact that teachers in Georgia who taught schools what schools become test taking centers and were forced into changing tests, they went to prison.
Mothers in California who are white enough means lied, tricked the college system into getting their kids in and they get to choose the prison they go to for two weeks, right? That's a hell of an insult. You have to say to yourself, have I got some chances that I know I wouldn't have got? Yeah. Yeah. Have you walked down the street with a sack of weed in your pocket and knew you weren't going to start as a fucking mutely you have.
Yeah. So so what we have what we have to do is make it not less comfortable for white people, because I think that's the interpretation. Everything. I don't want to stop and frisk for any mayor, but I definitely don't want it in Harlem only.
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This is Sam Dolnick. I'm an assistant managing editor at the New York Times. Our newsroom has been empty since March, but we've been busier than ever before. The pandemic has changed how we work, but it hasn't changed what we do. We are living through history. Every single one of our journalists is trying to match the moment. We have political reporters analyzing every development of this historic election. We have data journalists tracking every single virus case in America.
We've national reporters braving wildfires and floods to witness and understand the effects of climate change. And then there are food writers offering advice for what to cook during these many nights at home. This is why we became journalists to bring to light real verified information when the stakes couldn't be higher. We can't do this work without our subscribers. If you'd like to subscribe, please go to NY Times dot com slash. Subscribe and thanks. You quote a lot of MLK.
It's so laced through with Malcolm X, who I don't think people have always set them up as different talk about them, because you also use pieces of Malcolm X speeches. It's interesting to listen to you talk right now.
I have been influenced by both. I have been influenced by King. I've been influenced by X. People tend to see them as the antithesis of one another and they are not. And they died much more alike than that. Malcolm died ever after having traveled the world and in particular Kenya, and organizing with Pinto, who was assassinated three days after him, who was an Indian and Kenyan by birth but was an organizer there to end a corrupt government and give power back to the people.
Malcolm had a much bigger view globally, but in understanding that it wasn't just black versus the Masters of Power race, that it really was the proletariat which King understood in matters of shutting down the war machine. So they died, both of them more similar than different. And I have been influenced equally by both.
So when you're talking about this this idea of power, we're talking about politics. So let's talk about politics. You want an endorsement of Bernie Sanders, who I think talks a lot about this concept of the larger picture. What drew you to Bernie Sanders?
Sanders was offering everything that everyone has always said they would want or would make us better or more equitable society and. What drew me to him was his honesty in what he wanted to do. You know, he told me one time we were talking and he was like, you're going to be a billionaire and I'm a tax the shit out of you, too. And I giggled because, you know, I was like, you're right. I am. And I am supporting how close to.
I'm not very close. All right. OK. What we call the South Negro reach me. So so I still live very conservatively. If I could five million out a house, my house cost a quarter million dollars. If I could buy a hundred thousand dollar car, I don't buy it until I've saved over a hundred thousand dollar. I don't buy it then, you know, I don't. My wife is very frugal.
So, OK, in 2016 you said voting for Trump or Hillary Clinton, you're voting for the same thing. What what did you mean by that? Do you still stand by it? And does the same thing apply right now with Joe Biden? I think they're oligarch's. I said, OK, explain that oligarchs are a class of people who rule over you, who are going to give their kids jobs, they're going to intermarry, they're going to protect their class, and you're going to be a class that they pay it to every two to four years to get their vote.
And you were constantly be used by them as cheerleaders for them to profit themselves and their close circles first.
So you don't see a difference between Biden and Trump at this point?
Their difference is, I don't know what the difference is, make a huge difference to my community. You know, I would x the average non black Republican because there are lots of black Republicans. I would say, why do you not champion the platinum package that Trump put together? And if you can't give me a viable answer, you have to go home and ask yourself why? Why don't I want a community of people to get three million jobs? Why don't I want a community of people to get 500000 new businesses?
And why don't I want a community people to get five hundred billion? Because I know if this community grows, I know that the greater community grows. So you're going to have to say to yourself and on the Democratic side, I would say to myself in a time where my arch nemesis has dropped a plan that has some things in it that make a hell of a lot of sense, why am I not talking about that versus saying he didn't denounce the proud boys?
And what is it about me that my own ego gets in the way of saying, what could I co-opt from that plan? So you always say that.
You always say show what's in it for black people. Yes. Let me give you some for Joe Biden, for example, versus Trump. And you can I can do the same for Trump, the crime bill and things like that. Joe Biden could save Obamacare, appoint an attorney general who doesn't pursue mandatory minimum, start using federal funding to push through police reforms, increased school funding. What else do you want from the Democrats?
Joe Biden should apologize for the 1994 crime bill. Yeah, I think that that would do it. And this is me saying this is what I want to see out of me, Joe. This is me talking about getting my car wash yesterday and the young woman saying, Michael, I'm just conflicted about who I want to vote for, you know, and she's like my daughter that she's like, just to be honest with you, like, I'm angry that older people in our community keep telling me to vote for Joe Biden.
And with tears now, she said, I lost my dad for 30 years. So, you know, you got to think about. She's no more than thirty three to present it decimated a community, male influence left with prison sentences. You know, people say, well, they were selling drugs. Well, some of the drugs was just marijuana. I'm going to tell you how everybody in the 70s and 80s did cocaine. You know, and to be in there must be a country that celebrates moonshining.
And bootlegging and not celebrate the cavalier attitude to drug dealers in the 80s and 90s, because it's the same motive, the same motive was making money, the same motive was allowing people a pleasure. Alcoholism and alcohol and addiction to sugar has killed far more people. And yet our community was decimated. So when you say those things that Biden has are going to help. All right. I gotcha. I hear that. I've been hearing that for 20 years of my political engagement.
I've been hearing those exact same things and very little, if anything, has happened. I would also challenge the Democratic Party to say, why is it more important to keep Obamacare than it is to do free health care? My thing is, why do I keep settling for the top of a building when I say I'm shooting for the stars? And that doesn't say vote for Trump over him, but that does say it becomes very provocative. Trump understands that if a black American economy somehow grows stronger, I get to keep political power.
My party gets to put political power. This community gets an injection of funds and they're going to spend those funds not only within their community, in the greater community. So do I think he likes black people? I don't care. Will his plan help black people? I don't know. Does he have some provocative things in there that interests me a little more than the bland stuff I've been hearing out of the Democrats? Absolutely. But I don't want to go vote for Trump.
I want the Democrats to say here, that's I want you to say that again. You don't care. I don't care. I don't care. I have to assume that part of whoever's talking to me has the self-interest of their community. And so what's in it for me? And I can't care what you think about me, I care what your policy does.
But is there anything there are policy differences. Would an apology be enough? You want active things from the Democrats that show like full health care.
I think Biden has a start. And I told him I told Senator Harris it's the same thing. I think that was one of the biggest things you could do. You could start with the. Hey, I fucked up. Hmm. I got this wrong, because if not, if you don't do that, you're perceived as arrogant. Right. So something you did that upset some liberals. You met with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a pro Trump Republican who was accused of stealing the election from Stacey Abrams, who you think you supported?
I did support some people said you legitimized him by giving me a photo op, getting a haircut at the barbershop. Yeah. Tell us about that. Tell us why you did that.
Well, you can't you cannot legitimize a governor. The governor is the governor. Yes. I can't say. Well, I told you not my governor. I you're my governor. I have to pay my taxes. My grandmother did not like every politician, but my grandmother engaged with every politician. She engaged with our mayor. She engaged with our city council to engage with our county commissioners. She engaged with our neighborhood associations. It was her duty and she taught me it was my duty.
My grandmother marched me into a black bank at about five years old. She opened up a bank and account for me. My grandmother walked me into the mayor's office meetings with her and other meetings because she thought it was imperative that I understood it from a very young child. How to control your economics and how to control your community. Right. So when you talk about meeting with the governor, people see me as singing and dancing and I sing and dance.
But I won't allow myself to be belittled is simply that I'm a 30 year advocate and activist in my community. And right now, currently, I'm half co-owner of the shop franchise. I'm a third owner and banquette seafood. And I'd be damned if I'm not going to sit with the governor of my state and give my perspective from a regular citizen and voter from a small business owner. I'd be crazy not to. You'd be insane not to.
So barbershops, millions of dollars are the property across Atlanta. And now you want to start a community bank? Greenwood Yes. It's funny that you're starting a financial institution because you're my favorite song of yours lately.
And the video of the single La La I've watched Oh Dirty Bastard, go and get a job. Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy, shimmy, going. Give me give me your pugilistic, my linguistics. I'll water damage your head I repeat pornographic. Keep it up. It's sort of got this anticapitalist anthem.
You're burning money, you're burning credit cards, you're burning piles of cash. How do you balance that again? We're back to this thing. Two sides that you're enjoying burning money and really burning it.
I was that real money that was, you know, that wasn't real money. Some of that got a little too hard for us to earn real money. I mean, we could borrow that much real money. You know, we just got famous as a band.
But how do you balance you smashing things up and working within the system?
Yeah, well, enough of the proletariat hasn't said enough. So the necessity of participating in commerce is what brought me here. So I'm not a capitalist in that I constantly look for the lowest possible wages and means in order to capitalize on a capitalism that I understand that my goods and services are worth something in the market. And if I bring a better goods and service to the market, people will be willing to spend a dollar with me. And because of that, I'm able to.
Your black laborers, I'm able to hire black tradesmen and it gives you power, which gives me power. Absolutely. OK, for those who don't know, explain why it's called Greenwood.
Oftentimes, people hear about the Tulsa riot, which makes black people feel incredibly victimized a lot of times because it was a horrible event. It makes white people feel incredibly guilty because it was a horrible event. I want people to take the victimization and guilt out of it. And I want to get to prewired Greenwood Greenwood as America is expanding, which was an amazing community of freed black people who got an opportunity to simply participate in the promise of America. They got a chance to set up their own communities to create commerce, education and religious facilities.
And it thrived. It thrived. It thrived. It thrived until racism and hatred and envy ended it. And because it ended, that community never fully recovered. But the potential is not only in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The potential was in Harlem, the potentials in Inglewood. It lives right in Atlanta, on Auburn Avenue in Edgewood Avenue. It has lived here for over 100 years. So naming that the banking institution, Greenwood, need it to remind people that in front of the trauma and past the trauma, Greenwood has to stay in spirit and in philosophy.
A real thing in the way you do that, it's like Dr. Clyde Anderson said, you start to organize your dollars if we can take banking as they take more brick and mortar locations out of black communities and just out of communities, period, there's going to be a need for banking right there in your hand. Now you have an alternative that's for black and brown people, not only to be the pastors, but also to be CAPTA lenders to.
Right. So what is this? Is it because community banking is a tough business and most of it is loans to commercial real estate, things like that. So what is this?
If it's a really what is it on a very basic level for the average Atlantan is an alternative to check cashing places and an alternative to predatory banking. And the next level after that is for people who are small business owners, medium business owners, or people who may not be in traditional businesses like tech and things to have a bank that's willing to walk or risk it with you. So they're going to be capital lenders as well. And what we grow into is only the imagination can conceive of.
But I'd like to see us grow into one of the more competitive banks in the market as banking goes more into people's hands and more poor people are less check cashing places and more of our bank right here in my hand. And I hope to see likes in cities of Atlanta where you can find over 50 black women owned restaurants and bars and services, or the black sports and athletes class turn into a business class. What I hope to see is that the capital partners, the lenders are more a Greenwood and less of the banks that have refused.
They have to huge scale that allows them to to charge better rates, to be to be more competitive. You may get the worst loans, you may get the more difficult ones. How do you make money doing this?
Well, I don't have. I don't. Yeah, you some. The Kazaks is we've had to actually own some. We've got some. We've been some we have been refused for. But I take that more than having all the answers. Now what I have to say is that we have something in the market that finally makes it available for poor people to buy. And I believe that the unbanked, as they as they bank and as they become more financially literate, they become better banking customers, they become homeless.
And literacy is an important part of that. Literacy is definitely an important part. And beyond that, I think that the unbanked go from once bank and once to understanding financial literacy. They go from renters to buyers. Buyers stabilize neighborhoods that are that are that are in decent buyers. And a true tax base brings better schools, better schools and stable neighborhoods, bringing in business and innovation in a different way. So, you know, the sky's the limit.
My grandmother moved to Atlanta in nineteen fifty two by nineteen eighty, something she had paid off by nineteen ninety something. We were graduating high school, going into college. And my children have a much more stable life because of the sacrifice that my grandmother mother made. You know, her parents hid money in coffee cans under the bed. My grandmother banks black national and kept some money in the coffee cans.
Are you going to put your money in this bank? Absolutely I am. And what seed funding are you putting in money yourself into? The Creation's is a startup, correct?
This is a startup. Yeah, I, I brought the equity of celebrity and a minimum amount. So why banks.
Because banking is a highly regulated business and the government is always looking over your shoulder. Make sure you're not extending credit with too much risk. There's all kinds of roseby if you really wanted to incubate black owned businesses and literacy and and organization, why not pursue a venture fund?
No, I mean, I'm getting educated. So like part of this is going to be me calling you in a couple of days, like educate me on what I've looked up at and I'm really going to make that call. Any idiot can open a venture fund.
That's what I would tell you. Have you met some of the. Venture capitalists. You need a pair of khaki pants, though, you need to get. I do have a pair of shorts out to Ralph Lauren for the shirts and khaki pants. I want to say that I am a learned man because I understand that I don't know anything. And I'm always in the process of learning, just like I learned about the town of Greenwood, just like I learned about black banking and the importance of as I learned, much like I do with social issues, the stuff that I did out that I see as having some value, I try my best to bring to the greater audience, which is why I'm bringing people, you know, Greenwood, because I want to help us in every way we can.
I want to die knowing that my grandchildren are better off for my hard work. But that will be a shame if I don't make sure that my community is not better off my hard work.
All right. Thank you so much, KMAG.
We really love and respect. Thank you. Thanks for taking the time. All right. Bye bye. Bye. Hsueh is a production of New York Times opinion is produced by name Raza, Hiba, El Urbani, Matt Quong and Vishakha Darba, edited by Adam Schulz and Paula Schoeman with Music and Sound Design by Isaac Jones. Fact checking by Kate Sinclair.
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