I guess it’s only fitting that I stumble across some accessible material from the Oaktown-based rap/funk duo on 9/11.
If you don’t know the story, Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funktress had created the above album cover for their 2001 album Party Music. It was scheduled to be released shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. All artwork was done prior to the attacks, it just turned out to be an eerie coincidence. Of course, the album was delayed due to fear of doing anything remote anti-American in the time immediately following 9/11, and consequentially suffered poor sales.
Anyway, most recently they put out Pick a Bigger Weapon and got some help from MCs like Black Thought and Talib Kweli. Always nice company. Here’s a sampling from the album.
Thoughts on 9/11 after the jump.
My story never changes. It’s always the same. Always will be. It’s our generation’s JFK assassination. You will forget your middle name before you forget where you were on 9/11.
I was in eighth grade. Damn. We’re starting to distance ourselves, huh? And I was taking ISTEP, which for anyone fortunate enough to have missed out on the Indiana educational system, is a state-mandated test that features your basic nightmare of math, English and memory questions. Basically, you’d rather have an army of sub-atomic feminists papercut your junk than sit through the examination process. It’s SAT Jr. Except designed for retarded people.
Anyway, the teacher administrating the exam was glued to her computer, and I finished early so I was just bored as hell looking around the computer. I could sense some horrific reaction from her direction. Wasn’t sure what the deal was. But as soon as the exam finished, the principal chimed in to the PA system and announced that planes had flown into the towers of the World Trade Center, and that there was no more information on the matter at the time. We were then quickly advised not to rush to judgment or rumor-monger. In other words, don’t attack the Arab kids.
I can clearly remember the image I had after hearing his description. I thought of Pearl Harbor, and imagined dozens of kamikaze planes smacking into a pair of mythical towers in a city I’d only ever seen in the movies. It wasn’t until our English teacher let us watch news coverage that I realized what was going on. And then the towers collapsed. It was a different ballgame. News came in about an attack at the Pentagon and another plane downed over Pennsylvania. Supposedly Washington was under attack. This was America, right? This shit didn’t happen in America.
I wasn’t really afraid, though, until I saw how society decided to react. On the bus ride home, the driver demanded that nobody talk. Not sure why, but he was ex-military, I remember that. So we obeyed for the most part, or kept it to whispering. I just pressed my head against the disease-ridden window and looked out at all the traffic. It was converging on a corner gas station. People were breaking out in fistfights for gas. I saw one man deck another. It was like the zombie apocalypse incarnate or something. To me, it just seemed like mass chaos.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that my mom was waiting hysterically at home and convinced we were going to be nuked or something. We went to church, and I think we were the only people there because there wasn’t a worship service or anything. Hell, it wasn’t even our church. Back then, my family went to Saint Simon. But that was a decent drive, and my dad was in Detroit on business at the time, so my mom drove us to Holy Spirit and insisted we pray. That’s the weirdest thing, too, and that’s what probably shook me the most. We’ve never been a “church-y” family. I mean, yeah, I was raised Catholic and the family attended Mass since when I was about eight up until I was around 14 or 15. But it wasn’t always regular, and honestly I haven’t been to church since…damn, probably since I was 15 or so. That’s another issue. At the time, though, it was just so unnerving, being in an empty church. Not even a pastor present. Nobody there at all besides us. I’m trying to think of what to pray for. Images of mushroom clouds swirling in my head.
And I remember thinking at that moment to an earlier moment in that day, in tech ed, where a kid sitting behind me had grumbled about the school canceling his football game in the wake of the attacks. For all the crazy shit that went down since I had left school, I thought back to that moment and wondered if any of it really affected me at all. If the Midwest was too far distanced to be anything but a spectator. I decided that, yeah, it was a horrible thing to watch. But probably not inclined to come knocking on my door any time soon.
At the same time, it still felt oddly personal. And still does sometimes. The Bush administration played off that sentiment perfectly, unfortunately for our nation. We’re still picking up the pieces (and in some cases, making the mess even worse.) But I like to separate the politics from the tragedy, because they’re two different discussions. Today, we remember the tragedy. I can’t pretend to be personally affected – I didn’t know anyone on the planes, in the towers, at the Pentagon. The closest it hit for people I know and love was causing my uncle to get stuck in traffic traveling along the DC Beltway. I do realize that it affected, and still affects, a countless number of people, though, so I respect the scope of that sadness. It may not be mine, and I would never have the audacity to make it mine or re-write history when I tell my kids some day, but I feel for those who carry the burden. Who still hear that bell toll every successive year. I know we’ll move on – hopefully as a better country – and pick up – they’re working on the Freedom Tower – but I surely hope that we will not forget. That we won’t forget what the world was like that morning when we woke up, and how the fire and rubble changed that forever. I hope we will not forget the sounds of sirens shrieking from under twisted scraps of steel foundation, beams bent like metal fingers, clawing through the smoke toward a September sky. I hope we won’t forget our stories: where we were, how we felt, who we wanted to call first. And I hope we find no significance lost by the act of distancing, which is natural and healthy, but only if we give a damn about people and places and moments trapped in time beyond our own social agendas.
You don’t have to light a candle or wave a flag. Just care. About humanity. About the fact that people suffered and still do. About the significance, whether understood on a personal level or not. You don’t have to vote or protest or rally. Just, please, give a damn. It seems like, anymore, that’s asking too much of people.