By T-Dubb-O, Hands Up United Director
I see death around the corner, but the hope of life in this plastic bag. I have stress on my mind, pain in my eyes, and protection on my lap. Now let's fast forward to August 9th, 2014. My life completely changed this day.
I initially left my house and headed to where Michael Brown was murdered simply because I was fed up. I could feel myself giving up completely. All my life I've experienced the oppression of this system firsthand. This moment I told myself I refuse to allow my sons to grow up in a world where they can't be who they want to be. A world where they aren't allowed to dream like other children because of their race.
At this time I was extremely close to accomplishing my own dreams of establishing myself as a major hip hop artist. All of that went out the window. I felt it was my obligation as a black man to stand up in this moment. To defend our women, children, and our dreams.
I had a performance scheduled for the night of August 9th, 2014. Once I seen the pictures of Michael Brown Jr. laid in the street I immediately cancelled my show. I got up, got dressed, and I drove to Canfield.
My initial thoughts were to get every gun I had, call up people I know who would be down, and take the fight directly to the police. Once I arrived to the intersection of West Florissant and Canfield, I parked and got out of my vehicle ready to die.
First thing I seen was more police than I had ever seen in my life. Every county municipality that I knew of was out there. I seen over 50 police cars, assault rifles, shotguns, dogs, etc. At that moment I knew my city would never be the same.
Before I stepped away from the car, I felt a hand grip my shoulder. I turn quickly to see who it was while clutching my weapon, and it was a OG I know from the North side of Saint Louis. I won't mention his name for his protection, but he knows who he is. He asked me what was I about to do because he could see that look in my eyes. I told him that he should already know what I was about to do.
He told me he couldn't allow me to do it. At that point he pulled me over to his homies. They were all much older than me. They spoke wisdom to me and told me fight in a different way. They told me not to throw my life away here in this moment.
For the next couple hours we all just stood on West Florissant. Witnessed the complete disrespect of Michael Brown Jr's body, his family, and the community. At one point, police officers allowed their dogs to urinate on the spot covered with rose petals where Mike's body laid.
I stayed out there until about 3am just speaking with people that I seen on the street. When I went home, I couldn't sleep. I stayed up until the next morning. I decided that I would go to the Ferguson police department. I had no idea people would be there. My spirit just told me to go there.
I called my younger brother. He use to attend the same highschool as Mike Brown. He was just a year younger. I told him he needed to go with me. I told him get dressed because you need to see this. I went and picked him up and we headed to the ferguson police department.
From that day forward I've worked to change this community non-stop. In a short year's time I've been harassed more now by the police than I ever have selling drugs. I sacrificed all my comfort. I've went completely broke, canceled tours, missed battles, sacrificed time with my family, lost friends, etc.
What I have gained is a sense of self worth and helping to plant a seed that will grow into a world wide revolution. Besides almost dying every night we stepped foot out on these grounds, I've had the opportunity to travel the world and spread our message to the masses.
I've marched in the streets of Guerrero, Mexico where the 43 students were kidnapped by the Mexican Government, I've gone and connected with freedom fighters in London and Paris, I've sat in the Oval Office with President Obama and discussed these issues of predatory police directly with the highest office in this country, I've done lectures at Princeton University when I've never even graduated Highschool, and I've had the opportunity to spread our struggle on everything from BET's 106 & Park, Rollingstone, MSNBC, Ebony Magazine, The Source Magazine, Revolt TV, etc.
Our organization Hands Up United has established itself deep within the roots of the black community here in Saint Louis. Legitimate life changing work is being done for once by a non-profit. The people who come from oppression and targeted are the ones finally doing this work. People who actually know what the community needs and has experienced the pain of the struggle first hand.
I've gone from hustling on the corner 365 days ago to making pancakes at our monthly books and breakfast program where we feed, educate, and give free books to children and anybody that comes to the program.
I've gone from strictly using my business and marketing knowledge for my music brand to using that knowledge to assist students in our tech program to use that marketing knowledge to properly position information on websites to make them as marketable and SEO friendly as possible.
I've also witnessed the evils of this work firsthand. Due to my honesty and my appearance I am not given certain opportunities. At first my intelligence being from the "hood" was entertaining and attractive. Once certain powers seen I couldn't be manipulated and controlled, it was no longer attractive.
I refused to let people from different cities give me talking points on what to say about my city, in return I don't get invited to do media anymore. I may actually tell the truth about our struggles here instead of an agenda that a certain group wants pushed. After all the media and national organizations couldn't get a win here, they decided to pack up and leave.
We are stuck here being followed and harassed by police, our phones are tapped, our social media is monitored, and we are in constant danger. People on the ground who hasn't done the work greet us with jealousy and envy, racist antagonizers who send death threats daily, and police organizations who attempt to arrest us any and every time they see us.
However, every day we are still in the community do the work we hope will finally get us free. Thanks to our families around the world we continue to get blessed to tell the true story world-wide, learn, and grow in this work. It's been an extremely stressful and painful year, but also one of the most fulfilling times I've ever experienced.
I met new family, became more of an amazing artist, grown into a man my son's can look up to, found love, and opened my eyes. After 7 months of ignoring music I am back to work. I have new label situation, I've rocked shows nation wide while waking up the masses, and I have a new album coming out this year entitled "The Drop That Spilled The Cup". My new single is out now entitled "Word".
God placed me on this path. I don't know why, but I know it was meant. I am not explaining why we went back out night after night to get shot at with live ammunition, tear gas, etc. Our spirits demanded that we be out there fighting, and we did it. Because of St. Louis, MO the world will never be the same again and neither will we.