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Killer Mike Is Black History

Killer mike is black history

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I know we do not usually do this, but I want to talk about a pop culture news story. On February 4th, Killer Mike, a rapper, entrepreneur, activist, and community organizer, won his first, second, and third Grammy award. A night that should’ve meant celebration and pure joy was interrupted by law enforcement officers putting Killer Mike in handcuffs and arresting him. 


There are so many ways in which Killer Mike exemplifies Blackness, and his Grammy night is no exception. With this blog I want to share some things that we, as Black people, experience and how those experiences draw me specifically to the work of restorative justice. 


Blackness has always had to wait. 

Killer Mike has been making music for 20+ years. Killer Mike debuted his first rap album Monster in 2003. Since, Killer Mike has infused social and political thought and conviction with raw deep south lyricism. It has taken hip hop some aging and maturing to really value the type of music Killer Mike has been producing all along. 


As Kendrick Lamar said in his Grammy award winning album To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), “Critics wanna mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin’/ muthaf***a if you did then Killer Mike would be platinum.” 


Blackness has a history of being misunderstood and being overlooked. This includes our music, our ways of shifting culture, but sadly even our humanity. Yet has our humanity been fully seen and acknowledged in this country. 


Black celebration is feared. 

Killer Mike is currently not able to speak fully on the events that led to his arrest. But what we do know is that due to the intensity of the moment of celebration things got out of hand and the officers decided to handcuff Killer Mike and arrest him. This is iconic Blackness as well. 


Our BBQ’s, birdwatching, Black Presidents, teaching of accurate American history, stories, peaceful protest, and so many other ways of being and celebrating are followed with control and backlash. There is a myth in our society’s consciousness that believes that when one group, particularly Black peoples win others must lose. 


Blackness is not monolithic.

I’m sure I was not the only one waiting and following social media to see what would be Killer Mike’s official response. I’ll admit though I grieved that this happened on his Grammy award winning night, parts of me was really excited to see how he would use this injustice to push the conversation forward for betterment of Black people. 


Yet, as Killer Mike always does, he refused to fit into the box our mono-minded culture always puts us in. Instead of being outraged by the situation, while remaining critical of the decisions of the officers that led to his arrest, he was also able to calm the anxiousness and anger of his fans by acknowledging that “all of [his] heroes have been in handcuffs: Malcolm, Martin, Mandela, Medgars…” 


Everyone has a perspective of what it means to be Black. EVERYONE. But there is no one way of being Black. Every Black person is different from the other. There is no box of being Black that we must fit in. We are not dangerous and yet we are powerful beyond means. We are not ghetto, but yet we are resourceful and have found creative solutions to the problems that have been handed to us. We are not poor, even though we have been economically disenfranchised in this country, we find richness in the simplest of moments and experiences. 


Black History, Black Futures, Black Presence

I’m a fan of Killer Mike for many reasons but one of my favorite qualities is his ability to be present. I have never met him in person. However, I have watched several interviews and seen him on stages having discussions with people. He has a consistent message that he communicates, however how he frames and communicates that message always seems to be timely for that moment and to that person he is talking to. 


I believe it is important to learn from and honor Black History in order to build Black futures. However, to liberate Blackness and to imagine the Black futures we want to create requires us to find our ability to be present in as many moments as we humanly can. 


I believe justice is found at the intersection of healing and equity. Injustices happen because we are hurting individuals, living in hurting communities, that depend on systems designed and run by hurt individuals to keep us safe. To get to justice we must heal. AND, healing must intersect with equity. 


If we keep trying to reform or transform systems out of anxiety and trauma it will continue to lead to more inequities. And yet it is hard to heal when we are continually going without what we need to thrive.  


So how do we get our systems of justice and communities from the intersection of traumatization and punishment and to the intersection of healing and equity? Presence!


Presence is the value that I believe is crucial to move us forward to justice, healing, and equity. When harm and conflict happens we are transported out of that present moment when our mind connects this harm to previous harms we have experienced in the past to figure out how to protect ourselves. And our mind can also take us to worries about the future of potential worst case scenarios or what others may think of us. 


When we are not present we are not able to tap into a clarity of what is really going on, what is the truth outside of our perspectives, or what others may be experiencing. When we are not present and have clarity, then we are not able to imagine creative solutions and really understand what we need to heal. So without presence we can not get to justice that we want to build our Black Futures on.


Our model at RJIOK is uniquely designed to help individuals and communities to respond to harm with presence rather than responding from our past traumas and/or our fears of the future. With presence, similar to the presence that Killer Mike showed in regards to his harm, we can take the moments for what it is and use it to provide what is needed (equity) and give witness to the trauma (healing) in a manner that moves us towards justice. 


Are you someone that cares about justice, Black futures, or Black people? Do you have a hard time staying present when injustices happen? Are you willing to go on a journey with RJIOK to heal and restore your communities? Sign up to get alerts of our next training course…


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Check out the latest blog post by RJIOK Executive Director Xavier Graves, “Killer Mike Is Black History.” The story of Killer Mike’s Grammy night highlights the ongoing struggles Black people face with unjust systems. Let’s discuss how restorative justice can bring healing and liberation to our community. #BlackLivesMatter #RestorativeJustice #JusticeForKillerMike


Restorative justice offers us a way to break out of a monominded culture and gives us space for our multiple parts to be witnessed and accepted. For example, at RJIOK we do not use the labels of victim and offender, because most times we can both be the person who transferred harm (offender) and the person who experienced harm (victim) in the same situation. And no matter who transfered the harm in a particular situation, that harm did not start with us. No one experiences harm for the first time by committing it. NO ONE!


Our society has a perspective that every harm needs a perfect victim and a corrupt offender. When we have situations without a clean right and wrong, the complexity can be overwhelming. I’ve seen people try to address these situations causing more harm because of our inability to hold multiple truths and perspectives about individuals and situations. In restorative justice circles, we navigate those complexities in a proven process to make sure everyone can find restoration.

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Xavier Graves

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