Unintentional Activists: Of Mics & Men

The VIP section had to be supplemented with roped-off sections of old, gray folding chairs to accommodate the crowd.  The floor section looked like mounds of ants dining on droppings from a late summer picnic: moving tightly together, bonded by the same mission of ingesting their favorite food — in this case – Wu-Tang.

I’m sure that these young, lower-income Black men didn’t intend to become activists when they started out in Staten Island; yet they undoubtedly did.  Their raw lyrics, natural flows and the ups & downs of their public lives didn’t just cause our bodies to sway, but our unconscious minds as well.  People are affected by the Clan.

When you attend a show, the Wu-Tang effect is felt immediately – before they even get on the stage.  I saw teens whom I wanted to stop and question: ”Whatchoo know about Wu-Tang?”  There were several reserved sections for people who had disabilities, including many elderly folks in wheelchairs or rolling in with oxygen tanks.  Yes, I also wanted to ask them, “Whatchoo know about the Wu?”  I couldn’t give you a racial breakdown of attendees (like 50% White, 40% Black, etc.) because it seemed that there were equal parts of every race.  Wu-Tang is a sneaky lover whom you thought was just for you, your crew, your people — speaking your message; but turns out that MF was rappin’ to everybody – a true international lover.

Wu-Tang Clan Photo: Jonathan Weiner 2014 For RS1223 Story via Fant, Phylicia and Hawkins, Hillary

It’s this trait, the wide appeal of their music that struck me most as I watched the ant mounds move.  Although these men oftentimes were rapping about the empowerment of Black people and reciting teachings from the five-percenters, a diverse group of people weren’t only nibbling on the crumbs (listening to whatever the radio played); but dining on the full-course meal (and playing on repeat full albums, without skips).  Caesar, an overweight Puerto Rican “don’t know a stranger” type of man chatted up me and my friends before the concert, as his friend who was wearing yoga pants, and had his hair piled into a huge bun on top of his head sat quietly and drank until Wu-Tang came out (when at that point he climbed up on one of the old folding chairs and managed to dance and bounce without falling the entire night).  A tiny 30-something year old kept swearing that she knew me from somewhere; and I participated in a “he wasn’t shit anyway” conversation with a group of millennial white girls in the ladies room.

Music is the common food that connects people; Wu-Tang is the master chef.  They serve it raw – in its most natural form, which touches people at their most pure and human levels.  These Brothas — rough, unproduced, and authentic – are pure vulnerability.  They jab and puncture you with coarse, unprocessed words until you are stripped of layers of pretense and bullshit and left to only feel.

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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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