In an exclusive interview with TheSource.com, the iconic civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton makes it very clear that he is indeed Hip Hop. From his days of marches in the streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn to his possible presidential bid in 2016, Rev. Al continues to carry the torch of truth and justice for the people, regardless of the controversy that continues to surround him. Check out this Q & A where the go to man of America’s injustices discusses the ending of the Stop and Frisk policies in NYC, his new book with Cash Money Content, and his responsibility as one of the most criticized men in America.
TheSource.com: I really want to talk to you about this book, The Rejected Stone, which came out under Cash Money Content.
Rev. Al: Right.
First, why do you feel that mainstream media immediately took to the offense when you aligned yourself with Hip-Hop in this book deal with Cash Money?
Because mainstream media has been anit-me and anit-hip-hop and then to see that combination though we had our disagreements and still do, uh, they could not believe it. First of all, Kedar Massenburg who used to cure? Motown cut the deal for me with timing___ and said to me “Look at how you transformed, you used to be a street activist now you have a national TV show, you deal with the white house and dadadada, how did you do that?” I said well America transformed. Its a different country, I still lead the marches, I deal with the protests but you can deal with it differently because the country’s different. Nobody’s running us out of Howard Beach now; its more institutional. So he says “You ought to write a book about it”, so I said, well I can write a book about how I transformed in the sense of telling others how they can transform. So I came up with the title because in the Bible, Jesus said “The rejected stone shall become the corner stone” and that’s what I was. I was a rejected stone. My father rejected me, I was rejected by the bourgeois preachers, and then I ended up becoming what I became and I wanted people to understand life is not about if you’re rejected at home, if you’re rejected at your job, if you’re rejected anywhere. If you accept yourself, you can turn all of that around and we turn the country around and I tell inside stories of me and president Obama’s relationship, inside stories of me and Michael Jackson and old politics around me preaching his funeral and things I learned running with James Brown. So its anecdotes for giving life lessons and where I saw the country. So he came back to me and he says, “Simon Houston has a distribution deal with Cash Money Content at Cash Money Records, do you have an objection of them distributing your book?” I said, “Well, in the book I talk about why I’m against lyrics my fright inside of hip hop so as long as they’re not going to change a word of what I’m saying, I think its a good thing because they get my message to so many young people who may never agree with me but will at least understand my position”. They said “We ain’t changing nothing! We don’t change Lil Wayne songs even when they ___, we ain’t changing nothing in this book”. I said fine, so I thought it was a good thing for me to do that and I think it was a mature thing for them because it starts a conversation. If I worked with Random House, then Rubin Murdoch, who is definitely an enemy politically of mine, I can go on Fox TV, that’s all right. But I go with Cash Money, that becomes something wrong because we disagree on lyrics. Thats crazy! In public life you deal with people all the time that you disagree with.
Indeed, indeed, and just to expound more on that degree, you’ve always been, you know, an advocate in some form of hip-hop. Um 25 years ago you were with PE, doing the Fight The Power.
Absolutely, I write about that in the book, I write about Public Enemy. I was raised by James Brown who many hip-hop guys started sampling his stuff so I know rap and hip hop from its conception. I’m not anti-any of that. I am against some of the lyrics, but let me tell you something, when I wore the medallion and the sports suit I got that from running around with Run DMC and them.
Thats how we dressed in the 80’s!
Right, right. Now, why do you think that the hip hop generation in general, you know, outside of just fashion and things that we see, why do you think the hip hop generation has always been a part of your audience and been attracted to your methods?
Because I think that they understand that the defiance, and what they call swagger, so even if we disagree at a certain point, they know that me and them are the same person. The other thing I think that they recognize and I talk about this in the book, is I’m probably the first well-known civil rights leader that comes out of the northern, urban hood. You know, everybody before me from Jesse Jackson to Dr. King and all of them are southern guys. I come out of Brooklyn. I didn’t visit Brooklyn. I was born and raised in Brownsville. So a lot of hip-hop which is based on the inner city, the hood, is the hood I came out of. And so it’s just a matter of your style, people know how you act
Right indeed. So what are the pros and cons of being one of the primary faces of Black leadership?
The pros are that you can get a message out because people know who you are, you have access to your radio, your TV shows you have access to peoples familiarity. The cons is the images of you that are locked into what people are told about you. Then you end up with no private life. If I go out it becomes a pubic appearance, so, you know, I have no private life, I have no time, no down time. But that’s the life I choose. So I take the good with the bad and try to get something achieved.
Right, now what is the state of the transition or should I say the passing of the baton within Black leadership in America?
I think the what you call the King or Mosely generation Rev Joe Lawry, John Lewis and went from being the Jesse Jackson and them who I grew up under and now to me it is my job to work with Marc Morales and others, we are our 50s and there are other guys in the 30s and 20s that they are giving the rules so their skills are taken from us. You can’t have leadership and don’t know when to get out the way. James Brown used to tell me “know when to get off the stage” and my thing is that I made a point for a long its time for other people to emerge. I don’t want in a few years for people to say its time for him to go. I’d rather people say “we miss him, I wish he was here” I wan to leave before I get in the way. But I want to help bring people, not to imitate me, but to learn what I learned, lessons that I learned, many of them in this book, and then develop their own style. I learned under Reverend Jones and Reverend Jackson but I had my own style, so I had to benefit what I learned from them and apply it to my own style and I think the next generation behind me, they have to deal with and organize around their style. Because the struggle has to continue its not about one person.
Will we ever see incidents of resistance in this country again as we saw in Crown Heights in ’91, or in LA in ’92 because of race?
We may, when you see the level of poverty that is still there, anything can enflame that. I think that our people are mobilized more than people thought we were able to do with Trayvon Martin so people are rising in consciousness. The real problem is going to be if Obama leaves the white house and you don’t have a black family on TV every night and there’s no progress then people become hardened and more angry. And that will be the test. I don’t advocate that but I’m realistic about we are going to have to deal with the reality of the times
And do you think that the resent upsurge of people wanting to purchase guns and America going into this fervor over gun policy, do you think that that’s even inflaming it more?
Yeah, when you see the right wing idea with guns, it makes people also say they got to defend themselves. The George Zimmerman’s situation, these kinds of things (exasperate) tension, it doesn’t relieve them.
Right, now speaking of George Zimmerman, in the wake of his recent arrest, are there plans still in the works to bring federal charges against him?
Oh yeah we’ve been talking consistently with them and this recent situation two days ago has (exasperated) that. I had on my TV show last night the general that he was guilty of changing the vote, she was outraged by what happened. And I’m sure that the feds can look at the character of this guys, who just keeps getting into problems and its a situation with his ex wife and a gun, I mean I can say this one publicly, they’re looking into this one deeply into it, we’re not giving up on that.
Right here in New York do you see an actual ending to the practices and policies of stop and frisk? They say its unconstitutional, they won’t do it, its against the law, but its still happening everyday. Do you see an actual ending to it?
Yeah it will end with the new mayor, I think the fact that it appears now that Bill de Blasio will be the mayor, he marched with us and made that commitment more than Bill Thompson did, I think that’s one of the reasons why he came out so ahead of Thompson. I think he will appoint a new police commissioner that will end it and that’s with his commitment and I think when the judge came out that it was unconstitutional, it validated all of us that marched on Bloomberg and raised it in the first place.
-Sha Be Allah(@KingPenStatus)