Saidu Sejan-Thomas Jr.: Hey what's good, y'all? This is third and final episode of our Fuck Your Water Fountain mini-series. For now. We'll do more of these later but look, if you haven't listened to the first two in the series, please go back and do that. It'll make this one make much more sense. And if you have listened, bet, thank you.
Saidu: So today, our producer Mack is gonna do the honors of inducting his pick into the hall of fame. Oh, and just a quick warning: this episode has a lot of curse words in it, heavy themes, violence, all that. We'll get started right after this short break.
Saidu: All right, what you—what you got for me today?
Salifu Sesay Mack: All right. So first of all, I just want to say that I had to get myself real hyped to do this. I actually had to, like, go to my altar, you know, invite the ancestors in. I had to stretch a little bit. I, like, walked—because I got to do this right. I don't want nobody messaging me. I don't want nobody knocking on my door telling me I didn't do this justice, because I'm getting ready to talk about somebody who really kind of helped frame my worldview.
Saidu: I'm really excited for this, then.
Mack: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But before I get into, like, who they are, I want to, like, show you this clip to give you an idea of what type of time we on today.
Saidu: Oh, okay.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: Lyndon Johnson, he can always raise an argument about law and order, because he never talks about justice. But Black people fall for that same argument, and they go around talking about law-breakers. We did not make the laws in this country. We are neither morally nor legally confined to those laws. Those laws that keep them up, keep us down. You got to begin to understand that. For 400 years, he taught you white nationalism and you lapped it up. You taught it to your children. You had your children thinking that everything black was bad. Black cows don't give good milk. Black hens don't lay eggs. Black for funerals, white for weddings. That's white nationalism. Santa Claus—a white honky who slides down a black chimney and comes out white!]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: We can't equate progress with concessions. We can no longer make that mistake. You see, when they gave us that n***** astronaut, you say we were making progress, but I told you they were gonna lose him in space. He didn't get that far.]
Saidu: Damn. Damn!
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: You put Adam Clayton Powell in office and you couldn't keep him. What you think they're gonna do with Thurgood Marshall when they get tired of him? They gave you Walter Washington of Washington, DC, and you said we were making progress. That's not progress. See, it's no in between. You're either free or you're a slave. There's no such thing as second-class citizenship. That's like telling me you can be a little bit pregnant.]
Saidu: [laughs] Oh my God! Yo! What? Okay, I've always heard of this man, but I've never seen this. I've never seen him speak. What the hell?
Mack: Yeah, yeah. So—so just in case, just before people get confused, the person that I just—the person in the video I just played, his name is H. Rap Brown.
Saidu: H. Rap Brown. It's the kind of name that's hard to forget once you hear it. Whenever I heard it back in college or something, it stuck in the back of my mind. But I don't remember any of the details about the man. I knew the basics, that he was a revolutionary who probably sacrificed a lot for us, but whenever people brought up his name in conversation I'd just mm-hmm and nod confidently as if I knew more. Because the last thing you want is for other Black folks to think that you may not know as much as you need to know about Black history.
Saidu: Which makes no sense, because it's not like we learned about this shit in school. There's no streets or statues for folks like H. Rap Brown, no curriculum, none of that. But still, it feels embarrassing that I don't know more about somebody who was probably willing to put it all on the line for me. And I think sometimes, in our shame, we choose not to admit what we don't know. We choose not to ask questions and find out more. And what that does is it unintentionally closes the door on ideas that could help shape who we are, sharpen what we believe, provide us with a roadmap for the kind of world we wanna live in. The shame, it does some of the same work as oppression. It keeps us quiet and uninformed. And what we're left with is just this very basic understanding of these iconic revolutionaries from the past. Understanding that really isn't anything all—just vibes.
Saidu: And for the longest time, that's all I had for my man, H. Rap Brown: just a cool name I remembered from college and vibes, which is why I'm so hyped for that to change today. Because according to Mack, this man embodies everything about the Fuck Your Water Fountain Hall of Fame, and he has a lot to teach us. He's an activist, a fly and foul mouthed lyrical genius who loves payback. And he's just an all around bad, bad dude with dangerous ideas about liberation. And Mack says he's literally Mr. Fuck Your Everything. So let's put shame and embarrassment to the side for a second, and close out this series, and induct H. Rap Brown into the Fuck Your Water Fountain Hall of Fame. Let's get into it.
Mack: All right, so Rap was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. And he got the name "Rap" because he was skilled at playing the dozens in school. And you familiar with the dozens, right?
Saidu: Oh, man. That makes so much sense, yes.
Mack: Right. All right, so for anybody listening who's not familiar with the dozens—because that's possible. When I'm talking about the dozens I'm talking about the Dirty Dozens, which is just like a—historically it's like a basically wordplay where you're, like, tearing somebody down, you know, jokingly, or building yourself up.
Saidu: Roasting the hell out of people.
Mack: Just roasting the hell out of people. It was—it was rap before it was rap, right? And so in his autobiography, he wrote—sort of like he wrote down some of the things that he was, like, phenom—like, I guess well-known for saying when he was in school. You know, when he was in middle school, high school—this would have been like the early '50s, right? And he's, like, on the playground putting down shit like this. "Rap is my name and love is my game. I'm the bed tucker, the cock plucker, the motherfucker, the milkshaker, the record breaker, the population maker, the gunslinger, the baby-bringer, the humdinger, the pussy ringer, the man with the terrible middle finger. The hard-hitter, the bullshitter, the polly nussy getter, the beast from the East, the judge, the sludge, the women's pets, the men's fret, the punk boy's pin up. They call me Rap, the dicker, the ass-kicker, the cherry picker, the city-slicker, the titty-licker, and I ain't giving up nothing but bubble gum and hard times and I'm fresh out of bubble gum." You know, he was, like, on the playground! [laughs]
Saidu: What? Yo!
Mack: Yo! Yes, on the playground, putting down shit like that. So, you know, he wasn't just the kind of person that was talking shit. He was always backing this up.
Mack: So I want to tell you about a time when he was in the Cub Scouts. So he was in the Cub Scouts ...
Saidu: Cub Scout gang! I used to be in the Cub Scouts. Let's go!
Mack: Yeah. Well, I'm about to tell you about some different kind of Cub Scout shit. All right.
Saidu: [laughs] Okay.
Mack: All right, so Rap is in, I'm gonna say his elementary school years. He's in the Cub Scouts, and they go to this thing called the Cub Scout Circus that they used to have on the campus of Louisiana State University. So you walk into this coliseum, and they got like the walls where they keep the animals in the back. And—but, of course, it's, like, segregated. So the Black people sit kind of where the animals are. And then you got, like, the area where the white people sit, and it's the white section. And according to Rap, like, they told him, explained to him as a kid, the reason why he could never go to the white section is because the crackers would shoot them with BB guns.
Mack: But even from a young age, Rap, like, his reaction is like, "I ain't did nothing to them motherfuckers and they ain't gonna shoot me." So ...
Saidu: Oh, wow.
Mack: ... he took that as a challenge to, like, go see what's up. So, like, he's walking through the white section and somebody yells, "N*****, you have been sentenced to death!" And they start shooting him with the BB guns. Yo, like ...
Saidu: What? Like they told him what happens.
Mack: Yes, they start unloading on him. So he's, like, hauling ass, trying to climb over a stall, and when he gets to this, like, barbed wire fence, he rips the seat of his pants. So he's a kid sitting here trying to figure out what to do. He like, "All right. Should I tell somebody or not?" And so he decided to go to one of his white scoutmasters to be like, "Bruh, like, they shot me." And brother's like, "Like, look here. Be a good sport about it, scout." And really ...
Saidu: Be a good scout about it, sport. Be a good sport about it, scout.
Mack: "Be a good sport about it, scout."
Mack: And so Rap is like, "Bruh, how the fuck am I gonna be a good sport about being shot? That doesn't make sense to me." So he makes this plan to take revenge into his own hands. So I'ma read to you what he says that he did.
Mack: So he wrote down what he did, and what he said was, "Well, the white troops always went out before us to entertain." So when they went out, I went back there and fucked up all their food. I peed in the tuna fish. I spit in the potato salad. I threw the hot dogs on the ground. I stepped on the potato chips. I messed up everything. Them crackers had made me tear my only Cub Scout pants right in the seat, and shot me too."
Saidu: Damn! Yo, who is this man?
Mack: Brother, and, like, peep this. He went back the second year and took his own BB gun, did the same thing and shot back live in the circus. [laughs]
Saidu: [laughs] Wait. What?
Mack: Yo. Yes. And so this moment is really pivotal in his life because he said—and I'ma quote him again, "I began to realize then the value of being violent. I knew I hadn't done anything to them white motherfuckers to shoot they BB guns at me, so I knew the world didn't run on love. The only thing that was going to keep them white motherfuckers off you was you."
Saidu: Hmm. But, like, my thing is, if I was him and somebody told me not to go somewhere because the white people were gonna shoot at me, I just wouldn't go. And if I went and I got shot at, I'd be like, "Oh, well, they told me not to do that. Why did I do that?"
Mack: That's you, not Rap.
Saidu: Yeah, well, I guess that's true.
Mack: So when Rap talks about growing up, like, in the '60s and whatnot, there's three distinct groups of people in America that he references. You have Blacks or Black people on one side, and you have what you hear him refer to as, like, white people, a.k.a. honkies, a.k.a. crackers. But in between both of those groups he has—what he specifically points out as Negroes. And, like, these people ...
Saidu: Hold on, wait. I just got to say one thing. Like, I feel like when white people are like, "Why can't we say the N-word?" They're always like, "Well, you call us honkies and crackers." And I'm just like, "No, we don't. I've never heard anybody call anybody, any white person that." But here he is.
Saidu: H. Rap Brown.
Saidu: He was, like, straight up call the white people crackers and honkies.
Mack: Yo, like, in casual conversation. It's actually amazing. We need to bring that shit back. But he was like, straight up, like, honky, honky, cracker. So on one side you have Blacks or Black people, you have honkies or crackers. And in the middle, you have this distinct group called "Negroes." And he doesn't use the word "coon." That's not a word that he uses very often. His thing is Toms and tommin'. So Tom is the active noun, and tomming as the verb. Like—and I think that shit hits so much harder, personally. [laughs]
Saidu: Damn! You—you're tommin', brother. Why you tommin'?
Mack: Yeah, tommin'. Like, you read his autobiography and he'll just talk about, like, being in meetings and he was like, "oh, these n****s was tommin' like n****s never tommed before." Like, it's just so electric.
Saidu: Yeah, basically singing and dancing in front of white people to make them feel comfortable.
Mack: Yeah and it's actually really funny because this something Rap observes pretty much his whole life, right? The class dynamic in the Black community is actually why he ends up dropping out of college, because he went to Southern University, a HBCU in Louisiana. He just has this, like, real problem with what he calls "Negro" authority, and this class of Black people that he feels like are more interested in their own personal come up than liberation for Black people.
Mack: But before he drops out of college, he gets introduced to the civil rights movement, which is kinda brewing at the moment, and gets involved in all kinds of organizing work. He moves to DC, and becomes a leader in this group there that's working to combat racism and segregation and stuff like that in DC.
Mack: So there's this meeting at the White House right after Bloody Sunday that happened in Selma. And he's invited there along with a bunch of other civil rights leaders to meet with President Johnson. So they get in Johnson's office and the Negroes—as he says it—like, they in there smiling. Like, you can see all their teeth. They're shaking hands. And they have to do this thing where they all go around the table and, like, introduce themselves. And so, like, everybody is going around the table and he's like, everybody is like, "President Johnson, I'm so happy to be here. Da da da da da." And he's, like, sitting in his chair, like, fuming. Like, oh, y'all are dead ass. Like, pass me the mic right now. Give me the mic right now.
Saidu: [laughs] I can't wait 'til we get back to the hotel room.
Mack: Well, he's not even trying to wait to get to the hotel room. He's like, literally just let me speak. I can't wait 'til y'all get done. So, you know, they're like—they're all there kind of doing what he calls "tomming." They came with this, like, list of demands. They came with this grievance because, like, understand, they are there responding to Bloody Sunday in Selma. Like, Black people just got beat and brutalized. He's absolutely not happy to be there. So they pass this letter across the table to President Johnson. He says President Johnson barely reads the letter before he, like, kind of passes it back. And he also tells them—the Black people and the Negroes sitting in the room—that, like, he feels like they are infringing on his human rights because his daughters couldn't sleep last night because all the picketing they was doing in front of the White House. So at this point, Rap is just like, "Bruh, I cannot wait until y'all let me speak."
Saidu: Oh, Johnson is telling them about problems he has.
Saidu: Even though Black people just got done being killed. He's talking about ...
Mack: Yeah. Black people just got killed and beat up. But he's like, "But y'all kept my two daughters up last night with all your hooting and hollering."
Saidu: Oh, man. This is fertile territory for a man such as this. This is material, this is opportunity. This is an open win—this is a weakness. Like, people like this are salivating when they get something like this. Like, he's ready to go. He's about to eat! He's about to eat! Okay.
Mack: So he's basically like, "I started off by telling Johnson I'm actually not happy to be here. And I think it's unnecessary we have to be here protesting against the brutality that Black people are subjected to. And furthermore, I think that the majority of Black people that voted for you wish they had gone fishing." So then to respond to the point about the president's two daughters not being able to sleep because n****s was outside the White House doing all that hooting and hollering, he was like, "I don't think anybody is interested in whether your daughters could sleep or not. We are interested in the lives of our people. Like n***a, what side is the federal government on?" Basically. Like, he put them on the Summer Jam screen. Like, enough with the pleasantries, enough with the passing the letters back and forth, enough with talking about your daughters. What the fuck are y'all going to do? You know what I'm saying?
Saidu: Right. Right.
Mack: Like, you know how when Jerome from the previous water fountain story ...
Saidu: Oh, you damn right, I remember Jerome. That's my man, Jerome.
Mack: So, yeah, but like when Jerome met with RFK, like, he had James Baldwin and, like, Lorraine Hansberry. Like, he had people that was really backing him up.
Mack: But this was different. This was different because you remember he described the people that he was in this room with, and it was not James Baldwin or Lorraine Hansberry.
Saidu: It was the Toms.
Mack: Right. And so he basically, like, blows up all the air in—like, he just pulls all the air out the room because n****s was happy to be there before, you know what I mean?
Saidu: Right. Right. Right.
Mack: And so as he says, immediately after he does that, like, the people in—the Negroes in the room are like, "President Johnson, like, we're so sorry. Like, we have to apologize on his behalf." He basically effectively, like, ends the meeting, right? But then he's like, they come out of the meeting, and all the Negroes running up to him like, "Yeah, you did that. Thank you for speaking up."
Saidu: [laughs] Oh my Gosh!
Mack: And he's honestly, like, "Honestly, fuck y'all." And the funniest thing about the whole story and the way he recounts it is that, like, on the way out of the White House, he started stealing shit out the White House!
Mack: He writes ...
Saidu: What was he—what? What was he taking?
Mack: He writes, "And to show the motherfuckers what I thought about the whole meeting, I stole some stuff out the White House. I liberated everything I could. Sure did. Show you what I think of you motherfuckers. I was trying to figure out how to get a painting off the wall and put it under my coat. I figured it belonged to me anyway."
Saidu: [laughs] Pow! Damn! This man is bold. This is a bold man.
Mack: This is a bold man. But you ain't really even heard the half of it yet.
Saidu: Okay. Coming up after the break: the half of it.
Saidu: What's good, y'all? Welcome back. H. Rap Brown, the man who pissed in the tuna and pissed off the president is about to become a really big deal in the Black Power movement. Here's Mack with the rest of it.
Mack: Rap's life gets pretty chaotic post this White House moment. Like, it kind of makes him a target. Like, you know, you pull up in the White House talking shit to the president, you kind of going to be in some shit. But, like, this don't phase him because, like, at this point in time, the Black Power movement in the US is in swing. In May 1967, he became the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—SNCC. And in July of 1967, he's invited to Cambridge, Maryland to give a speech.
Saidu: Cambridge! We've been to Cambridge before. Cambridge. What's going on?
Mack: And he's invited by none other than Gloria motherfucking Richardson.
Saidu: Gloria! [laughs] Oh, man! Damn, that makes so much sense. They're on the same wavelength.
Mack: They're on the—they're on the same wave—they had done—they had been in similar spaces, they had done work before in the past. He had seen her before. Like, they shared space, you know what I mean? So him becoming the chairman of SNCC for her was like, "Oh, my n****, come through Cambridge. Like, speak." You know what I'm saying?
Saidu: I'm just like, so happy that all these people are in the same cinematic universe. It's like, these are the Avengers of the '60s. H. Rap Brown, Gloria Richardson, Jerome Smith, like ...
Mack: Link up.
Saidu: Low-key Avengers, though.
Mack: Yeah, for sure. So in Cambridge, you gotta picture this: he's, like, standing on the hood of this '55 Buick in a drugstore parking lot. And the literal first words of his speech are, "Black Power. That's the way to say it. Don't be scared of these honkies around here. Say 'Black Power!'" That's how he opens the speech.
Mack: So you already know it's going up from here.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: Yeah, that's the way to say it. Don't be scared of these honkies around here. Say Black Power.]
Mack: In the speech he's like, "Fuck nonviolence. We not fighting the white man's war for him." He reminds them that, like, Black people built this country, and white folks have no right to call us lazy. He shits on Black cops. He encourages everybody in the crowd to, like, get a gun and protect themselves from American genocide. But most importantly, he says this ...
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: You got to understand that Black folks is not a minority. We got more Black folks across the world than they got white people. You got to start looking at China like brothers, because they are yellow people. Viet Cong. Some of the Viet Congs are browner than some of us, n****. Or India. Indians are dark-skinned people. These are the colored people of the world. These are the Black people of the world. That's the third world that they be talking about. All other people now, the honky is surrounded. He's surrounded. He don't know what to do. Brother, believe me.]
Saidu: What did he just say?
Mack: "The honky is surrounded."
Saidu: Oh, damn! Yo, this man loves the word "honky." So he's saying white people are surrounded by Black folks.
Mack: Yeah, what he's basically doing is just like, this call to, like, internationalism. Like, he's encouraging Black people in the US to, like, start thinking about, like, brown people around the world and, like, what we could do if all of us, like, you know, linked up and, like, form allegiances to each other, basically.
Saidu: Right. Very Pan-Africanist.
Mack: Very—very much—very much—very much so and, like, that was like a sort of growing sort of ideology at the time was basically, what a lot of folks call revolutionary nationalism.
Mack: They were moving away from this idea of just like, it's just us Black people in the United States to like, oh, it's Black people everywhere.
Mack: Yeah. And that's like—that was a very dangerous idea in the late '60s. It's what got Malcolm killed. Like, it's what King was coming into around the time he was assassinated. So ...
Saidu: No. Yeah, it just always seems like as soon as people start shouting ideas about bringing people together and, like, bridging gaps between people's understanding about each other and actual collectivizing power amongst oppressed peoples, that's when they get killed.
Saidu: That's literally the—like, as fucked up as it sounds, that's the last point on the bingo card. Like, you hit that and they take you out.
Mack: You're out of here buddy. So he hops down off that Buick, ends his speech. And at the end of his speech, this sister comes up to him and she's like, "Hey, I'm trying to go home. I gotta walk home but, like, I don't feel safe walking by myself. Will you walk with me?" He's like, "Yeah." So he starts to, like, walk her home, and all of a sudden he hears gunshots. And he realizes there are people just firing into the crowd with pellets. Just like doop doop doop doop doop doop. And he actually gets shot in the head, and so it ends up being a whole thing, like it's this whole shootout. But the people of Cambridge, like, they look out. Like, they take care of him, they get the wound cleaned up all that. But the next day, he wakes up and finds out that he's wanted by the FBI.
Mack: Like, they basically tried to charge him with, like, inciting a riot. But he didn't.
Saidu: Yeah, yeah.
Mack: He didn't incite a riot. He gave a speech, and the cops started shooting. You know what I mean?
Saidu: Right. Right.
Mack: All right. So the state charges him with inciting a riot. There's a warrant out for his arrest. And he ends up getting taken to a federal jail. But as soon as his lawyers get him out of the federal jail, the state police are there waiting to arrest him.
Saidu: Right. Because there's still state charges open against him.
Mack: Right. And so he knows that as soon as he walks out of this jail, he's just gonna get—like, as soon as he walks out of this—he's just gonna get arrested again. So he comes up with a plan, right? So now I'm about to show you the result of that plan.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: Brown, are you under arrest?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: I am supposedly free. I have a shaky freedom because I'm standing on America's territory right here. That's the only thing that's keeping the racist honky cops out there from coming up here because I'm supposed to be on federal ground, whatever that means.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: What happens now?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: What are you going to do when you leave federal ground?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: Well, I'm gonna stay here on the steps. I'm gonna build a house right here. I don't want 40 acres and a mule, I just want some lumber. I'm gonna build a house.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: Did the attorney, did the US attorney tell you why he released you from the charges that you were originally arraigned for?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: He finally dug how ridiculous they were. He knew he didn't have nothing on me in the beginning. He was just holding me until the honkies got here from [inaudible]. He made that clear.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, reporter: Who served a—who attempted to serve a warrant on you upstairs?]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: As I walked out of the cell, two big animals, like, blue-eyed pale devils come up and grabbed me on the arm to tell me I'm under arrest. I have—I know more of that law than they do. I knew I was in a federal building. I don't know the honky. If you see one, you see them all.]
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: Get off me, man! Get off of me!]
Saidu: Oh, no!
Mack: All right. So in that clip, you just saw ...
Saidu: What just happened?
Mack: So you just saw him standing there, right? With the—with the shades, the denim jacket situation, the 'fro and the signature bandage. Like, he ends up rocking that for a while, but basically ...
Saidu: Like a Nelly Band-Aid?
Mack: [laughs] Nelly before Nelly, yeah. Basically, what ends up happening is, like, they peep that he really is serious about just standing on them steps. Like, his idea is like, "As long as I'm on federal property, the state can't do anything about it, so I'm just gonna stand here." So they just end up pushing him off the steps and into the street.
Saidu: Oh, that's what was happening at the end of the video.
Mack: So at the end of the video, you seen them pushing him off the steps and into the street. And as soon as they hit the streets, they lock his ass up again. And, like, this time when they lock him up, they make his bail, like, ridiculously high. Like, some shit that he cannot afford. His lawyer has to, like, go to court. Like, he's in jail for a prolonged period of time. And this is pretty much a sign of what's to come for Rap. Like, for the rest of his life, he's basically in and out of jail. Like, the state keeps trying to get him caught up on different things, different firearms charges. "This gun is too long, this gun is illegal. This gun is too short." Like, that kind of thing. So, like, he's in and out of jail, in and out of jail. And in one of his prison stints, he ends up converting to Islam.
Saidu: Oh, wow! Dope!
Mack: In 1971, he declared his shahadah, and he became Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. So I'm just gonna refer to him as Jamil Al-Amin from this point forward, because that's kind of how I understand him. So he converts to Islam, and Islam really, like, changes his life. Like, going to Islam, like, changes—it makes him a different person, which is why I feel bad about spending so much of this story referring to him as H. Rap Brown, because that was a part of his life. But Jamil Al-Amin is the person that reemerges from the prison.
Saidu: All right. So he comes out of prison, and he's now Muslim, and you think of him—you think of him as somebody different now, right? Like, with his new name. So how is he—how is he different?
Mack: Yeah, so I got this clip for you that I think really shows kind of that change.
Saidu: All right.
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: The prophet has said never petition Allah for armed combat, but when it comes, be patient.]
Saidu: Oh, my God!
[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jamil Al-Amin: Never petition, never pray to Allah for armed combat. Never pray for war. But when it comes, be patient. And so therefore he gives us those tools that enables us to practice sabr, to develop sabr—prayer, fasting, charity.]
Saidu: Wow. That sounds like a totally different dude than H. Rap Brown, the dude we heard from the beginning.
Saidu: That's wild. He sounds so different.
Mack: Yeah, it's a different person. In that clip, you hear him saying, like, never pray to God for war, which is, like, a slightly different position than, like, Rap, H. Rap Brown of the past was really taking. Like, H. Rap Brown was, like, with that rah rah shit. Like, he was like, "Tool up. We need to start—we need to start initiating armed struggle right now, like, you know what I mean?
Saidu: Right, right, right, right.
Mack: But, like, the imam—because he's an imam at this point, Jamil Al-Amin, he basically is like, he's still on the revolution shit, but he's less focused on, like, mobilizing Black people to start going into the street and shooting, and more about organizing us to be prepared for the time that revolution comes. Because, like, you know, that's not really how revolution works. You don't just run out into the street and start shooting. Like, there's—you got to organize your communities. Like, people got to know where you can get food. People got to, you know, be getting, like, counseling and, like, therapy and getting off drugs and all that kind of stuff. And so these are the kinds of things that he's focused on now as an imam.
Saidu: Right. And it's all—and it's all based on, like, patience.
Mack: All based on patience.
Saidu: Right. Which is probably something he found in prison when he converted to Islam. It's just like, we need to be patient and just build up and, like, tool up but, like, in a way that's strategic.
Mack: Yup. Yup. And that's exactly what he was on. So, like, by the '90s, this is like his life full time. He's, like, moved to Atlanta, and he's, like, in Atlanta organizing this real tight-knit, like, Muslim community. And, like, a part of that is getting people together and organizing self-defense, like, on the west end of Atlanta. He's, like, working with people to get drugs off the street, and he's, like, doing it all from this little convenience store that he owns, basically. Like, it's like his little shop. And, like, people just be pulling up and being like, "Imam, like, what should we be doing today?" You know? And he's just giving orders from there. But the police don't really ever stop fucking with him. So eventually, he gets thrown back in jail in 2000.
Saidu: The year 2000?
Mack: The year 2000.
Saidu: Like, decades later?
Mack: Like, decades later. But this time, it's a whole lot different because he's being accused of killing a cop during a shootout that happened outside his convenience store in Atlanta.
Saidu: Oh, shit.
Mack: Yeah. Yeah, it's nuts. Like, this whole time he's maintained his innocence. He's like, "I didn't do it." You know, obviously he says he didn't do it, and there's even somebody that's publicly confessed to the murder themselves! Like, the whole thing is a mess!
Mack: So yeah, that was 21 years ago. And now, like, today, Jamil Al-Amin is 77 years old. 77, fam. He's being held in a prison in Arizona on a life charge, even though he has a case that's open in Georgia, because they don't trust him in Georgia prisons, because he has a history of organizing prisoners. They've sent skinheads and Klan members to his cell to, like, take him out. And all he's done is convert them. People come to his cells, and they take Shahadah.
Mack: Yes. So they moved him out. They've moved him out of Georgia entirely, and put him in a godforsaken cell in Arizona. He's 77 years old. They've withheld access to necessary surgery and medication to him, to the extent that he's become blind in prison. His body is failing. He can't read letters from any of his supporters, like, let alone read any legal correspondence. He cannot appropriately defend himself. It's just a bunch of inhumane shit.
Saidu: Oh, my God. This is—this is a lot!
Mack: Yeah. And ...
Saidu: So that sounds—well one, I'm, like, really—yeah, I'm really, like, saddened to hear that he is just being frickin', like—I don't even know how to describe it. Just like, he's just being, like, tortured and screwed over and, like, just, like, messed with in that way in his old age. Like, that's like ...
Mack: He's an old man.
Saidu: Yeah, he's an old man. And like, yeah, that's—yeah, I can't get over that. That's just like—that's—that's—that's weighing heavy on me. What is it about the life of Jamil Al-Amin that, like, you feel, like, holds that "fuck your water fountain" energy and, like, deserves to be in this hall of fame? I mean, there's a lot, but what is it for you?
Mack: It's—all right. You're right. It is a lot. But I'ma answer your question directly by saying that, from the beginning of his life, Jamil Al-Amin was Mr. Fuck Your Everything. He was Mr. Fuck Your Cub Scout Program. You know what I'm saying? He was Mr. Fuck Your Elections. He's been Mr. Fuck Your Gun Laws. He's been Mr. Fuck Your War. I'm not going to war for y'all. He's been Mr. Fuck Your President. He's been Mr. Fuck Your Everything.
Mack: And so I think what Jamil Al-Amin really demonstrates is, like, an idea of fuck fear. Like, he says that, like, once you step out on this revolutionary shit, you can't go back. Like, you can't just be like, "Psych, my bad! I didn't mean to say all that, like, Black Power shit." Like, this is the path that you go on for, you know, the rest of your life. Jamil Al-Amin and all of our revolutionary elders and all the political prisoners that we lost from that generation, they all make it clear that, like, if we understand Black people are at war, right? Like, that we're not waiting on a war to come, we're not waiting on fascism to get here. It's already here. Then we need to understand the rules of war.
Mack: And so his whole thing was understand that the number one rule of war, before you start celebrating any small victories, before you start creating your own progress narratives, before you start talking about peace treaties or any kind of that kind of stuff, the number one agenda item on your list—this is what all my elders tell me—is that you must demand the release of your political prisoners. Because otherwise, what incentive do people in your movement have to believe that if they become victims of the state, you will fight for them?
Saidu: That makes a lot of sense because, like, one of my main things was like, his whole thing is fuck fear and just do it anyway. That's why I was, like, so surprised when he did the thing with the BB gun, and literally the thing that people told him would happen happened. And that's literally what happened later is, like, he kept going down that path and kept doing that same kind of fuck fear-motivated actions and, like, it eventually got him locked up and became—he became, you know, a political prisoner, framed for this murder. But, like, when you look at that, you just say—I feel like I just say to myself then, like, "Well, I don't know if I can say fuck fear because, like, look at the results of you saying fuck fear." The results of you saying fuck fear is, like, awful. This is, like, absolutely awful.
Saidu: But the idea that you're saying now about, like, the number one thing that we should ask for is the release of our political prisoners, because it guarantees that, like, if we do the same things, that we won't end up in the same place, then that makes sense.
Saidu: Yeah. I thought when people say "Free Mumia," or "Free this person, free that person," we're really just, like, saying free them because, like, you know, these are people who really did a lot for us and, like—or they're being framed and—but it's, like, deeper than that, you're telling me.
Mack: It's strategy. It's war strategy.
Saidu: Strategy. It's strategy.
Saidu: It's interesting because I think this is the first Fuck Your Water Fountain we've done that requires something of us, that, like, requires us to have that same energy in our own lives and, you know, push ourselves to have a greater understanding of people like H. Rap Brown who, without that understanding just get lost to history and are forgotten in a cell somewhere, you know?
Mack: Yeah, bruh. Like, they're still here. Like, they're in jail, they need support. They need people to remember and continue to fight for them. And, like, also, I hope it encourages us to stop thinking about these people as just like people of the past and, like, understand, like, political prisoners are being created every day. You know what I mean? Like, with all these, like, anti-riot laws and anti-protest bills, like, there are people, you know, like, our age fighting bogus charges against the courts right now and sitting in jail, you know?
Mack: So we need to, like, be conscious of that because, you know, I would hate for us to be 77 one day and still be asking to free people arrested for just trying to organize their community in 2021.
Saidu: Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, for the past 21 years he's been locked up. And, like, inducting him into our hall of fame won't free him, but his ideas, his bars, his legacy and life's work, that definitely deserves to be studied and honored. And with that, we induct Jamil Al-Amin into our Fuck Your Water Fountain Hall of Fame.
Saidu: Thank you so much for listening. Resistance is produced by Salifu Sesay Mack, Bethel Habte, Aaron Randle, and hosted by me, Saidu Tejan Thomas Jr.
Saidu: Our production assistant is Navani Otero. Our supervising producer is Sarah McVeigh. And we're edited by Lynn Levy, Lydia Polgreen and Brendan Klinkenberg.
Saidu: Mixing, scoring and magic by Catherine Anderson. Additional scoring and theme by Bobby Lord. Our music supervisor is Liz Fulton. Original compositions by Drea the Vibe Dealer.
Saidu: Fact checking is by Rosemarie Ho. Our show art is by Darien Birks of The Stuyvesants. And our credits music, which you're listening to right now is "Cloud Cover" by Campana. Good looks, homie.
Saidu: If you enjoyed this episode, tell a friend about it. I really appreciate that. And if you have somebody who you think deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, hit us up. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line FYWF.
Saidu: Resistance is a Spotify original podcast and Gimlet production. All right, see y'all in two weeks.