A Conscious Voice: an interview with Erykah Badu Part 2
Erykah Badu at the Center Principle Institute with a member of her staff
Erykah Badu, one of the most well known conscious female performers of this era, recently stopped in the Bay Area to do a meet and greet at the Center Principle Institute in North Oakland. This interview was done before Hurricane Amerikkka aka Hurricane Katrina, that's why we didn't get into that, but we did get into what she thinks about police terrorism and the educational system. So if you've never heard Badu talk about anything but music, you need to check out some of the thoughts that motivate the music. Check her …
JR: A year ago, Gus Rugley was shot down 36 times by San Francisco police. Over 20 different officers shot him. Over 400 bullets were shot at him. I know that it's not an isolated case, but that happened here in San Francisco.
We know about Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima on the East Coast, but it is happening all over the country and all over the world with low income Black people. How do you feel about police terrorism, and what do you think that the community should and could be doing?
EB: That's a difficult question, because I haven't come up with an answer for that yet. It's really too soon to give an answer. I don't know what I think that the people should be doing; I only know what I could be doing, because I myself am not an organizer. I'm a person on a mission who has a thing inside of her that wants to use her platform to speak for the Most High.
Maybe they (Black people) should be educated and more aware of what's going on, because like I said earlier, no matter what we believe, what the powers that be believe, will affect us. And as for the laws and the rules that they put up in our cities and in our communities, I don't know if voting is the answer because I don't know if that even makes a difference.
Who knows? Everybody has a hypothesis and an educated guess and all of these kinds of things But I, being a spiritual being first, I know that prayer is what moves things in my world. And I strongly believe in that, and I think that we should get together as a community and organize more prayer and joint prayer.
You know I talk to Stic (of Dead Prez) about this all of the time and Stic is always saying, "Yeah, Badu, all of that peace that you be talkin' about, we got to fight first. This is the struggle."
He definitely is on the same page that I am, but I believe that there is a duality to all things. As a woman, of course, yo, I'm going to speak from the womb. I'm holding down the spirit, and I know that the brothas are coming up with plans for the fight.
So with those two things together, you know, I don't know the answers at all, brotha, but I know what I can do and I know what I'm doing. I'm fighting the war through educating my children and educating as many people's children as I can. Letting people know about what happened and letting people know about political prisoners and the political situations and the beatings and the brutality and the mentality of the people in power, because it ain't even a Black and White thing as much as some people think it is.
They think that (racism) is the reason Fred Hampton is dead or that's the reason why Fred Hampton Jr. has taken his torch. That (the real reason) is because (they are) poor people - the people who don't have power, the people who don't have money, the people who don't have a say, or feel that they don't have a say. And I think that if we know that we are powerful and have a say, a great change can occur.
I can only do my part: that's to sing about it. That's the gift that I've been given, you know? I don't even know if I could even go around the world and talk to people. I don't even know how many people would even accept that from me. Because after I've become a celebrity, so many opinions and articles and things kind of confuse the masses, because the 85 (i.e. the 85 percent who are deaf, dumb and blind) follow what the TV and the media says.
So I'm trying very hard and carefully to strategically be a valuable part of our change. The real warriors are Seven Benjamin and Puma Kurry, my children, you know. It's too soon to say.
JR: Last question: As a mother, how do you see educating your children - are you going to put them in the Dallas public school system? Or do you see an alternative, and what is the reason you are going to educate your children in that way?
EB: My first goal is to build a school. What I do now is home-school my children. My son Seven's first school was an African-based school called Africa Care Academy. It was patterned after the Marcus Garvey school. It's a great school, but it doesn't have a lot of money, you know? And we could say a lot about our schools and stuff, but if the parents are not involved, then it's not a lot that the children could benefit from.
I would put my child in a public school. I would, because I'm going to be there. As far as with my child, I'm concerned more with how he interacts with other children and how he grows and how he learns because I'm going to be there.
I got my own curriculum. Any school that I put my child in, I'm going to be involved in it. And I urge more parents to be involved in the school. That's how the school becomes the community school, no matter what school it is, even though those tests and things are designed for children to pass and doesn't challenge them. It's the parents' job to do that.
Let me back up because I'm not trying to point the finger. I'm trying to say that I know that we're all victims of the same circumstances - where we don't have a lot of alternatives. Basically our will power has been shot, and from generation to generation to generation we think that whatever we're served, we're supposed to eat.
I'm not down with what the public school system is serving because all that they do is get kids trained to take a test that will not benefit the community in any kind of way - scientifically, artistically, health-wise. So until we can pull together and start schools and home-school communities, whatever school you put your child in, you have to be there and be involved in it, you know.
So, it's just as many poor Whites in the same situation that we're in and poor Latinos and poor Asians that are in the same situations that we're (in) and poor Native Americans. So it's imperative that we're involved in our children's education, and it doesn't stop up at the school, with what the school is not doing. It ain't even the school's fault no more with the way our children are running around.
And how they're being educated is through the television, you know; that's the babysitter. So I can't agree with any parent who is complaining about the school system, whose child is sitting in front of the TV all day long. It's our responsibility, you know?
Because the Black dollar is not circulating the way that it is supposed to be circulating. It's really nothing that we could do until change comes; and until change comes, we have to be involved in every aspect of our community - at church, in schools, in the restaurants, in everything that kids are being served.
And I think that the day for fighting is over; there is no more fighting. Now it is time to organize and start doing it for ourselves. And that's what we've been talking about all along, but it's just very hard to organize a group of people that are programmed. And it's a scary thing, you know, because we got a bunch of souljahs that are fighting for the wrong side, you know what I mean?