As thousands of people across the country pay tribute to Michael Brown on the anniversary of his murder by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, the nation is reminded of an urgent duality: though the ensuing focus on widespread police reform has already inspired a series of long overdue changes in certain regions, the institutional devaluing of black lives still persists. Always refreshingly outspoken on matters of race and social change, Killer Mike and El-P of Run The Jewels recently offered their thoughts on the state of the nation one year after dedicated protests gripped the city of Ferguson.
"Riots work," Killer Mike tells BBC News in a recent interview. "I'm an American because of a riot. So, when people say 'riots don't work,' well, Ferguson was over 60% a black community. They had less than 60% representation in politics. Post-riots, they have two new black city council members. They have actual advocates in the community now. The police chief retired. So, if it was argued that riots worked in Ferguson, abso-fucking-lutely they did."
In the clip above, El-P reflects on the night of the tragic verdict surrounding Brown's murder, a night which ended up redefining the Jewels position in culture. "We had the weird, tragic, and serendipitous experience of being the only band, when the verdict was coming down in St. Louis, to be attempting to get into St. Louis," recalls El-P. "Everyone else was driving as fast as they could to get out of [the city]. Every word that you're saying all of a sudden means 100 times more than it meant the night before. To see my friend talk, I was crying onstage. It was very powerful."
Rest in peace, Michael Brown.