Another thing that caught my attention is the Fourth of July release date. That choice made me think of Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too.” Why drop “Run” now instead of Juneteenth or another date?
There would be no Fourth of July without a Black man, and the fact that Crispus Attucks was the first person to die on the behalf of what would become the republic called America. When people argue about [Critical Race Theory] and stuff like that, they’re arguing over something that you learn in law school, post-undergrad, and how systems have been formed to oppress you. Meaning: redlining in Chicago, refusing to insure Black homeowners in Atlanta early on. That’s CRT, and that’s something for the more mature mind.
What I advocate for is: Why aren’t all American children learning about Frederick Douglass? He was one of the greatest diplomats of our time. Why aren’t they learning about Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. Du Bois? All of these people are Americans that greatly contributed to the greatness of this republic in this country. The first person to die in the Boston Massacre was a Black man named Crispus Attucks—he was the first person to take a bullet. The fact that all Americans don’t know that is a problem for me. We’ve contributed greatly to this republic, and it amazes me when you get on Twitter and people say, “Well why do Black people get a Black history month?” Because your ass won’t teach true history all year. You get the comfort of thinking George Washington cut down a fucking cherry tree and you get to remain in this blissful ignorance and you never have to confront the fact that since 1619, Blacks have been here contributing to this republic. You have to say to yourself that in 1776, the person that went to war for us first was a Black man.
I wanted people to understand that patriotism is not exclusive to white people—this republic is not here simply because of white Anglo-Saxon protestants. You have been here every step of the way. In fact, everyone has been here every step of the way, whether it was a mass Chinese immigration years ago or the floodgates of Ellis Island for Italians and Irish people before they were deemed white; they were an ethnic group that had to serve themself. So for me, it’s about true patriotism. On July 4, the day where Black folks eat hot dogs and drink beer and a lot of white folks wear the American flag on their clothing, I want us to get an opportunity to say, “Hey, in case you didn’t learn this in high school, we need you to understand that this is a part of the greater American experience. And you’re a part of it. Black history month shouldn’t just be celebrated and supported by Black folks—find you somebody Black that you like. If you’re a conservative, celebrate Walter E. Williams. If you’re liberal, celebrate your Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolms, and Martins. Celebrate Mutulu Shakur. celebrate Assata Shakur who’s still on the run because she fought for something on the behalf of all of us. I refuse to not let us be a part of this experience because we’ve been a part of building this motherfucker.
“I wanted people to understand that patriotism is not exclusive to white people—this republic is not here simply because of white Anglo-Saxon protestants.”
Speaking of historical Black figures, there are several in the music video. Why did you choose to include them?
We are here because of the work of our ancestors. For me, my great grandparents were the sons and daughters of slaves, worked and became sharecroppers, bought their own farm, and that farm is still in our family today. I cannot acknowledge being a successful anything without acknowledging my ancestors who laid it down before me. When you see women talk about the women’s suffrage movement or womanism as defined by Alice Walker, you have to talk about Shirley Chisholm. You have to talk about Fannie Lou Hamer and Sojourner Truth, and I mean as an American. Forget that I’m a part of the ethnic group of Black people. Sojourner Truth was not only an emancipator of Black people, she was 100 years ahead of her time with women’s suffrage, and Frederick Douglass was too. He’s in the video and he historically said that Black men and women deserve the right to vote 100 years prior to women getting the right to vote and Blacks. We have been far more progressive in this country for the betterment of us all for a long time. When you look at Booker T. Washington, he had the students who were going to Tuskegee to build the bricks and the colleges themselves, so our colleges shouldn’t just have bachelor’s degrees and artistic things, we should have trade skills taught in our colleges and high schools as well. All of these Americans in the video have fought for all of our rights, and they happen to be Black. It was power to the people, but to all the people. It was a Fred Hampton-like experience, where Fred Hampton understood that racism and the caste system were made to enforce classism. The first Rainbow Coalition was about people from multi-ethnic groups getting together and fighting for their rights as a unit. That’s what Hampton taught us. So for me, it was important that when you see our hero in the video running into battle for us, he’s encouraged and standing on the shoulders of giants, which were our ancestors.
I didn’t want our ancestors to be forgotten in this. I don’t like the shirts that say, “I’m not my grandparents, I got these hands.” You ain’t got shit, your grandparents fought like hell. The people that were hung were the people that pushed back. Our ancestors deserve to be honored and the American ancestors for pushing this republic progressively deserve to be honored, so those people represent that spirit in this video. That runner represents the heroism of our experiences in this country, and when you look at the troops who follow behind him, it’s not just Black folks—our allies are represented, too. Nat Turner is one of my heroes for rebelling, as is John Brown. I had a white friend who didn’t know who John Brown was, and it’s amazing because it’s the ignorance that’s allowed in this country that doesn’t allow us to fully fuse together as a proletariat, because they teach us that we’ve always been at odds and been apart. And that’s not true. There are many people who have fought for the betterment of us all, and I want us all duly recognized.