By Tony Muhammad
The unofficial yet official theme of the 2016 Black Entertainment Network (BET) Awards late last month in Los Angeles, California was FREEDOM. This was determined not by any white corporate entity such as Viacom (the owner of the network), but by artists themselves on their own terms.
The most noted and profound statement at the award show was made by actor, film maker, activist and BET Humanitarian Award winner Jesse Williams, who earned his award for documenting and participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement. In his acceptance speech he spoke on our perpetual and horrific condition from slavery times to present times as Black, as well as (I can safely argue) Indigenous, “Latino” and other non-white people in this unjust land of bondage called America, a speech that touched the lives of millions who not only were able to relate to his words in thought, but painfully and consistently experience the reality he described every day of their lives. His words were also subjected to harsh criticism and scorn not only by many whites who refuse to confront the dreadful atmosphere that racism, largely in the form of police brutality and police killings in Black communities, continues to produce in this country, but also by many Blacks who argued that he was somehow “NOT BLACK ENOUGH” to make such strong arguments because of his “mixed” background (his mother being white and his father Black). Some Blacks in the “conscious” community even made ridiculous “conspiracy theory” type arguments claiming that Jesse Williams was told specifically by the upper echelon “illuminati” forces in the entertainment industry to say what he said in order to fool the Black viewing audience into believing that BET actually has the vested interest of the Black community. This myth was quickly debunked when videos of the speech “mysteriously” disappeared from social media time lines the next day and then later reappeared more than likely out of the realization that the powers that attempted to censor William’s message were actually making themselves look worse by doing so. It was obvious that William’s speech was obviously “TOO BLACK” for BET to outright accept. The message was also TOO REAL for many so-called activists, whose activity is mainly concentrated on posting memes on social media rather doing real activist work in their
communities. The fullness of this part of his message became vividly real one week later with not just the post-Independence Day police unjust shootings of Black men such as Alton Sterling (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Philando Castile (in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Alva Braziel (in Houston,
Texas) but also the police shootings of young “Latinos” such as Pedro Erick Villanueva (in Los Angeles, California), Anthony Nunez (in San Jose, California), Vinson Ramos (in Fresno, California), Melissa Ventura (in Yuma, Arizona) and Raul Saavedra-Vargas (in Reno, Nevada) along with the lynching (police-ruled suicide) of a Black man in Atlanta, Georgia and nation-wide protests that followed.
In addition, not only was Jesse Williams telling whites in general to “stand down” from criticizing a condition and a struggle that they refuse to admit responsibility over; not only was he challenging Blacks in general to not be “bystanders” and simply watch as their people get brutalized and killed; he was also very specific in his aim in terms of language. In short words he was challenging Black entertainers, Black artists, many who have their roots in Hip Hop culture, which is in its origins about challenging the status quo, to not allow themselves to become exploited any longer, change their focus and realize that the mere pursuit of money, name branding and physical branding will not change our collective condition as 21st Century slaves. A total change needs to take place on our terms, defined by us, in the form of a working towards a “hereafter” while we physically live here on planet earth, not waiting to see heaven after we die. Williams referred to this work as a “hustle,” as he inferred it has not started yet, but rather has to be ignited.
He ended his speech by saying “We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying Black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
What did Jesse Williams mean by “magic?” Could it be referring to a shared secret religious belief that many in the entertainment industry subscribe to? As noted in the final chapter in the recently released book Protect Ya Neck: A Music Industry Survival Guide by Christian Farrad, a very popular underground religion practiced among many in the entertainment industry is Thelema, founded by occultist leader Aleister Crowley. The name of the organization is the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). It is what many, especially the youth, have been popularly been referring to in recent years as the “illuminati” in the entertainment industry because of the high level of secrecy in its practice. Central to its teachings is the belief in the use of magic, or rather “magick” which is defined by Crowley as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” Followers of this religion believe that human beings have entered the “Eon of Horus.” Horus is the Christ figure in the Ancient Egyptian (or Kemetic) theology. In Thelema, it is claimed that through the dictation of a “super natural being” while under the influence of drugs during his visitation of Egypt in 1904, Crowley received the “law of Horus” for this new era which teaches the idea “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Initiation into the hierarchy of the organization is done so through both perverted heterosexual and homosexual rituals which are meant to “satisfy the will.” These teachings promote a high level of freedom which attracts many in the entertainment industry because artists, as creative as they are, are by and large very free spirited. What is highly problematic, besides
the fact that the teachings corruptly distort and exploit the very essence of the righteousness of Black African culture, is the very contradiction of the practice of freedom that white people advocate through the organization itself. Just picture this scenario: white corporate executives sitting in the same OTO meetings with Black artists signed to their labels. Members are told not to allow the freedom exercised by others to infringe on their own freedom. The next day, those same executives are in meetings with those same Black artists concerning what to say and what not to say in their songs and albums, especially concerning the current state of Black America and the injustice it faces by police and in general by the white power structure that oppresses Black people.
Jesse Williams was not the only one who posed such a challenge at the BET Awards. Beyonce’ and Kendrick Lamar, who have been known for encoding “illuminati” symbolism in their songs and music videos, did as well. During a breath taking performance of her song “Freedom,” Beyonce’ wore a dress with wings underneath her arms, styled in form of
the goddess Ma’at, which represents Truth, Balance, Order, Harmony, Law, Morality and Justice in the Egyptian (Kemetic) theology. In ad
dition, covered all over her body suit (as well as the body suits of her dancers) were Adinkra (African) symbols of the Sun, representing Freedom and representing a reclaiming of her African identity. Beyonce’ and her dancers walked towards the stage with an African beat with bold words by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. demanding justice and afterwards performing an African-styled dance over water, more than likely representing the Black primordial-liquid matter of the universe that the Original Black God created Himself. Kendrick Lamar arrived towards the close of the song with lyrics not found on the album
version of the song. He began by repeating the phrase “Meet me at the finish line, 40 acres give me mine,” which symbolically echoes a call for reparations for Blacks who experienced slavery as originally proposed by certain members of Congress after the passing of the 13th Amendment (“ending slavery”) in 1865. However, the reparations he was calling for are for the abuses Blacks have been experiencing up to the present, 461 years long. Lamar ended his rap calling for an end to police brutality and the unjust killing of Black people.
In the aftermath, Beyonce’ and Lamar were both criticized by white audiences for their “overly Black expression.” In truth, this is not the first time Beyonce’ has caught heat for expressing Black pride and consciousness. In late 2015 Beyonce’ was criticized for releasing the song and video “Formation” which in a coded way sends the message of the intentional blowing up of the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in
2005. Beyonce’ herself is presented throughout the video sitting on top of a sunken police car. Earlier this year, at the Superbowl, Beyonce’ performed a tribute not only to Michael Jackson, but very apparently also Malcolm X and the 50th anniversary of the formation of The Black Panther Party as well; an act that earned her the threat of police throughout the country boycotting her concerts.
In the midst of all of this and over 500 people who have been shot and killed by police this year thus far (the majority of them being Black, Latino or Indigenous), Jay-Z recently announced that he will be finishing and releasing a song against police killing citizens. Many other commercial and underground artists are doing the same. However, the real question when it comes to some of the most financially wealthy personalities in Hip Hop that are pained by our present reality in America and realize the fact that war is being waged on us is not if, but when are they planning to get together and begin a true Black-owned network that not
only supports Black entertainment with a conscientious message, but present news uncompromisingly with an authoritative voice about the truth and reality about THE TIME that we are living and WHAT MUST BE DONE in this TIME! We can no longer allow the voices of consciousness that are among us to be censored! The Truth must be exposed and Right Guidance must be provided! To the Sean Combs, Jay-Zs, Kanye Wests, Snoops and many others who have been touched by consciousness, the Teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the words of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, I encourage you to do everything in your power to bring us closer to this reality so that both our message and cause can be furthered and our survival as a people increased!
Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies and Humanities in Miami-Dade County Schools for over 17 years. Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2009). He has also designed curricula in the area of Black, Latino and Hip Hop studies for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Patrick Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.