I recently wrote a letter to the Weekly Dig in response to this article outlining the conflict over a white Boston-based promoter, Edu Leedz, putting on a Black History Month show at McGann's Pub in the North End. I got a response from a Dig staffer (hooray! I'm relevant!) but I'm not sure if they'll publish the letter on Wednesday, and I need material to get this blog going again, so here is my letter. Don't forget to read the story first.
I am writing this email In response to last week's article, "Devil in the Details," which described the controversy surrounding Edu Leedz' upcoming Black History Month hip-hop show at McGann's: First, full disclosure: I am a white rapper and the lead vocalist in a five piece live hip-hop band and worked with Leedz on a few separate occasions early in my career. We have not worked together on a show in over 18 months and may not ever cross paths again. That said, I consider him a hard worker and a hard-nosed businessperson who takes his responsibility to Boston and to hip-hop culture seriously. I do not know Mr. Crawford.
It seems to me that Mr. Crawford claims an ownership over Black history and culture that not only affords him the right to celebrate it, but the right to deny the act of celebration to others. However, this kind of action neither preserves nor promotes culture; rather, it slowly drowns it under a sea of avarice and provincialism. The reason that we celebrate culture - and the reason that it transcends all materialism and corporate co-opting - is that it cannot be owned. Culture and history are by nature shared objects, because the only way that we experience them is through the free flow of information. We have culture only because we share it. When we refuse to share our culture with others, it becomes a wretched, twisted caricature of itself.
Mr. Crawford's actions seem, at best, woefully misguided. At worst, they are a self-centered attempt to deny people access to aspects of his history that are relevant to all of us. Whether he likes it or not, Black history and Black culture are shared Amerian experiences. Historic figures like Malcolm X arise where cultues clash, not in petri dishes of isolated cultural hegemony. Malcolm X may indeed be Mr.Crawford's "hero," but Mr. Crawford's reverence for Malcolm X makes him no less available to Leedz, no matter how vehemently Mr. Crawford chooses to protest. In fact, the more Mr. Crawford endeavors to deny non-Blacks access to his culture - a culture that has been shaped by both Blacks and non-Blacks - the more he deprives us of the ability to examine who we are as a community.