Activist and rapper Talib Kweli joined the Dream Defenders today, their 24th day at the Capitol advocating for changes to the state's Stand Your Ground law. Kweli told the group that he was not here because of his music or fame, but because he felt the pull of their cause.
"My hope is that by your example the artists and the celebrities and the politicians and the athletes and the people who were raised to know the difference step up," he told the group while perched on a couch in Gov. Rick Scott's office. " Because it's really on us, I think you've got the right idea."
Kweli is well known in the hip hop community despite his lack of crossover success. His music contains socially conscious lyrics, with common themes of racism and poverty.
He said he learned about the sit-in from Harry Belafonte, who joined the Dream Defenders for a night in the Capitol last month. Kweli plans to spend the night, too.
Dozens of young activists, many wearing Florida A&M and Florida State university paraphernalia, crowded into the governor's office to hear Kweli during a press conference this afternoon. Then he spent another half hour listening to their concerns about Florida's laws and racism.
Some highlights from his remarks:
On what it's like to join the Dream Defenders in Tallahassee:
"And I'm happy to see that it's been given a new face and been revamped for the new millennium and a new generation who are taking the social aspect of it and who are removing it from something that is specific to black or brown people and making it something that's about humanity. Because this is not about black people looking out for black people, this is a human rights issue."
On comparing the Dreamers' "Takeover Florida" sit-in to the Civil Rights Movement: "From what I can see, this movement is about cherry-picking the best and the things that worked from every movement and adding it to this movement. And I think that they've taken some of the greatest lessons from Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.
"That was all students who started (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and all that. It's definitely great to see the students taking up the tradition of other students."
On whether entertainers have a duty to become socially active: "It's not my job to be here as an artist. It's not my job to be here as a rapper. My job as an artist is to create art and to be honest with my art. But it's my job as a human being and as a man, which comes before what I do for a living.
"And I think if more artists saw it like that, if you remove the burden of: 'Because you're an artist you have to do this.' No, you don't have to do it because you're an artist. You have to do it because you're a human being who lives in this community."
His thoughts about "Stand Your Ground": He notes that Stand Your Ground defense wasn't used in the Zimmerman trial but noted that it still contributes to a "culture of gun violence that criminalizes young people and makes it way easier to have violence and death in our communities."
What does he hope to accomplish during his visit: "Anyone who knows my catalogue knows what I'm about as an artist. Right now I'm just here to listen, learn and lend my voice to the struggle and provide a platform and a voice for what these young people are trying to do."