Photo by Colin McLaughlin for WS

Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) Addresses Eric Garner, Ferguson

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 12.15.14 in News

Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, has added his voice to the ongoing debate over the killing of African-American men and boys by police officers. “We’re at a critical time,” he says in a four-minute spoken-word audio statement to Stop Being Famous (via Billboard) regarding the recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner (in Staten Island, New York) and Michael Brown (in Ferguson, Missouri). “We’re at a watershed moment for humanity.”

The piece, which he titles “Thoughts on the Upheaval from a Global Perspective,” doesn’t name Garner or Brown in particular. Instead, Bey quotes Malcolm X, Charles Dickens and Max Ehrmann’s prose poem “Desiderata” as part of an oracular, poetic rumination on the situation. “I read somewhere that in order for an arrow to fly the bow has to be drawn back,” he said. “There’s some pressure involved and I think we’re all feeling that pressure. Some of us are trying to drown it out. But we all feel it one way or another in indelible ways in these times and days.”

Bey also shared a second, lengthier audio statement, this time clarifying that he was speaking from Paris (his most recent listed tour date was December 8 in Zurich, Switzerland). “We’ve been bamboozled, as Malcolm said,” Bey stated. “We’ve been run amok. We’ve been out here thinking the Wizard of Oz is a giant, and the wizard is just a frail, scared figure behind a giant curtain projecting an image of power. Really the power is with us. In us.”

The formerly New York-based rapper born Dante Terrell Smith has been a difficult to man to locate recently, but we caught up with him during an October 10 show in Portland, Oregon; see our photo gallery.

Listen to Bey’s first statement here and the second here.