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Art Baltimore Police Brutality Social Justice

State of Emergency

“Strictly spiritual, no thugs and criminals. Our voice gonna resound like old hymnals.”

Many of you know me for being the outspoken protester that confronted Geraldo Rivera during the protests in Baltimore sparked by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. At that moment, and for a week and a half before that, I chose to express myself in the form of protesting. I’m certain that everybody who participated in any of the demonstrations just wanted to express themselves. Express their hurt, pain, and displeasure with the conditions that we as black people live in, in today’s society. The majority of the people who protested here in Baltimore, including myself, didn’t know Freddie Gray personally. However, we all related to being victims of police brutality.

Apart from protesting, I’ve always used music to express my thoughts about today’s society. I wouldn’t consider myself a “rapper;” for me, it’s more of an art form. I like to tell honest stories in my music, create something with substance that’s relatable. Once the media frenzy left town, I got the chance to take a deep breath and reflect about everything that transpired over the weeks prior.

The main message I wanted to send by writing “State of Emergency” was that people need to know that just because the cameras have left Baltimore, it doesn’t mean the problems faded away. The problems still exist, and there’s a reason why they exist. With that being said, I wanted to ask the question that we’ve all been wondering: What’s the value of black life here in America? One problem with asking that question is that instead of America admitting that black lives are undervalued, the majority of society ignores the issue completely. The deeper issue, though, is that a large portion of the black community doesn’t know the value of their lives themselves. This isn’t anything new; it’s a systemic means to control us. This is why the hook says “free our minds.” Free us from the stereotypes, free us from the mental bondage that we’re trapped in. Black people “peacefully” marching and protesting against oppressive systems isn’t a new concept either. There had been almost two weeks of peaceful demonstrations before the mainstream media poured into Baltimore, and it wasn’t until windows started being broken that anybody tuned in and gave a damn.

There had been almost two weeks of peaceful demonstrations before the mainstream media poured into Baltimore, and it wasn’t until windows started being broken that anybody tuned in and gave a damn.

Nothing about what happened here in Baltimore is new to America. The injustices that we protested against should’ve been fixed a long time before my generation came into existence. My generation fought back once we realized that our voices were being ignored, that there was an attempt to hush our voices. The war on black lives predates what happened here in Baltimore, and this definitely isn’t the final battle. We didn’t need the “troops” and tanks to be sent in for us to know that there was a war going on. We didn’t need for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to announce that there was a state of emergency. We’ve been living in a state of emergency our entire lives; we’ve been fighting a war our entire lives. The moment we started coming together to protest for Freddie Gray, that was the initiation of a new battle, and this time the police were on the retreat. My people are fighting for our lives in every way that we know how to, and we will continue to fight until the battle is won. Regardless of whether America acknowledges it or not, the fact of the matter is, “It’s been a war going on, nobody rung the alarm.”

“State of Emergency” by Kwame Rose

[Hook]
Say we’ll be fine
In due time
But right now
It’s a state of emergency
Free our minds
Heal our souls
Lord you know
It’s a state of emergency

[Verse 1]
The cameras gone now it’s time to put work in/
Went to testify but the church wasn’t open.
This is nothing more than an open letter/
I use these words as a sword but you wouldn’t get the message.
Until we loot liquor stores, hey — grab me a fifth, C /
I been active before I was an activist.
I been rapping—think I should go back to it/
It seems like that’s when life was simpler.
Still what’s the price for the life of a nigga/
Nothing but silence as he lay there unresponsive.
Wonder if he was conscious—knew who Farrakhan is?
America you created a monster.
Oh Allah protect us as we walk thru these dark pastures/
Minus the presence of cameras and the pastors.
Why? ‘Cuz they look right at us and see past us/
Only see dollar signs, blind to the black bodies dying.
We was just chilln’ outside when we heard the sirens/
That’s when the bullets started flying.
Black mothers crying, ain’t nobody notice it/
Until we started hurting economics.
I used to wish I was one of them kids on that Jaheim song.
Yeah that should’ve been our theme song/
It’s just proof that the youth been speaking all along.
It’s been a war going on nobody rung the alarm.

[Hook]

[Verse 2]
Shout out all the soldiers on the front line/
Living in this city the closest thing to apartheid.
Shouts to all my niggas working part time/
Did time so you couldn’t get a full time.
But it’s hard times in this world and you doing what gotta do/
Ain’t no statistic just a product of your environment.
Nobody acknowledges it/
Whose fault is it if white America isn’t able to/
differentiate the difference between/
A nigger and my niggas or a bad bitch and a queen?
It’s hard to have dreams when you stuck in reality/
Tanks on the block making sure we watching Love & Hip Hop.
Fuck that job I’ma bounce back better than I ever did/
And scream that ‘I’m black’ until that shit sounds repetitive.
Never notice we graduate, nobody congratulates/
Only report the bad things not any of the accolades.
Now the world screaming Freddie name/
Might’ve died in a paddy wagon; damn sure didn’t die in vain.
Tried to wash away black pain with Purple Rain.
Huh. But all my niggas is Kings.
I don’t need no pro-test to declare that I’m pro-black/
Spill my thoughts into Pro Tools while my city pro-gress.
Ain’t nobody here to protect, nobody here to invest/
The place called Bmore where they want you [to] be less.
Mr. Principal, it’s just the principle
The kids need they education/
Same way we need our reparations.
Since ain’t nobody here to save us, can we get our own nation?
You hate when I dwell among the gods, free from Satan.
Strictly spiritual, no thugs and criminals/
Our voice resound like old hymnals.
Mr. White Man, I didn’t know Freddie/
Leave it up to you, I coulda been Freddie.
And that’s the scary part/
From two different worlds still can’t tell us apart.

[Hook]

By Kwame Rose

Kwame Rose is a social activist, hip-hop artist, blogger, and speaker. He is best known for having boldly held mainstream media, particularly Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, accountable for its inaccurate representation of protesters during the Baltimore uprising. At just 21 years old, Kwame has emerged as a leader, community organizer, and motivator for youth advocacy.