Authors: Markese Bryant
I am a firm believer that our movement to build an inclusive green economy is an extension of the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent the last days of his life working tirelessly on the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address the lack of jobs, decent wages and housing among poor people of color. Over the years, many of my friends have fallen victim to the prison system, drug addiction and senseless violence due to the lack of job opportunities.
In 2005, I faced a similar fate after I was arrested in my neighborhood in East Oakland. This incident motivated me to enroll into Laney Community College, which ultimately led me to attend Morehouse College, where I decided that I wanted to be an African American Studies major. As I learned more about the history of my people and the struggle for civil rights, my dissatisfaction with the status quo grew stronger and stronger. While searching for a solution, I brought a book titled The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones, which details how green jobs could potentially provide disadvantaged youth with an alternative to the streets.
After I finished reading the book, I was so inspired that I decided to write a theme song for the movement called, “The Dream Reborn.” I recorded the song -- hoping the voice of the post Hip Hop generation would be heard loud and clear during the climate change discussions.
Droughts, heat waves, poor air quality, floods, higher prices for basic necessities, and other challenges of climate change are having a heavy impact on people of color and the poor. I wrote “The Dream Reborn” to shed light on these issues and to support the green movement as a whole.
The hook of the song is a chant that says “It’s time to go green/ we got to go green/ the food ain’t fresh and the air ain’t clean/from the hood to the burbs everybody go scream/Dr. King, we’ve living your dream/my president is black, but he’s going green/I got my president back I’m going do the same thing.”
While reflecting on the role black freedom songs played in the civil rights movement, Dr. King stated, “They are more than just incantations of clever phrases designed to invigorate a campaign; they are as old as the history of the Negro in America. They are adaptations of songs the slaves sang-the sorrow songs, the shouts for joy, the battle hymns, and the anthems of our movement. I have heard people talk of their beat and rhythm, but we in the movement are as inspired by their words.”
Today, Green For All is launching The Dream Reborn: Who’s Next? contest to encourage artists to write and record original music reflecting how Dr. King’s commitment to social justice and equality inspires them as we work toward a more inclusive green economy. The contest begins today, with submissions accepted at dreamreborncontest.com. Visitors to the site will be able to vote for the song they think best reflects Dr. King’s spirit and the energy of the green economy.
The song that receives the most votes over the course of the month-long contest will receive a $1,000 cash prize – and a music video produced by Green For All! The second and third place vote getters will receive $500 and $250 prizes respectively.
Green For All held a similar contest in 2010 called The Dream Reborn. The Climate Change Crew, a group of middle school students in Minnesota, created the winning performance in that contest. Their winning video is viewable at the contest website: dreamreborncontest.com.
I encourage all hip hop artists to use their voice and the green jobs movement as a vehicle to combat violence in their neighborhoods and ultimately increase the quality of life for all mankind.