Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Obama’s Inauguration, & Lupe Fiasco

There is a lot of irony in America’s first African-American president taking the oath of office for the last time, on the day we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For me, it was this said irony that moved me to tears while watching President Obama’s inaugural address. As Obama spoke, the substance of his speech was a great reminder of the long road ahead in the advancement of freedom, justice, and equality for all. And at that very moment, though I never knew the man, I silently wished Dr. King was alive to relish in the moment. If he was, I believe he too would be proud.  He would be proud in particular to see that there are in fact many of us fighting to realize the dream of equality. Yes, because as he once famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And if you ask me, much of Obama’s inaugural speech centered on just that.

Having said that, let’s take a look at what happened to rapper Lupe Fiasco while performing at a pre-inauguration concert last night. So what happened? After performing one of his more controversial songs called Words I Never Said. In the song he criticizes Obama’s foreign policy, the war on terror, and in particular, how it negatively impacts the Palestinians people — in the song, he also uses his criticism as justification for not voting. Of course this is nothing new; but, it would appear that this material — though protected by the First Amendment — wasn’t accepted at the concert. Truth be told, if you listen to the song it isn’t even about Obama in particular.

You might wonder why rapper Lupe Fiasco would be invited to an inauguration party, given that he has publicly criticized President Obama in the past.

But this party was all about free speech.

So when Fiasco took the stage Sunday in Washington at the Hamilton Live theater as part of the StartUp RockOn inauguration bash, he bashed Obama again.

“Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist,” he rapped. “Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say (bleep). That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.

Watch the incident below:

obama-inauguration-martin-luther-king-fr-lupe-fiascoAccording to an official statement by  Hypervocal, which co-founded StartUp RockOn with EventFarm and Fighter Interactive, Fiasco was not kicked off stage for his anti-Obama rant. For them, it was more about his style than his content. In other words, they didn’t have a problem with him performing an anti-war song, it’s just that he performed the song for thirty minutes. Now I’m not sure of the concerts format or what Lupe signed up for. But, I’d like to think that if I was the headliner of the show as Lupe was, thirty minutes on stage is more than acceptable. Heck, I once saw Patti La Belle in concert and it took 750 wardrobe changes for me to realize that she was on stage for two hours. Sure he could have done more than one song — hell, he has more than enough material. However, given the significance of the event, what else were patrons to expect from Lupe? Kick Push?

Now I know some of you may be of the opinion that this was not the time or place for such a move by Lupe. To which I say: bullshit. The truth is that it gets no bigger than using a pre-inauguration concert to make a political statement. Besides, I recall Dr. King once saying that, “There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” or something like that. And last time I checked, unless they’ve rewritten the history books, Dr. King was also quite controversial himself. As a matter of fact, I think Dr. King was also opposed to war. But at the end of the day, what happened to Lupe Fiasco last night speaks to something. You may not agree with me, but it speaks to the polarization on the political left brought about by the election of America’s first African-American president.

I could be wrong, but I think Dr. King would’ve been proud of Lupe too. As Obama said in his speech, though we may have differences, the reality is that it takes “we the people,” coming together to make change. Lupe Fiasco, much like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., acted in the tradition that isn’t foreign to those interested in democracy. I think we can all agree that we love this country, but as James Baldwin once said, it is that love that gives us the right to criticize her. For it’s only through criticism that we’re motivated to act in the interest of freedom, and equality as the U.S. Constitution affords us all. And that, my friends, is the beauty of this great democratic experiment called the United States of America. After all, it takes the collective efforts of “we the people to affect change from the bottom up. Yes, Hope & Change is real, but obviously some of us are oblivious to what it entails.