Michael Render, better known as Killer Mike, is an Atlanta-based activist and half of the rap duo Run the Jewels.
Growing up on Atlanta’s west side, my grandparents raised me from a truthful place. I was never given the illusion that the world was good or right or fair. I was given the reality that you had to be happy and hopeful as a choice, and you had to do for yourself and for your community in the immediate, because that’s all you had.
As a teenager, that meant splitting my time between being an aspirational weed dealer and a social organizer, mediating conflicts between boys from rival high schools. The boys got trades and became photographers, U.S. servicemen, lawyers and, as I did, rappers and businesspeople. Nobody died, even as guns and crack swept through Atlanta. Because we were active in organizing, we developed a deeper sense of morality and responsibility to the community.
As this generation faces new challenges with racism and police brutality, I choose to remain hopeful. A new crop of organizers will grow out of this, and if they plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize, freedom will come sooner than later.
Watch Killer Mike’s full argument in the video above.