Over fifteen years ago when his first book, Bomb the Suburbs came out, author and social activist Billy Wimsatt was a 22 year-old anti-establishment graffiti monger. Today, he’s willing to help make the world a better place with anyone who will listen and the title of his new book Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs reflects that sentiment. “Someone needs to laugh at how my generation of hot-blooded anti-everything rabble-rousers has turned into boring normal adults who aspire to own a house, have kids, and buy ecological smoothie makers,” he admits in the introduction. In the new book, Wimsatt still stands on the progressive side of race and social equality, but instead of championing a total upheaval of the system, he’s advocating the creation of a super movement within it. “There’s a least a million of us out there who have the potential to be our own version of the Obamas,” says Wimsatt. “Our job is to do it in our own neighborhoods, our own blocks, and our own precincts.”
OKP: What are the most important issues today?
Billy Wimsatt: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Whether you are a college graduate or a high school dropout, the job market is statistically similar to the Great Depression. All the issues are connected. The people who are trying to screw young people, people of color, gay people, the environment, on and on are the same folks.
OKP: You wrote in your book that a lot of progressive people avoid leadership because they think that power corrupts.
Billy Wimsatt: So who went and got power? The people who weren’t worried about getting corrupted by power i.e. the people who were most likely to be power hungry, egotistical, selfish, and greedy. I’ve noticed a lot of people who read my books want to be artists, teachers, or community leaders. Those are all important, but we need good people in real estate. We need good people being CEOs, lawyers, politicians, and doctors. We gotta get power. We gotta govern.
OKP: How young were you when you developed your political conscience?
Billy Wimsatt: When I was in fourth grade, my teacher said, “There are nuclear warheads pointed at us in Chicago” I was like, What?! Hold on, let me understand this. Someone could press a button and blow up my city? That was the moment when I realized the so-called “grown-ups” did not have their shit together.
OKP: Why is it always the smart, middle class people who join movements and not working class people?
Billy Wimsatt: It’s a reflection of the way society is set up. A lot of times it’s the middle class kids and college grads who have the privilege of getting a paying job that gives them the time to develop as leaders. The thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of people living in survival mode, who are smarter, more deserving, and who have just as much to give as the people who have jobs working in the movement.
OKP: Have you found that’s it harder for white progressives to be effective because race gets in the way of your work efforts?
Billy Wimsatt: Some white people who have sincerely good intentions are not doing their best because they think their every move is problematic because they’re white, rich, male etc. Progressive people are shooting ourselves in the foot and doing a disservice to the world because we’re so self-sabotaging.
OKP: How can Hip-Hop continue to change the world?
Billy Wimsatt: We need to go beyond what Bambataa, Flash, and all these originators of Hip-Hop did. They were taking on the challenges of being a kid in the South Bronx in the 70′s. We have to take on that plus living in a global, 21st century world that is on crack cocaine and speeding forward recklessly like some drunk teenagers in a car. We need to grab the steering wheel and be like, Hold up time to be adults. We can’t just crash this car. This is our only car.
(for more from Sidik, visit his blog at http://cornerboyjazz.blogspot.com)
For more from Billy Wimsatt, pick up his newest book, Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs, in stores now.