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D'Angelo & Black Panther Founder Bobby Seale Discuss Protest & Steps Towards Change
D'Angelo & Black Panther Founder Bobby Seale Discuss Protest & Steps Towards Change

D'Angelo & Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale Discuss Protest & Steps Towards Change

D'Angelo & Black Panther Founder Bobby Seale Discuss Protest & Steps Towards Change

[Photo by Zackary Canepari for The New York Times]

Last week, D'Angelo opened up his Second Coming tour with a funk party at Oakland's Fox Theater. But music wasn't the only thing on the man's mind. The weight of the continued unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland and the world over has clearly lingered with the great redeemer of the protest anthem and socially-sharp, deeply black music at large. While he was on the golden coast, The New York Times managed to pair him up with activist and Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale for a rare and intimate discussion of the state of protest and politics in this country, where, how and when a real change would come and whether it would be by the volition of the people or stifled by corporate and political interests.

In the wake of the vicious acts of murder and hate that transpired in Charleston, South Carolina this week, many of us have found ourselves overwhelmed (reasonably so,) outraged, but inevitably contemplating the focus and effectiveness of this new phase in the civil rights movement. Even with albums like Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, so filled with anger and confusion and lashing out against a system that refuses to acknowledge the safety of black lives as paramount to the safety and equality of all, there is this twisted deja vu that we are faced with each and every week as yet another black man, woman or child is slain, while we remain seemingly helpless to dispel the air of racism that fuels these fires. But if anything can be gathered from this meeting of minds, it's that there is no power in protest without a focused and determined center comprising musicians and political activists alike and D's looking to be front and center for the first time ever. Watch as D'Angelo and Black Panthers founder Bobby Seale tour the old Oakland stomping grounds in which the party was established and read a few choice excerpts from the piece below. Hit the link for the full script.

>>>Read The Full Interview (via The New York Times)

D on the cultural shift away from awareness: 

"Coming up, the music of my era was very conscious. I grew up on Public Enemy, and it was popular culture to be aware. People were wearing Malcolm X T-shirts and Malcolm X hats. It was a very cool thing to know who Malcolm X was. It was all in the lyrics. It was trendy to be conscious and aware. Now the trend ... it’s just [expletive]. But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of people who feel the same way that I feel and that are making great music, conscious music. But for some reason or another it seems like the gatekeepers are not allowing that stuff to filter through to the mainstream. Kendrick Lamar, he’s an example of someone who is young and actually trying to say something. Who else? You got Young Jeezy and Young Thug. You know what I’m saying? It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous."

Seale on the importance of political players enacting change from the top down: 

"On the Black Lives Matter [front], I’m pushing for the youth in these groups to get more political and more electoral; you’ve got to take over some of these seats. And you’ve got to get more Mosbys elected to some of these political offices. And you got to put some measures on the ballot. I didn’t start the Black Panther Party until 1966. This was the year that Stokely Carmichael came out with black power. They understood that we need political seats. You could change the whole spectrum. You could change the city laws. This is what you do."

D'Angelo on the importance of musicians speaking truth to power: 

"Now more than ever is the need to sing about it and to write songs about it. And no one’s doing it. There’s only a chosen couple of people. I think it just takes one little snowflake to start a snowball to go down the hill. My contribution and say, Kendrick Lamar’s and some chosen others’ start the snowball. That’s all I can hope for. I don’t know if I’m comfortable being quote-unquote a leader. But I do realize and understand that my role as a musician, and in the medium that I am, that people are listening to me. Kids are listening to me. We have power to influence minds and influence lives. So I respect that power. I really do. I’m not putting myself on a pedestal or anything like that. I think that’s dangerous. When you start playing with that, and you’re not careful, you can get yourself into trouble."