Thank You Note: A Conversation With Nas and Michael Eric Dyson

By Michael Eric Dyson
April 4, 2014

Dear Professor Jones and Dr. Dyson,

I’ve been feeling lonely working in this graveyard dug by systemic injustice and filled by life-robbers. A young civil rights attorney with a case list full of dead Black men and children; but I’m more like a reverse mortician. You see, morticians make death pretty for those that don’t want to see, but my job is to remove the make-up of the cover-up and reveal to the world the truth of reality. Another killer walking free, Trayvon Martin’s blood on your grown-man hands, your bullet lodged in his innocent heart, the hoodie isn’t what you judged from the start. You shot a Black kid for being Black; no amount of make-up can cover up that. Pursuant to the precedent of our legal system where cops shoot Black kids in the back for free, you get a consistent verdict: not guilty. A broken leader, I fell to my knees. I never felt shame; I fought hard as a mother for positive change. Instead, my mind kept delivering logic that my heart didn’t want to believe — I just didn’t have the intelligence or skills to lead.

I felt the death of Trayvon Martin in my heart; I felt the “not guilty” verdict in my womb. More than an isolated conclusion given a particular set of facts, the verdict’s precedent also levied judgment against life not yet conceived. Against my unborn children giving them advance notice that should they assume the risk of being born into this world they will never be a whole being but fully Black and 3/5 human. I was one of the attorneys that represented the family of Trayvon Martin, but I felt sole responsibility for the miscarriage of justice. Not even blessed to be a mother yet, hadn’t felt the first kick, but I already failed my distant relatives. I failed to set the future at the feet of my son.

My White niece and nephew’s lives are also diminished by a spiritually imbalanced world in which they bear witness to the inequities levied against Black innocence. Professor Jones and Dr. Dyson, how can we raise any healthy child irrespective of race when their little psyches are exposed to the illness of inequity? At some point in life I imagine each child will question: If my brothers and sisters are devalued because of the color of their skin, what physical characteristic about myself could make me less worthy of love? As a child nears adulthood, he or she will be faced with the choice to stand for righteousness in the face of adversity, be forced to bend to a fallacious “us versus them” self-preservation model or to practice indifference. Whatever their choice, that little inner voice will remain like a dormant disease questioning their self-worth living in a world of inequity. Social ill, I feel sick.

On March 28, 2014, I’m attended, “A Conversation with Nas and Michael Eric Dyson,” at Georgetown University, seated in the front row of the Healy Hall auditorium. Halfway through the program Dr. Dyson tells the audience, “We have Trayvon Martin family attorney Jasmine Rand with us this evening. Jasmine, please stand up.” I rise from my seat. I stand. Blushing, as Dr. Dyson and Nas put their hands together, I realize that they did not fully comprehend what they were applauding. Looking down on me from the stage each man praised a piece of himself. Looking back up at them, as a student reveres her teachers. The rhymes Professor Dyson speaks combined with Nas’ scholarly lyrics composed over the streets’ beat, dropped more knowledge in my attorney-professor mind than all three professional degrees combined. The moderator James Peterson asks of Nas and Dr. Dyson, “What did all of this hip-hop academic collaboration create?” I thought to myself, the answer is me. Tonight is not the first time I stood when you called, ubuntu my brothers, I am because you are. In this Pandora’s box of a world, you resuscitate hope into the breath of Black life. Nas we never had an opportunity to exchange dialogue… but I heard your song freeing all my sons. I heard it each time I put my hoodie on, my courtroom theme song. Live on MSNBC, Michael Eric Dyson created the race rhetoric that painted the landscape of my human rights linguistics. In front of these Georgetown-types, Harvardites, and Queens’ bright light, I stood illuminated. I rise. My teachers unknowingly piecing back together their academic hip-hop leader lawyer-teacher.

I stood back up. I’m pregnant with purpose, but before I gift life I’m going to create a world that deserves it. The first time I couldn’t cure the ill, no pill for the malady, no bottle marked: “The world as it should be: God-given equality.” If my molten mind they formed from silver before, my leaders building me back from titanium, like Nas and Damian said education is real power. Watch out, world. I stand. Evil take a seat. Bow-down and watch as I manifest my destiny born to lead. This time I’m gonna cure the illness of inequity so good I’ll make you redefine sick, that’s the definition of illmatic. I live in a world where hip-hop meets scripture, Nas writes the sheets, 9th Wonder drops the beats, Michael Eric Dyson preach brother teach, God-speed let my feet hit these streets — a revolutionary soldier back on her feet.

One Love,


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