Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Real Change Rock Rock On

Today, a close friend called to say their family was sending Real Change $1,000. It's been a tough year for them, but they're doing it anyway. I've been hearing that a lot lately. It's inspiring. It's also a lot of responsibility. This year, more than a thousand people valued our work enough to send a check, and lots of them stretched to do it. It's an enormous honor to be supported in this way. 2008 was a hard year in many ways. To end on solid ground, Real Change needed to raise $180K over the last two months just to sustain what we do. People came through with at least $225K. In a recession year. Amazing.

I get the same thing from the vendors. People walk up, shake my hand, and say Real Change has saved their life. They say they don't even want to think about what things would be like without. They mean it. You can see the fear and despair in their eyes when they flash for a moment on their alternatives. These are our society's disposable people and they damn well know it.

Yesterday, one of our guys said he felt more loved at Real Change than anywhere he'd lived in five years. This is what we call a Real Change moment. A lump rises in your throat. You get a little misty, and you say something like, "Thanks. That makes me happy." Then you do a little hug or handshake or whatever, and feel lucky for having work that lets you be a real human being. You then go back to doing the best you can with what you have to work with, and push those rocks up those hills. Because that's what you do.

The friend who called also mentioned a local hip-hop band that's made it big. She'd been listening to their Long March EP. "Did you know the Blue Scholars mention Real Change?" Um, no. "Well, they do. They say, 'Real Change, rock rock on!"

Real Change rock on? Really? "Rock Rock on. Real Change rock rock on. You should spend the buck-ninety-nine or whatever at iTunes."

I bought the EP. I'm 48, and not exactly the prime Blue Scholars demographic, but this is great stuff. Smart, funny, sophisticated, political, poetic, passionate, and pissed. What's not to like? Do the download. Here's the song lyrics. It's called Cornerstone.

It's the cornerstone.
From the gutter to the throne, corner to the stone.
Comaradary is earned, cultivated and homegrown.
Don't really own a damn thing except for my labor, and maybe a couple of thousand pages of my rhymes
And your brain's just a cage with a mind locked inside it unless knowledge itself gives proper perspective
To see how the politicians keep the dollars protected, my namesake is not confined to scholarly methods
To reach the mass, never preached the way they teach in class, sleep-walkin' half-dead spirits leaving fast
If you never had your ass beat, brah, you can't speak about non-violent protests and other such mythology
Watch how the quantity leads into quality deep beyond the reaches of your Babylon economy
I speak solemnly; I seek equality, my people celebrate life despite poverty
Fuck the false prophecy, promising we'll all be free, as long as we fall in line with the flawed philosophy
And mystery, God's eternal afterlife in Heaven, while living in Hell, where the militant dwell
Now the ranks start to swell in the hoods and jail cells, lock down the campus cause it's right to rebel
No uprising fails, each one's a step forward toward the victory up at the end of the trail

We crack jokes while singing the blues, and rock like the stone that the builder refused
To all area crew, who carry the world on their shoulders, on some atlas shit, this one's for you
206, rock rock on, The proletariat, rock rock on, Beacon Hill, rock rock on
Now the hustle on the corner set the struggle in stone

My compatriots and comrades engaging in combat, trying to stay sane up in this land gone mad
Give me two bucks and take a puff and pass my bong back, nearly 3 years and they're still up in Baghdad?
Battle-raps, 85% talkin' this-and-that, quit that, insecure petty little man
Get a manicure and tan, B, amateurish candy raps, it's hilarious, I'm laughing till I can't breath
Can it be that it was never simpler than now, consumers waitin' for a magazine to set the style
The critical instead begin to organize quietly, underneath the sugarcoated surface of society
My purpose as of now is serve the people to the fullest, knowing that my name is somewhere written on a bullet
The beats that I inherited, and rhymes in my chromosomes, passed to my seed, I call him my cornerstone

We crack jokes while singing the blues, and rock like the stone that the builder refused
To all area crew, who carry the world on their shoulders, on some atlas shit, this one's for you
New People ya'll, rock rock on, Real Change, man, rock rock on, the next generation, rock rock on
Now the hustle on the corner set the struggle in stone

We crack jokes while singing the blues, and rock like the stone that the builder refused
To all area crew, who carry the world on their shoulders, on some atlas shit, this one's for you
Central District, rock rock on, U District, rock rock on, International District, rock rock on
Now the hustle on the corner set the struggle in stone

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