Taking to the blog-publishing platform Medium yesterday, Talib Kweli detailed his recent on-air interaction with CNN anchor Don Lemon and criticized the mainstream media’s “propensity to ignore the facts in favor of sensationalism” with regard to stories such as the killing of Mike Brown and current protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
During the CNN interview Kweli, who released his sixth album in December, criticized CNN’s coverage of Ferguson protests before being cut off by Lemon who claimed that the network has been fair and balanced. During the interview, Kweli also claimed that the anchor failed to greet him prior to the segment and didn’t know how to pronounce his name.
In his Medium-published article, Talib outlines the frustrating Q&A before breaking down his perspective on the ills of mainstream media, the continued presence of white supremacy, and his support for community-based activism.
“I’ve been interviewed on the news many times,” Kweli writes. “Each time the interviewer made sure to say hi, greet me and thank me for coming down. Lemon did none of these things, and I found that odd. Still, I didn’t take it personal. I am not a big mainstream artist, I don’t expect everyone to know or even care about who I am.
“Many people were happy at how this interview went,” he continues. “They agreed with my point and my stance. There were also many who were incredibly disappointed with me and felt the interview was a wasted opportunity that became a competition of egos instead. I am disappointed in myself for allowing the interview to become a spectacle which further distracts from the execution style killing of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. Even though I went in with the best intentions, I became a part of the spectacle.”
Later in the piece, Kweli explains the major point of conflict in the discussion.
“I began to make a point about a CNN.com headline that read ‘Ferguson Protest Calm Until Bottles Fly,’” he writes. “I was there for the event in question and I felt the article did a disservice to the community. I had no initial intention to bring that article up, but I felt it became necessary once Mr. Lemon suggested that CNN was ‘always’ fair and balanced. After getting out half a sentence, which was ‘The article says police chased down men’, Mr. Lemon interrupted me to me to say-
‘That’s not what happened where you were.’
Let that sink in. How would he know? I was there, he wasn’t. This dismissiveness of a first hand account illustrated my point that the mainstream media has the propensity to ignore the facts in favor of sensationalism.
This is where I dug in. I refused to let Mr. Lemon say anything else until I finished my statement, and threatened to walk off if he didn’t let me talk. I don’t need CNN, they called me. My time in the streets with the people is far more valuable then time spent being interrupted by some anchor who doesn’t know who I am. If it wasn’t for Van Jones, who was standing on the side watching and motioning for me to stick it out, I would’ve left and headed right back down to Canefield and West Florrisant to be with the people.
Mr. Lemon also dug in, but only to continue cutting me off about how he wasn’t cutting me off and then he said this-
‘Police say that’s not what happened where you were.’”
Later in the article, the Gravitas emcee directly addresses the disconnect between media reports and on-the-ground “protest movements.”
“In Hip Hop circles, people often spend far more time complaining about what they don’t like rather than supporting what they do,” he writes. “I see the same thing happen with protest movement. Rather than seek out and support community organizers who do this work whether the camera is on them or not, folks sit at home in front of their computers complaining about what other people don’t do. The irony is they are only criticizing themselves. If you only see protest movements when CNN covers them, that's your fault, and it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
So what’s the solution? There isn’t just one, we must be strategic and work on a collection of solutions. There are those who say the solution is to vote, but every problem is not solved at the ballot box. We have a black president, that is not stopping police from executing us. If we are not organizing voter blocs like Adam Clayton Powell Jr. used to do back in the 1960's then our votes have a far less chance of changing anything. Education is key, but westernized education alone will not save us. Mike Brown was scheduled to attend Vatterott College this fall, that didn’t save him. Some say it’s religion but in the words of poet St. Teresa of Avila, ‘God has no hands but our hands to do his work today.’”
At the end of the piece, Kweli also encourages readers to support organizations like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project, and more. Click here to read the full article.