Free to State

Yesterday, I was honored to join several wonderful people at the Washington Post for a live event and discuss the importance of artistic expression highlighted by freedom of expression. Wes Lowery moderated the questions for me, Michael Render (A.K.A Killer Mike), and John P. Elwood.

Later in the afternoon, the event continued with other panels on social media (a discussion with Senator Ted Cruz).

For several weeks leading up to the event, I honestly didn’t really want to go. I was a huge fan of Killer Mike and the topic at hand, but I was just exhausted from months of traveling on my recent book tour. Of course, once I got there and had a chance to engage, everything was different. It was wonderful seeing old friends while making new ones. And, it’s always a privilege to be able to use my voice and my story to highlight issues that I think we need to be focusing on as a society.

We began the event talking about rap because of a case involving a teenager, Jamal Knox, who was jailed for making a rap song about a police officer. He was charged with terrorism, despite the fact that the “threat” in the song was not a true threat by any reasonable means. I was proud to sign onto a legal brief along with Killer Mike, Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill, and Luther Campbell, but alas, the Supreme Court did not grant cert so Knox is in prison without any additional opportunities to appeal. Not only does the story show how dangerous it is to give subjective powers of defining speech to the government, but also how there are sharp disparities over how the art of black and brown communities are treated than that from whites.

Here’s a short clip on that point.

If you’d like to see the entire discussion, you can watch here.

After the panel, I ran straight to the airport only to wait for nearly six hours as my flight was delayed and delayed (I should have stayed and attended the reception!). Alas, it was still worth the experience despite my reluctance – just another reminder that these are truly wonderful and unique experiences that should be treasured.


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