Black Nationalist Spits Rhymes And Revolution

“C.Y.N.,” Abiodun Oyewole advised a mostly-black audience: Control your (inner) “nigger” — except when you need to fight.

The black nationalist “Last Poet” rapped out irreverent anecdotes, provocative statements, and some classic poetry to a crowd at Dixwell’s Stetson Library.

Nearly half a century after the birth of a cutting-edge group widely considered the precursor to hip-hop, Oyewole’s appearance showed how the same questions he and his colleagues began provoking two generations ago—questions about race, revolution, respectability politics, and the role of women—continue to resonate. He didn’t mince words, even when those words were “nigger” and “bitch.”

His appearance at Stetson Wednesday night weaved together poetry and prose. Oyewole charmed and wowed the dozens present, including local slam poets and students from Common Ground High School, with his vision of blackness in America.

“Unfortunately, many of us think our history started with slavery,” he said. “Who is really the slave? We were put in the position to raise white people in America.”

Prison University

Aliyya Swaby PhotoOyewole’s stories marked a rough outline of his history as “revolutionary,” from a child growing up in Queens to a Columbia University fellow, with a three-year stint in prison in between.

He is an original and current member of The Last Poets, a group of writers and musicians born from the 1960s civil rights and black nationalist movements. For The Last Poets’ first performance in Harlem on May 19, 1968, Malcolm X’s birthday, they took the stage chanting, “Are you ready, niggers?” Four to five thousand people, gathered in what is now Marcus Garvey Park, chanted along with them.

But Oyewole wanted to be in the thick of the “struggle.”

In 1969, he left the Last Poets—“to get my hands bloody”—and headed for Shaw University, where he began recruiting students to join an African village called Oyotunji in Sheldon, S.C. Anyone who joined had to wear “African clothing” and take on an “African name,” he said.

After a heckler at a town meeting taunted the group for not being able to defend their women, Oyewole led a mission to rob “$20,000 worth of guns” from two guns stores in North Carolina and stash them in the university president’s mansion.

But his two student accomplices “dropped the duffel bag” of guns when a noise startled them, and they were arrested.

To get the money needed to spring his accomplices, Oyewole decided to rob the Ku Klux Klan. He would be killing two birds with one stone: “Rob the Klan, get my boys out of jail. Sounds good, right? It would’ve been good, if I didn’t get thrown into jail.”

After a harrowing chase that lasted more than seven hours, Oyewole was caught and ultimately sentenced to 12 to 20 years in the state penitentiary. He served three years and nine months.

“It was the best three years and nine months of my life,” he said. The time in jail “focused” him and calmed him down. “I turned prison into a university for myself.”


Though he may be a calmer figure today, Oyewole was no less provocative at Stetson.

He recalled a conversation he had with rapper Ice Cube, which was organized by and featured in the New York Times. The Times reporter had wanted him to metaphorically “spank” Ice Cube and warn him not to call women “bitches” or black people “niggers.”

But Oyewole said he agreed too much with Ice Cube to scold him: “If a woman’s a bitch, call her a bitch.”

These days, he lives in Manhattan on a fellowship from Columbia University and travels the world performing with The Last Poets. He gives lectures to prisoners throughout the country, disproportionately black men, whom he refers to as his “fraternity brothers.”

Oyewole described the reality of black people in America using the parable of an eagle, a majestic creature, tricked into living the life of an earthbound chicken.

“All those years, he was living as a chicken, when he was an eagle and could fly away.”

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posted by: Peter99 on November 17, 2014  7:06am

A bitch is a female dog, and it is a derogatory slur to call a woman of any race or ethnic group that term. Today if we are cultured, speak properly, and treat all folks with respect then we are accepted as equals by almost everyone who is has those same values. The other 5% or 10% who are bigoted towards ethnic groups, religions, genders etc. other than their own, are considered jerks or worse.

The N word should not be used by anyone, and should be relegated to history books. It should not be forgotten, because to forget history is wrong and dangerous.

I obviously do not live in a society that is perfect, nor do I believe that discrimination has disappeared. People are and have been discriminated against because of a wide range of things including but not limited to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, body size or just because they were not considered good looking. I am not suggesting that folks forget and forgive when someone offends them. What I am suggesting that people try to blend in with the rest of society, and act in a manner that is socially acceptable to the majority of people of all backgrounds. We do not have to lose our cultural identity to do this, but we do have to do this to be accepted as equals by the rest of society.

Education, respect for the law,respect for other people are the keys to a good life. Life is not always fair, but if we do not at least give it a chance we will be doomed to fail.

posted by: Born9 on November 17, 2014  10:38am

In order to ensure into white amerikkka u must lose your cultural identity, as for Afrakans brought here during chattel slavery aka the Aftrakan holocaust or maafa we never had a chance to practice it own culture we where made into niggers here on these shores and now are being chastised arrested and abused for becoming what the white society wanted a population of lower class citizens to do there labor.  Every rulke and law the government places on the people has already been broken just to maintain this land.  Caucasians have no right to ask or dictate to the prisoners of war howe they should respond to the savagery placed on them.  Afrakans we are responsible for our rise but white rasist ideals has brought us doWN.  “EDUCATION AND RESPECT FOR THE LAW ARE KEYS TO A GOOD LIFE”  said no one who understand that a inferior education provided by amerikkka coupled with a law system built on oppressing afrakans will never work,  only racist suggest that life isn’t fair so don’t get justice and don’t be angry they suggest this because justice would interrupt there lives we not looking for fair we want justice!”