How did we let “Social Justice Warrior” become a pejorative? What better cause is there than social justice? What altruistic pursuit is more deserving of warriors? F*ck an insult — “SJW” should be a call to action, a compliment, and a coda for a life well lived.
Talib Kweli has been warring for social justice just about as long as he’s been writing rhymes. The flow captain flew to Ferguson to march against police brutality and steps into the ring to box the anonymous white supremacists of Twitter on the daily — yet he still finds time to make music that’s at once powerful and poetic. The man shows no signs of stopping either: He stays on his grind while believing fiercely in his cause (and his art).
Kweli’s latest track is an ode to Bresha Meadows — a 14-year-old Ohio teen who fatally shot her father to escape what she, her mother, and her siblings described to authorities as a vicious cycle of abuse. It’s a deeply empathetic song, in which you can practically feel Kweli reaching across the void to give the young woman a lifeline.
Meadows eventually plead “true” to manslaughter and was released from prison over the summer. After psychiatric treatment, she’ll be remanded to family custody. The case can be completely expunged from her record in five years. Still, wading into domestic violence is a tricky issue and Kweli was contacted by siblings of Jonathan Meadows after the track launched. Members of the deceased man’s family maintain that he was no longer a threat to his wife and children — a position Meadows, her mother, her siblings, and the state of Ohio all disagreed with.
This week, Kweli spoke with us about the song “She’s My Hero” and his never-ending battle for political, racial, and social justice for Americans everywhere.
Tell me a little bit about this project, and what’s kind of going on, and how you got inspired to take up this story.
Bresha Meadow’s thing is something that I noticed people that I respected on social media were talking about, but it wasn’t really a mainstream story. Mostly black women on social media were sort of saying her name and asking me … People would tweet me about social issues. For a couple of weeks, just so many social issues of all types of injustice going on around the world that people tweet at me about. I’ve got to be discerning.
I can’t take on every single cause, because then it becomes disingenuous and it looks like … Then you become Al Sharpton. You know what I’m saying?
I didn’t pay attention to it for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t click on it for a couple of weeks just because there’s so much other stuff going on. When I read the story, it interested me for three reasons. Of course, it’s like an indictment of our criminal justice system, and it’s an indictment of domestic abuse, and all that, but the idea what would make a child, whether she was in the right or if she was in the wrong … I’m a pacifistic. I don’t believe that violence solves anything, but she obviously felt for a number of reasons she had to kill this man.
So, what makes a child, what goes on in the mind of a child that drives them to the point where they feel like killing a human being — especially their father, the person they came from — as their only option? She had to feel like it was her only option. Then when I saw her picture, she sort of reminded me of my own daughter, so it drove it home for me on a very personal level.