“Where Are Our Black Panthers?”: An Interview with Dres of Black Sheep

An interview between Dres from Black Sheep and Marco Polowise about race in America.
By    April 20, 2016
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Credit: Robert Adam Mayer

Before nefarious plug-ins and Travis Scott conspiratorial plots sent this website tumbling down, I received a request to publish an interview between the legendary Dres of Black Sheep and Marco Polovision. Because A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing offers most of the secrets to life, saying yes was an obvious decision.

The following is a note from Dres explaining a bit of the context behind the conversation. Admittedly, the questions are slightly dated, considering it starts off talking about Beyonce at the Super Bowl. But the themes touched upon are important and just as relevant now as they were in February. You could say the same for much of Black Sheep’s music. –JW

Marco just reached out and asked if I’d be down to answer a few questions for a series he was doing with different artists… I’ve been busy but wanted to support as I know the grind and am always grateful when someone takes a moment to help me in the like… and honestly thought it was Marco Polo… whose grind I respect… But once I sat down to answer. I found I had the opportunity to say some things I felt weren’t being said and should have been. –Dres

What did you think of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance?


Dres: I personally enjoyed Beyoncé’s performance…I felt it was full of energy, well coordinated, and entertaining.


What message do you think Beyoncé was trying to convey with the visuals in the “Formation” video?


Dres: I wouldn’t necessarily say that she was trying to convey a message in her performance. In artistic endeavors, it is usually in the eye of the beholder. I do think that her intent was to be entertaining, which I think she was spot on with.

 


 Do you think her intention was to disrespect police? Did she go too far?


Dres: I don’t think that her dancers being dressed as they were was in any way disrespectful to police or any authority, for that manner. I don’t think that her lyrics in anyway speak to the disrespect of police either.

To pay homage to the Black Panthers and Michael Jackson, though two very different entities, speaks to landmark institutions in Black History as well American History. It’s unfortunate what the media chooses to embrace in both at times.


In hindsight, if you were Beyoncé, how would you use that performance time to send a message to Black Lives Matter that wouldn’t be offensive? And what does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you?


Dres: I could definitely see myself doing something similar—if not more overt—in using such a platform to convey the fact that Black Lives Matter. I think that the movement itself is a fraction of the energy that we need toward initiating and conveying this fact to a country that for too long has coldly displayed a lack of regard for our community. A country that was founded upon the legality of slavery and had to fight itself to begrudgingly alter that fact.

A country, that until recently, openly stated its agenda was the dismantling of any progress that people of color might be able to harness in regards to a better quality of life for themselves. A country that still chooses not to honor the equality of all men and women, that will go so far as to physically, mentally and fiscally abuse the black community.

A country that will unfairly incarcerate and indict people of color—but not themselves—though crimes have been blatant to the world. I support the Black Lives Matter movement as Black Lives Matter. I also find it to be somewhat minuscule in the pool of what the community needs to effect true change. It’s a a pebble in the ocean, if you would. It does create a ripple, but in no way does it change the tide that exists.


How do you feel about Beyoncé using her stage time to commemorate the anniversary of the Black Panthers?


Dres: Though I don’t know Beyonce, I am proud of her. I wish that more artists—top tier to bottom—would use their platforms and artistry to speak to the plight of the world. Though I don’t know if she has verbally stated anything in regards to this subject and the performance she created, she is the pebble that caused a mighty ripple. It is unfortunate that the media and police have chosen to harp upon the fact that officers lost their lives and not see the picture as a whole. The Black Panthers were not an organization that was created out of hate but out of necessity. They expressed outrage toward the blatant oppression of their people. They created free breakfast programs for needy children (whatever the color), feeding tens of thousands, which I personally ate as a child in Astoria Projects.

They pushed and succeeded in securing a better education in poverty stricken environments. They gave out free clothing to those that needed. They coordinated like minded groups that spoke to the oppression and brutalization of people of color and poor people alike. They created free health care clinics for blacks and inexpensive health care as well. They gave lessons in self defense in a climate rife with police brutality that was rampant in every city in America at the time (and still seems to be). They created an emergency ambulance response program as well drug and alcohol rehabilitation. They tried to redirect gang activity into more positive community programs. They stressed our ability to participate in government by running for political offices when it seemed no one cared to represent the black community.

Indeed they were a radical group… but they were the result of radical times that the black community had inherited for no other reason than that they existed as a people of color. They were seen as a threat for no other reason then that they demanded things be changed and equality be given to every man, not just a select few. It is shameful that the government created Cointel Pro to dismantle the very people they should have been going out of their way to help to advise, to coordinate, and to offer some form of mental and fiscal reparation for atrocities that were unfairly force fed.

It is unfortunate that people lost their lives on both sides of the coin. But know, the Black Panthers were created out of necessity. I wish there was never such a need for such an organization, but the truth of the matter is that this need still exists. We can see it in Rodney King, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and so many more, including the child Tamir Rice. God. Where are our Black Panthers? We still need them.


Do you feel Beyoncé has a responsibility to speak up for things such as Black Lives Matter and police brutality or should she stay within the realm of entertaining people?


Dres: In my opinion there are two types of artists: there are those that merely entertain—and it is their right to just be that—a dancing, shuffling, singing, partying entertainer. These people offer their God given (subject to scrutiny) talent and clock out after work. We don’t seem to mind when any other occupation does it. I can understand why some would have a problem with doing more work than the job description entails.

Then there’s Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem, Nina Simone, Marlon Brando, Danny Glover, James Baldwin, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, etc. The ARTISTS that shared not only their God given talent, but their God given PURPOSE. The beautiful purpose with the ability to do more than entertain you for the moment, but change the very quality of your life.


What do you generally know about the history of the Black Panthers? Why were they created, what did they accomplish, and why should they be remembered or forgotten in your opinion?


Dres: I do. I wish the media, police, and government did too.


What do you know about the history of the KKK? Why were they created, what did they accomplish, and why should they be remembered or forgotten in your opinion?


Dres: What I know about the KKK is what I know about the men that enslaved black people. That they are a scared, selfish, small, and lazy people. That the only purpose they serve in remembrance is what not to be—a cautionary tale of the evil that exists in this world, of the very need for solidarity. A need for solidarity over diamond clarity and conformity, of love and equality over anything else.



If one of either the KKK or the Black Panthers had to be erased from the history books which would you prefer see gone and forgotten?


Dres: I dare say, if the KKK and the mindset that exists amongst it—whether organized or not— didn’t exist, there may not have been a need for The Black Panthers. But I see things through tainted eyes.


Is racism alive in modern day America? How do you think we can create a healthy dialogue about it?


Dres: Racism is very much alive today, unfortunately. It wears many masks and hats. It is the result of many things that many people refuse to acknowledge and or change. Love is always the answer. Honesty, humility, dialogue, and sometimes, a Super Bowl half time performance. Power To The PEOPLE.