As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to sweep the nation following more events of police brutality and the execution-style murders of black men, more and more celebrities are trying to take active stances in hope for change. While California rappers The Game and Snoop Dogg were peacefully leading gang members and citizens of Los Angeles to a police graduation ceremony last week, Atlanta’s Clifford “T.I.” Harris was doing something a bit different.
Along with his 15-year-old son, Domani Harris, T.I. joined a march attended by thousands that was held on a highway in the Big Peach last Friday.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has served in the position since 2010, said the following on Friday morning about the march Harris took part in.
“Ambassador [Andrew] Young told me, that almost a quarter of the time dedicated to any march, was dedicated to safety. And a knowledge that when they broke the law, they were going to be arrested. Respect the laws of the community that you are protesting in while maintaining your commitment to your mission.”
In recent days, T.I. has turned his verified Instagram account into a discussion forum for the Black Lives Matter movement. This includes the “Dead and Gone” rapper lending his own opinions into the mix in both picture and video form.
T.I. also has #JusticeForSandraBland in his Instagram bio, a reference to the 28-year-old black woman who was found dead in her Texas jail cell on July 13, 2015, by way of hanging. Many have argued that Bland, who had been a vocal member of Black Lives Matter, may not have committed suicide as was originally reported, and a death investigation is currently pending.
It is worth noting that Harris, who turns 36 later this year, has had his own incidents with the police and even served two separate sentences in county jail. The most recent of which came in 2010, where T.I. served 11 months in prison after a drug-related arrest with his wife Tameka “Tiny” Cottle.
Harris also faced 30 years in prison after a 2007 shooting following the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards, but instead, he was sentenced to just one year after completing 1,000 hours of community service and paying a $100,000 fine.
“I screwed up. I screwed up big time and I am sorry,” Harris told U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell at the sentencing in 2010. “I’m truly and sincerely sorry. I don’t want and I don’t need to use drugs anymore. I want them out of my life.”
What’s interesting about these rappers getting involved and being vocal is the different mentalities they have when it comes to the police. Although T.I. compares the boys in blue to terrorist hate groups such as ISIS and the Taliban, who have committed acts against humanity on U.S. soil, The Game (real name Jayceon Taylor) said the following about the march he and Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dogg) led to the LAPD graduation ceremony.
“We’re just out here to reintroduce ourselves to the LAPD and allow them to reintroduce themselves to us so that we’re not in fear of each other, so that we can share the L.A. streets, so we can coexist, and so that we do away with this hatred that both sides have seemed to conjure up for each other.”
T.I. said something similar during a 2015 interview with CNN’s Don Lemon when discussing the song “La Policia” and the following lyrics Harris rapped.
“Lock eyes with the police
Pass by like whateva
You know I’mma keep the pistol under my seat
And the choppa in the trunk
If a sucka out alive, f-ck the police
I’mma give ’em what they want
Comin’ live from the west side
Tell em buddies saw a cop murder that guy”
When defending the “angry” lyrics on CNN, a much calmer Harris went on to say this.
“I think that there’s been a blatant disregard in all underserved areas of society, when it comes to interactions with law enforcement. I think there’s a resentment, [and] undeniable fear that I believe law enforcement has for young minorities and it is reflected in their actions…. We’re not calling for the death of anyone. We’re calling for the death of our people to end.”
To Harris’ credit, though, he has not gone on record like other members of Black Lives Matter and said that all police are dirty. In fact, the three-time Grammy winner even took to Instagram to praise a police offer and encourage his 5.1 million followers to follow Tommy Norman.
Knowing Harris, who recently starred as Cyrus in the History Channel of the Roots reboot, it’s likely that the “Yeah Ya Know” rapper will continue expressing his opinions on a topic that still needs much discussion. It may not always be said in a way that is going to please everyone — and chances are, many will find ways to dismiss T.I.’s attempts to cause change — but it’s definitely a start.
And in a time where more and more people are trying to get involved and get knowledgeable, a start is something worth asking for.
[Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images]