It didn’t start with the March for Our Lives…

Recent performer in the March for Our Lives, Ghanian-American Victor Kwesi Mensha or Vic Mensa is an exemplary figure of the African diaspora, utilizing his voice to express discontent for issues of his disenfranchised people. Since debuting in 2013 on the Chance the Rapper mixtape (his childhood friend) Acid Rap, Chicago native has earned a top spot on XXL Magazine’s 2014 freshman class and released two albums—The Autobiography and There’s A lot Going On.

Ghana and the issues of black youth in his hometown have been predominant themes in his music. On an interview from Time magazine he states, “As a black man in America, being stereotyped as a criminal is more than familiar to me, as is being unwanted on the streets of my own home and profiled by law enforcement.” This social oppression he faced was not only of an African American in the South Side of Chicago but as a member of the modern African diaspora—finding difficulty being able to escape the noticeable “foreignness” of his name. He chose has chosen to reflect upon these issues within his song “We Could be Free” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and (as previously noted) participating in the March for Our Lives against gun violence in the United States. Within the song he highlights his father’s country of origin, and includes a comparison between the lifestyles of his cousin’s “back at home” and the lifestyles of him and his brother. “Watch my cousins back at home getting water out a well/ While I watch my brother stacking stone, whippin’ water by the scale / Tryna’ get a mill’ on the other side/ They ain’t got a meal, we don’t recognize, we in heaven/ So we think we live in hell.” In this verse he emphasizes the privileges members of the African diaspora experience, notably the pull factors that drew them to immigrate away from their country of origin, whilst acknowledging the “real” struggles of his people. At the same time, he does not undermine the African American struggle within the country he was born and raised in. Utilizing this song, he tells his audience that although we do have struggles they are easy to fix if we realize that our American community is mindlessly turning against each other. He believes that “…we could be free/ If we only knew we were slaves to the pains of each other.” The music video for the song depicts scenes of the struggle of minority groups in the United States to gain equal rights to their privileged counterparts. The video is largely in black and white, only displaying primary colors- namely the color red. It visualizes the experience of black teens in the states, struggling against gun violence by armed officials who instead of protecting them have murdered and imprisoned them at higher rates than any other group. The video encourages people to be seen as people, in essence to put their differences aside and unite as one. We are not a homogenous America, we are a blend of various cultural, religious, racial, and ethnic groups that should be embraced rather than oppressed into assimilation and silence. The ending scenes of the music video show Vic Mensa alongside members of the American community, coming together in all their vivid colors to form a united world.

Citation: 

Mensa, Vic. “Vic Mensa: What Palestine Taught Me About American Racism.” Time, Time, 12 Jan. 2018, time.com/5095435/vic-mensa-palestine-israel-jerusalem/.

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