Untitled Love Letter To An Artist
By Misty Sol
"The World Passport is the official travel document of the World Government of World Citizens. It is based on the inalienable right of all humans to travel freely on their own planet." –World Government of World Citizens
On January 8, 2016 Yasiin Bey was denied use of his World Passport by immigration officials when attempting to leave South Africa.
He posted a freestyle and statement on Kanye West's website defending his use of the passport. He alleges political motives for his arrest at his home 6 days later. Okayplayer reports a court date of March 8, 2016 where he will answer to immigration charges.
I love you.
Can I say that? No disrespect...to your wife, or my loving partner.
Though I don’t know you, not really, I love you. Or rather, I love your art. Your spirit. Like I love Muhammad Ali. Like I love Lauryn Hill, Basquiat, and Jack Johnson, and Harriet Jacobs. Like I love freedom and all the countless brave souls whose names I’ll never know.
I’ve loved you since Black Star when you introduced me to Marcus Garvey in an offhand way (and I discovered we were born on the same day in August), since we watched weed smoke trace the skyline. What you did for my mind, back when hip hop held me awed at the suggestion of something essential, ancient, and eternal. You sent me in search of Afrofuturism before I knew Sun Ra and rocked me before I knew Fishbone. Your gift of rhyme. Your attitude of triumph in the face of all of the oppression…cocky even. Your faith in God. Your smile and brown brown skin. Like Q-tip before you, you reflected my desire to be a 100% intelligent Black child, Yasiin…
You opened me, peeled back the petals of my consciousness like a spring blossom in the sun. Bae…
In 2013, I learned you had changed your name. Bey?
I am a sometimes Moor and so I wondered why. And, why did you choose the surname of a warrior? I wondered how you would inhabit such a name. I soon realized that you intended to use your art practice, your celebrity, and your very flesh, to test the boundaries of the human experience. Your 2013 Guantanamo “happening” was staggering. To voluntarily submit to the pain, humiliation and horror of a forced feeding, is to use one’s own freedom to shine a light on its lack in other spaces.
Muhammad Ali did it when he refused to fight in the Vietnam war. Lauryn Hill did it when she used her days in court as a platform to expound on the evils of the system. They say Jesus did it when he was lynched for all of humanity.
This is the artist functioning as avatar.
I’m not saying you’re like Jesus. I believe it’s just like you say in your freestyle on Kanye’s blog: you are minding your business.
And I can see that you are testing the boundaries of your own personal sovereignty and highest ideals. I see that this isn’t a march. I see you carrying that passport as a solitary act, but one that can echo in our collective consciousness. I see it as art.
"We feel that we have the responsibility to shine the light into darkness." -Black Star, "Intro"
Your 1999 Song “New World Water” warned us that we needed to look at the politics of water way before Nestle denied that it is a human right. And the poisoning of the public water in Flint, Michigan and other water supplies throughout the nation brings your message too close to home.
Does it frustrate you that we so often hesitate to look into that light, when you shine it?
Do you know that the view is often frightening or too confusing to consider, all at once?
This time you direct our attention to the very borders of white supremacy and imperialism to ask:
- What is the role of the modern nation state? (what are these fences?)
- And how do they function? (might they be cages?)
- And whom do they benefit? (whom do they harm?)
- And what have we gained from so much division?
Who better than a child of plantations and reservations, to use your celebrity, to remind us of the fiction of borders, that were unnatural in the first place. To remind us of prison walls, forced around us in Berlin conferences and Louisiana purchases, that were forged in various genocides and world wars. Look at the continents on the map. You will see how scarred was Africa, more than any other, in this carving up of the world. Born out of the paranoia, objectification, and extreme materialism that epitomizes white supremacy, in reality, which borders aren’t a reaction to or direct result of oppression and war? Slavery, resource pillaging, and death? Meanwhile, back in America, a presidential candidate screams at us to tighten our borders against Mexican invasion and reject the immigration of Muslims entirely. Has the idea of the modern nation state failed the planet and its denizens?
Who better than you to question?
Expatriates, refugees of modernity and children of the new world--we already inhabit the in-between spaces. Our liminality is born of diaspora and wandering. Perhaps these borders can no longer contain us. Dodging bullets, dodging borders, where will we, displaced natives, with memories long as forever, find a home?
I love you Yasiin.
And I wrote this because when I first saw you rock the mic, peace spread across your face from ear to ear and my heart skipped a beat. And I said to my girlfriend, “You see that smile? You can’t have that kinda smile unless you know the joy of letting the creator speak through you.”
“Nah”, she said, “I just think he looks kinda goofy.”
And so it is.
Not everybody sees with the same eyes.
But I see you as a truth seeker and warrior visionary. And when I heard you spoke your truth to the powerful nations, and they detained you, I didn’t fear because I see your spirit is bigger than the hemisphere and borders that separate us. I swooned at your bravery.
So if you don’t do another album after this, I won’t be mad. I know it’s all art. And I know it’s so much more than music.
I know that somehow, you’ll continue to beg me to consider, among other questions, my brown brother Bey:
…having been displaced, having been abused, having little memory of home, what can we be but citizens of the world?
Misty Sol is a writer, story illustrator, and sometimes singer. She loves making meals from scratch, streams, daydreaming, tiny houses, big ideas and Black history.