Gentlemen:

I write this open letter with a great deal of sadness in my heart, and a great deal of concern for you, my brothers, my Black brothers. I have watched the YouTube videos, read the articles and blogs. I feel like I am having flashbacks to my Vibe magazine days in the mid-1990s when Tupac and Biggie, America’s East Coast and West Coast, engaged in a war of words so fast and furious that it was completely mind-numbing when first Tupac, then Biggie, were killed under still very mysterious circumstances. It did not have to go down that way, but it did. Because too many Black men involved talked at each other instead of with each other.

It hurt me then, as writer for Vibe, to be in the middle of that beef, to have to document it as a journalist while also working behind the scenes to try to squash it, to no avail. I cannot even begin to tell you what it felt like to be outside that Las Vegas hospital after it had just been announced that ‘Pac was gone. Or to be awakened in the early New York City hours, from a hysterical Los Angeles call, telling me Biggie had been murdered. It still does not sit right with my spirit, these many years later.

So here we are, in the second decade of this new century, with new musical superstars and new hiphop heroes. And countless Black males dead across the ‘hoods of America because of anger, rage, and a self-hatred born of a racism turned to our own heads like a loaded Glock.

I get the basics of this dispute between you, Rick Ross, and the Gangster Disciples, I truly do. I am a product of that environment, of a ghetto, and I am a Black man in America. I know that we feel we are hustling every single day of our lives for honor, for respect, for power, for an opportunity to have an opportunity. But what we cannot afford to do, as we hustle and flow, is kill each other. That is called self-destruction of a community, of a people, and that is genocide, plain and simple.

Beyond this there are so many younger Black males who, like me, never had a father figure in their lives, who look to hiphop and the streets for guidance, support, family, love, and any example of manhood they can get. At a time when a record number of Black males are winding up in the prison system, or as casualties of street wars they do not fully understand, the last thing we need to see are Black men as brilliant and talented as all of you engaging in an ugly back and forth on the internet.

Somehow someone in the midst of this has got to say we must be different, we must do different, and we must put an end to this. Let us sit down as men, as brothers, as fathers, as mentors, as role models, as leaders, as bosses of our lives, and talk this through. Agree to disagree if you have to, but do it from a position of love for each other, for us as a people, not from the platform of hate and revenge. And use that same energy it took to create the many YouTube clips and put out videos showing that Black men can talk without resorting to violence, that we can come together in unity and peace, that we care more about our community and our people than any beefs, be they real or imagined.

I am not here to take sides, because I am on the side of the entire community. What I am here to do, as a leader, as an activist, as a writer, as a hiphop head for life, is say please reach out to me, both sides, or to someone you can trust, to referee this very necessary discussion. And let it be behind closed doors, without the media, without cameras. And do this because you overstand, as Black men, that you come from a long line of superheroes with names like King Tut, Cinque, Toussaint L 'Ouverture, Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Harry Belafonte, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Huey Newton, George Jackson, Bob Marley, right on up to President Barack Obama.

We curse that legacy and that history, and we spit on the graves of those great Black men when we make peace with mediocrity and resort to fighting each other, on the streets, in videos, on YouTube. We become, in fact, the niggas we love to hate, and the niggas some would like us to be, forever.

I know we are better than that, and I know we are greater than that, brothers. Let us cease to be the public entertainment and spectacle for other people once and for all. Let us instead aspire to the greatness, the genius, the sense of reason and purpose that has been in us right from the beginning of time. For the sake of ourselves. And for the sake of those Black males whose eyes are watching God, and watching all of you, too.

Respectfully,

Kevin Powell