Invincible performs an a capella version of her new “Detroit Summer” and talks about how youth organizing is transforming Detroit. She is releasing the song this summer on her own label Emergence, which is based on cooperative economics. The website TheTop13.com recently named Invincible the fifth best female MC ever, behind Jean Grae, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill and Queen Latifah. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: One of the many hundreds of activists and community organizers who’s taken part in Detroit Summer is hip-hop artist and activist Invincible. She performed her new song “Detroit Summer” at the opening ceremony of the US Social Forum on Tuesday. Democracy Now!'s Mike Burke spoke to her just after her performance.
INVINCIBLE: My name is Alana, Invincible, and I'm a Detroit hip-hop activist and community organizer. I work with an organization called Detroit Summer. And I’m here at the US Social Forum along with the Detroit Summer youth. We’re working on a bridge activity between the Allied Media Conference, which took place last weekend, and the US Social Forum this week to connect all the people who are coming into these events, both from in and out of town, to all the incredible grassroots-led solutions happening in our community. And so, the project is focused on youth in Detroit who are learning how to make their own media, make their own art, and tell their own stories, and come up with solutions that are creative and sustainable for the problems they face. And they started out by conducting interviews with twelve groups that are leading grassroots, sustainable, self-reliant solutions around the city, everyone from the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality to Centro Obrero, that focuses on immigrant rights, to community-owned cooperative businesses, to arts community spaces, and also, you know, people who are growing their own food, the Food Justice Coalition, Digital Justice Coalition, a number of groups. And they took all those interviews, and they worked with artists who are in town from the Beehive Collective and Justseeds Collective, as well as local Detroit artists, and they took images and ideas from the interviews they conducted and turned them into a mural that is under the theme “Another Detroit Is Happening,” to really give people a glimpse of the incredible grassroots solutions — innovative, creative solutions — coming out of our city.
MIKE BURKE: And can you talk a little bit about the roots of Detroit Summer and also the impact Detroit Summer has had on the city?
INVINCIBLE: Detroit Summer was started in 1992. It was founded by both Black Power and civil rights activists, including Grace and Jimmy Boggs. And Grace Lee Boggs, who’s about to turn ninety-five this week at the Social Forum, she is, you know, a mentor to many of us and definitely inspiration for a lot of the work that we do at Detroit Summer.
Detroit Summer initially started as a way to nurture youth leadership here in Detroit. There was a lot of elders in activism roles, you know, that had been involved since the '60s, ’50s, or earlier, in Grace's case, but they weren’t seeing a lot youth involvement. And so, they started this program inspired by Mississippi Freedom Summer to really rebuild our city of Detroit from the ground up with grassroots leadership by the youth at the center of that. And they started out with just a few-week program doing gardens and murals, and the gardening that the program did was along with a group called the Gardening Angels, which was a group of seniors here in Detroit that had Southern roots and, you know, were bringing that skill here to the city and the self-reliance of people feeding themselves to the city. And they were working with youth from Detroit Summer to grow gardens around the city, before this gardening movement was as huge as it is. And as many people know, Detroit has, you know, the fastest-growing urban agricultural movement in the country, and Detroit Summer and Gardening Angels, the group that we initially started working with, you know, was definitely at the forefront of starting that.
MIKE BURKE: And can you share some of your music? I know you recently wrote a song called “Detroit Summer.”
INVINCIBLE: Yes. The song “Detroit Summer” is definitely inspired by the ideas and notions of Detroit Summer. It’s not specifically about the organization. It is about, you know, the season, but also about the metaphor of, you know, Detroit, in a lot of ways, is in an endless winter at times, you know, like the harsh conditions that we live in, it seems like will never end. And I feel like the work Detroit Summer does and the work that a lot of the groups locally are doing in the grassroots level are what’s going to bring, you know, that brighter future that we need here and that, you know, we urgently and desperately need people to come together and merge those solutions and really help to nurture those solutions.
So this piece is about that. It’s called “Detroit Summer.” I’m releasing it on my independent, cooperative-economics-based label that’s called Emergence. I’ll be releasing this single in the coming month. And it was produced by my friend Waajid, also a Detroit artist.
[rapping] Detroit in the summer, it’s more than a season.
When I moved to the city, was the core of the reason,
Can I clarify all the distortion you’re seein’?
Gotta break your mind out of prison while the warden is sleepin’.
Politicians make a fortune by thievin’.
The air quality since the Model T could shorten your breathin’.
Follow me to a city where empty lots turn to garden plots,
Got alternatives in place so we could disregard the cops.
It’s still a seedling, but the future the D brings,
Gettin’ to the root while they still cuttin’ off the tree limbs.
Strengthening the weak links, brownfields from rotten tires,
Sunflowers reaching higher to detoxify the D.
Everybody rocks a fitted but don’t watch the Tigers.
A block party uniting spots where the shots are fired.
It’s hot, cool it off by opening the hydrants.
Call Motown a ghost town, but the city’s vibrant.
Detroit’s alive and well, don’t need no more requiems.
Elected officials, their greed has infected them.
Sell the residents out, then they leave and neglected 'em.
Guess they couldn't see that now the D is the next to win,
Not as in some self-appointed demigods developin’
These overpriced and empty lots,
Casinos where old ladies play the penny slots,
Trying to pay their rental costs,
Living on a shoestring of some dental floss.
Here’s the real renaissance.
Go from post-industrial to the most illustrious,
Anyone who wants a change, you better know it’s up to us.
Start working together, no more crabs in a barrel.
When did freedom ever come about from asking a pharaoh?
Why wait for opportunity to knock,
When you could build a door or two?
Self-reliance out of crisis, that’s what we transform it through.
We the oracle, like summertime Detroit is what the world has to look forward to.
AMY GOODMAN: The Detroit hip-hop artist and activist Invincible, interviewed by Mike Burke.