Dr. Imam Jamil Al-Amin & Histrionic Rap
By Hamzah Alameen
Whether suspicious & sympathetic, or cynical & anxious, most might agree that Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly Rap Brown) is historically, and symbolically important for many different people, and for a multitude of factors, the world over. Yet because of his current incarceration he has too long been trapped in a vicious bubble of revile, both punitive, and reactionary, despite the spurious nature of his conviction. Nina’s ebony monosyllabic vox streams “To be young, gifted, and Black, and that’s a fact…” into mind, as I write about the convenient politico-media projected metamorphic imagery associated with the man known as Rap Brown. Given the current state of recurring pogroms operative in the “Hood” and the rise of #Blacklivesmatter type organizations and pledge of allegiance protesters, it is informative to review the career of Jamil Al-Amin.
It would not be academically ethical to vet Jamil the man of today, using a lens with distorted and blurred focus; especially if such scope is riddled by fundemental attribution error, blinkered and blind to Jamil’s mens rea, and subjective experiences. To defy such myopic presentism, and the gravity of history, Rap should be understood in chronological nexus with, and in contrast to, the systemic peonage, civil slavery, de facto segregation, and other psychotic tools of fear, and oppression, used to satiate hysteria and suffice delusory fears of a Black planet.
The demonized histrionic Rap always speaking truth to power, was lambasted for saying, “violence is as American as cherry pie”, by default should have eventually become an African American protagonist, when viewed in juxtaposition to the racist, systemic monster, which was unsympathetically, Jim Crow America. But the resultant image of Jamil seems to conveniently depict him first as a Black terrorist, and then secondly, as an arabesque clad Moorish troll (black & angry), an alarming semi-antithesis, to Shakespeare’s sympathetic Black voice silencing, mesmerized Othello character. Of course one must be cautious investigating a historically persecuted activist and careful to sort through inconsistent appraisals and peculiar circumstances or reports.
Like a Photoshop canvas there are multiple veneers and layers used to mask the truth of Imam Jamil’s life. Such recursive redaction and looping erasure is generally reserved as characteristic compensation for rhetoric perceived politically incorrect or actions perceived as morally abhorrent. However, prevalent views of his guilt, the story of Rap to Imam Jamil, still remains elusive, ongoing, and still untold.
Apartheid’s, American as apple pie, evil twin, called Jim Crow, remains a defeated pharaonic mindset, which ignited the reactionary, histrionic, SNCC Rap, to confront evil as a Black Panther (BP). A Black child of Harlem, in P.S. 186, pushed toward the ultra-eloquent BP demagogue Rap Brown, and said “Power to the people!” and he handed me a 45 rpm recording of “Seize the Time”; which became theme music for children of the revolution (like me), and so for some Rap is forever an operational caricature of Black Power.
Rap (Jamil Al-Amin) confronted America’s Mr. Hyde (Jim Crow) during the 1960’s but was effectively demonized, neutralized and incarcerated via COINTELPRO, in the 1970’s. Reaction and ongoing determined struggle aided the transpersonal alembic effect of prison which provided space for transformation and the humanistic re-authoring process characteristic of Islamic identification.
It is not hard to imagine a COINTELPRO, Les Miserable, Javier like agent, O.C.D determined, to bring Jamil in, by any means necessary. And so Imam Jamil was eventually, retargeted, co-opted, vilified, and reincarcerated; nevertheless, both Rap and Jamil (however he is viewed) remains a powerful social commentator and critic. It is inaccurate and not effective to discuss Imam Jamil within the confines of a non-humanistic or contradistinct presentistic, or sympathetically besotted, forensic lens. Such an investigation begins myopic, bubble encased, revealing myriad kaleidoscopes projecting mirages, illuminating every possible facet of what is not, or no longer Rap, and certainly not today’s Dr. Imam Jamil Al-Amin, still maintaining innocence and seeking freedom, and teaching freedom in the belly of the beast.
His reflections on surah Al Asr (Q:103) in 1996 used to expound on the epidemic violence in America is his conclusive and persuasive analysis that the “beast” mentality devoid of (iman) faith, high enlightened awareness (taqwa), and spiritual reflection (fikr) allows an environment conducive to violence seems to beg the argument that such a man would not easily jeopardize his freedoms or kill. The following Jamil 1996 video seems to magnify this point, and may the muddy waters of this case clear and settle. Many say, “Jamil (Rap Brown) is not a liar, and has never been a liar, and if he had did it he would have told us he did it!”.Even Congressman John Lewis has long supported Jamil’s return from his peculiar incarceration in a federal prison without having committed a federal crime. Let us review with a objective history informed research scope.