The more things change the more things stay the same…

1997. I remember that year, that summer specifically, quite fondly. A free breezy summer right after a tumultuous two years of middle school and right before the treachery of high school that awaited me. The year after De La Soul released Stakes is High. I bumped that album well into the summer of 97. The single by the same name resonated with me, even as a naive 13 year old.

A few months back, a local bar had a native tongues appreciation night. I thought it would be fitting to rock my Stakes is High shirt. I peeped a few folks who donned “Rent is High” shirts during the festivities (context: Bay Area rents are ridiculously high, no lie, but I digress). During that same weekend I checked out a Gordon Parks exhibit at Jenkins Johnson gallery in San Francisco.

Just this past weekend Stakes is High turned 20 years old. Easily one of my favorite De La Soul albums. Twenty years though – geez. That means Pos, Dave, and Maseo are a few years away from 50! Damn we all getting old…

Stakes is High Shirt
The dress code at my job is biz casual, otherwise I would rock this at least once a week

I know, I am jumping around, but follow me, follow me….

As I reflected on Stakes is High, native tongues appreciation night, and Gordon Parks, a dismal realization came to mind. As Stakes hits it 20th anniversary, this year will mark the Sixtieth Anniversary of many historical and ground breaking moments in the Civil Rights movement Gordon Parks captured – from Martin Luther King to Malcolm X and everything in between.

On these anniversaries we still have men spewing hateful rhetoric about the people who make up this nation. Youth and adults of color are disproportionately effected by the justice system. Young men and women are shot and killed by police. It still feels like dem stakes is high…

“Let me tell you what it’s all about
A skin not considered equal
A meteor has more right than my people”

After siting in that despondent state I found solace in the fact that art not only reflects the harsh realities of the day or reminds us how those realities have yet to change completely – art also has the power to impart positive change and move people to action.

Gordon Parks Mobile Alabama
I saw that the camera could be a weapon agains poverty, against racism, against all sort of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera” – Gordon Parks

Both art forms – visual and performance, have the power to evoke a range of emotions and actions. Empathy, anger, movement and attitude change…Personally both Dela and Gordon Parks serve as a reminder to me that there is a lot of work to do…

On a lighter note, the video for, “Itzsoweezee” from the Stakes is High Album still goes. I mean a food fight with The Roots and Zhane, I’m sold.


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