As part of Yahoo’s "Juneteenth: Soul of America" special, Marquise Francis of Yahoo News sat down with rapper, businessman, and activist Michael Render, better known by his stage name Killer Mike. The conversation centered around the history and significance of Juneteenth, supporting Black candidates and businesses, and the importance of knowing your roots.
“I’m proud to be a member of the people that were brought here, wrongfully, but found a way,” said Render, who hails from Atlanta. He says he wants to broaden the narrative around the history of enslaved Africans. For example, some former enslaved people were able to buy their freedom.
“There were people who were enslaved that bought themselves out of slavery. There were people that bought their families out of slavery. That to me says they had a rudimentary understanding of economics, they understood that [their] labor is worth something, and everybody was not a member of the masterclass,” he said.
“So I’d like to start to rewrite that narrative, that these people are not just enslaved people that were beasts, they were intelligent. They understood their worth, they brokered their worth, and they pushed back every step of the way.”
Render, who is co-founder of Greenwood, a Black-owned financial institution that works specifically with Black and Latino people and businesses, says it's important to keep wealth in Black and Latino communities.
“Whether it was the Freedman’s Bank 150 years ago or whether it was Citizens Trust Bank that’s been around for 100 years now, whether it’s Black credit unions, Black people need to control their dollar. We don’t have control of our dollar in the capitalistic system, which means that a lot of times we don’t have control of the resources around us,” he added.
Render went on to discuss how the Asian community raised funds to support political campaigns that benefit their community, such as the Asian Hate Crime Bill. Render believes that people within the Black community must be more politically engaged to see similar results.
“So what I would encourage us to do is on a very local level, let’s get together in our living rooms and our kitchens, let’s talk about candidates we can support. Let’s talk about candidates that are going to deliver something. Let’s talk about candidates that are going to make city business and municipality businesses go to the contractors that we would like to see them go with. I think that voting is important, but I think that voting coupled with economic importance should be our priority right now. We should not only be voting to get people in the office that we think are going to be nice to us, we should be voting to get people ... in the office that are going to do much like Maynard Jackson and make sure city contracts go to people who look like you so that you can be employing people that look like you.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.