Got Context? yasiin bey Honors Malcolm X, Reflects on Current Social Movements In New Video

yasiin bey, who came to prominence known as Mos Def, has a new song reinterpreting the Jay-Z/Kanye West’s ubiquitous megahit “N**** in Paris.”

The new video and song “N**** in Poorest,” released on the 47th anniversary of Malcolm X’s passing, finds the landmark rapper, actor and outspoken social commentator repurposing the driving beat for a rather more appropriate use than the original’s “99%er turned 1%er” storyline. In a frantic response to horror-movie beat, bey gets really real, contrasts the growing violence and poverty in the United States with images of power players and war. If the West/Z original is a celebration of the fish-out-of-water, possibly brought to us by McDonalds, yasiin bey has delivered some major socio-historical context in a manner seldom seen in the music video realm.

Jay-Z and Kanye West’s version finds them performing on a stage, presumably in the French capitol, backlit with a constant strobe light. Their images are doubled on either side of the screen to hypnotic effect. (A disclaimer running before the video’s YouTube version warns away those prone to seizures.)

yasiin bey’s video is a stripped-down upset performance, interspersed with clips of economic, cultural and other distress from news, politics, popular movies and television. At the point in West/Z version that samples a scene from a Will Ferrel film, bey features a clip from a rarely seen Malcolm X interview in which the leader speaks about a source of his courage.

The new remix is the first installment of yasiin bey’s Top 40 Underdogs project, in which he will remix 40 popular songs with socially conscious freestyles.

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Who won the Amazing Race really?

Amazing Race Season 19 finalists from left: Ernie & Cindy, Marcus & Amani, Jeremy & Sandy

Last night’s Amazing Race finale saw Type A (and Type B+) engaged Chicagoans Cindy and Ernie running across the map-shaped finish line first, vowing breathlessly to host Phil Keogan that they would start a non-profit with their $1 million prize money to help the children they had met on their jaunt from Taiwan to Thailand, Indonesia to Malawi, Denmark to Belgium to Panama.

“We want to help inspire them to live a better life and contribute to the global economy,” Cindy said, a loaded statement if there ever was one.

But the question remains: who won the Amazing Race, really?

Here at Contextual Healing, we remember hearing somewhere that it’s the journey, not the destination. So here are the other winning teams of the Amazing Race Season 19 (holy crap there are 19 seasons of the Amazing Race):

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Best Social Media Save: The guy at the gas station who took to Twitter after finding Kaylani of Kaylani and Lisa’s passport after it sprang out of their SUV and reunited it with her at LAX… on the very first leg of the race. Almost spelling head-slapping doom for the team of former showgirls.

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Stank-est Attitude that Could Have Cost You The Race: Cindy, of Ernie and Cindy, who dropped and lost their train tickets while whining that all the competitors would be taking the same train out of Denmark, erasing the lead they had stressed their way to.  Luckily for them, the tickets were never collected.

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Mr. and Mr. Congeniality: Loveable snowboarders Andy and Tommy who did inverted 720s through the race, vocally loving Jesus, winning six episodes and exchanging enthusiastic whooos in multiple languages. Until they reached Panama and the rest of the teams benefitted from the teamwork ingrained in the Panamanian cab driving profession when faced with a flock from the EEUU gritando “Rapido! Rapido! – we’re in a race!”

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The Biggest Losers: (Second place finishers) dating couple Jeremy and Sandy, when they spoke to their cab driver in Atlanta the same way they spoke to their cab drivers around the world: “You wait for us.”  (Winners) Ernie and Cindy, again, when they bickered with their cab driver in Thailand when he asked them for more money: “No! That’s more than enough!”

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Herbal Essences™ Goodwill Ambassadors: Twins Liz and Marie who gave a group of Indonesian resort employees a good deal of amusement when they failed to stab and shimmy beach umbrellas into the sand. Only to turn right around and give a group of older Thai men hearty belly laughs when they shoveled baby elephant dung, squealing in delight.

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Certified 100% Oregon Tilth Organic: Grandparents Bill and Cathi who past the age of 60 would rather build and sail a raft than make waffles given the choice, not to mention climb a cliff face and not even mind oiling up for a bodybuilding competition with good natured aplomb, wise cracking at their difficulties and setting an example for the usually lightly bickering and frequently unsupportive Jeremy and Sandy.

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Most Valuable Players: married couple Marcus and Amani, who finished third. After often falling to last place, they gave hints to teammates and got a spontaneous crowd rooting for them as they solved a slide puzzle in Malawi.  All amidst effortlessly solid football metaphors from former pro-baller Marcus. “She’s smarter than any quarterback that I’ve ever played with and tougher than any linebacker than I’ve faced,” he said of his wife and the mother of their four children.

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What the World Eats

This is a photo essay taken from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, which documents the weekly food supply of several families in different countries around the world.

This photographic journey is much more than an interesting sociological study; in this globalized world, food and eating habits are quite literally a matter of life and death. In the words of the authors:

“Today we are witnessing the greatest change in global diets since the invention of agriculture. Globalization, mass tourism, and giant agribusiness have filled American supermarket shelves with extraordinary new foods and McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Kraft Cheese Singles are being exported to every corner of the planet.”

From the preponderance of packaged foods consumed by the family in the U.S. to the meager rations available to the family in the refugee camp in Chad, Menzel and D’Aluisio’s work casts much-needed light on the insane imbalance of the global food system.

Another indispensable work is Raj Patel’s 2007 book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System. Patel tracks the bounty lining the supermarket shelves of the Global North to its often disturbing origins, examines the corporate tyranny of global crops like soy and maize, and comes to the conclusion that people in both the Global North and South are trapped within the same dysfunctional system. On one side: the 1 billion people worldwide who are classified as “obese,” on the other, the 800 million starving people throughout the world. In the middle, a relative handful of multinational food companies with the leverage to control both the markets.

Just as people used to whisper tales of the streets paved with gold in the U.S., these days the streets and store aisles of the Global North are full of cheap, unhealthy, mass-produced, genetically modified foodstuffs. The result has been a public health crisis of diabetes and heart disease. At the very same time, food has become increasingly scarce throughout the Global South – here, you can read about the food riots that ripped through several countries in 2007-2008.

It’s clear that something drastic has to change about the way we obtain one of the most basic necessities for life: food. Patel details several movements across the world – from the Landless Movement (MST) in Brazil to Europe’s Slow Food movement, the South Central Farm in L.A. and farmers’ organizations from South Korea and India to Mexico who have had enough of being starved off their land by policies set in boardrooms half a world away.

What doesn’t seem to be helping is the fetishism of food that has emerged in the U.S. Ever since Norman Rockwell painted the rosy-cheeked family preparing to enjoy a giant turkey in “Freedom From Want,” Americans have enjoyed images of our bounty reflected back at us. This is apparent from any given hour on the Food Network – tantalizing images of delicious food being prepared are part of the nightly entertainment for millions.

I have to wonder about whether the 800 million people in danger of starvation throughout the world know about Food Network, Top Chef and the general cult of foodie fascination. Then again, when the number of families using the Food Bank for New York City has doubled from 4 million to 8 million from 2003 to 2008, the cognitive dissonance is alive and well in our own backyard.

Don’t get me wrong – I am one of the many who enjoy watching food on TV. I appreciate the skill of cooking and am fascinated by the rituals of food preparation and believe that a lot can be learned from studying food. But when placed in the context of the inequality of the global food system, we should challenge ourselves to look at food in a deeper way than encouraged by the current slew of popular TV food programs.

The gap between the haves and have-nots is not a new phenomenon. What is relatively new is how gigantic this gap is – and the staggering rate at which it is growing.

As the U.S. economy staggers under the weight of the still-unfolding crisis, this is the time to ponder possible paradigm shifts in the way we consume just about everything – and our relationship to food is a good place to start.

There are many steps that we can take towards the goal of breaking free from the current food system: local and seasonal eating, rejection of GMO and highly processed foods, support for farmers markets and urban farms (such as Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), widespread education about the conditions under which our food is grown in the U.S. and abroad – are all crucial strategies. The thing to remember is that the situation is absolutely as dire as Menzel and D’Aluisio indicate. We can no longer turn our back on the slow-motion apocalypse gripping the starving people of the Global South.

It grows more and more apparent that if we can dismantle the system stuffing us and starving them, the lives we save will include our own.