Hello Birdies. Starting off this post 4th roundup with this bit about Bernie and Killer Mike, and then will continue on in the comments with more news, videos, tweets, etc.
On a video call from his home in Atlanta, Georgia, Render is by turns eloquent and mischievous as he talks about his history of political activism. He has been close to the leftwing senator Bernie Sanders ever since they shared a meal at the Atlanta soul food restaurant Busy Bee Cafe in 2015, and he backed Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020. Their unlikely friendship has spawned hundreds of memes, with Sanders, for example, shaping his hands into the Run the Jewels symbol of a gun pointed at a closed fist, or asking Render if he should call him “Mike or Killer Mike?”. “It was just a conversation between two angry radical guys, one 74 and white, one 40 and Black, finding common ground,” Render has said of that first encounter.
His emotive speeches at Sanders rallies are almost as famous as his music. Addressing the roaring crowd in North Carolina in 2019, he said: “When you go to that [voting] booth next year, I need you to carry the memory of this room. Black, white, straight, gay, male, female, we are together. We are united. We will not wait four more years.”
His impassioned words in the wake of police killings in the US have also gone viral. In 2015, during a show in Ferguson, Missouri, a fan-filmed video showed Render raging at the grand jury who had acquitted the officer who had killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, then pleading for the safety of his four children, who range in age from 15 to 27. In the riots that followed George Floyd’s murder in 2020, he told the public to fortify their homes and to “plot, plan, strategise, mobilise and organise” to dismantle the systemic structures of racism. “It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth,” he said. “It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, and chiefs and deputy chiefs.”
It must be exhausting having to publicly advocate for basic rights year after year, I tell him. “It’s a continuation of the work,” he says calmly. “My grandmother did the work of taking care of our neighbours without publicity, and my grandfather did, too – he would go fishing and always give half of his catch to other people, for instance. I don’t see it as making me better. I don’t see it as being driven by celebrity guilt either. I was told by my elders to make sure that the people who are suffering in my community are relieved by me. These are the principles that I operate with.”
He believes that Sanders shares his desire for social justice. “I will always speak to him because I believe he gives a fuck beyond his own personal chequebook. I honestly believe he is a continuation of great thinkers like [former slave and abolitionist] Frederick Douglass and [trade unionist] Eugene V Debs – a continuation of people who fought their ass off for the betterment of the salt-of-the-earth, everyday American.
“Part of my responsibility is to make sure that people who are doing the work on a weekly and daily basis have a platform to push an agenda that’s helpful. No matter if you’re a Black person working a blue-collar job, or if you’re one of the educated elite bourgeoisie, you have a responsibility to push the line.”