Krip-Hop Nation is Moore Than Music

Interview with Leroy Franklin Moore Jr., a poet, writer, activist and the founder of Krip Hop Nation.

Krip Hop Nation is an international music/cultural activism project led by disabled people with the main goal “to get the musical talents of hip-hop artists with disabilities into the hands of media outlets, educators, race scholars, youth, journalists and hip-hop conference coordinators.” The project is led by disabled people from all over the world and they use their music to tell the story about discrimination, racial injustice, gentrification and criminalization of poor people and people of color. In partnership with POOR Magazine, Krip Hop Nation has released a series of mixtapes and radio shows that seek to not only raise awareness about social injustice and to help display arts, activism and institutional discrimination particularly related to disabled people and poor people of color.

Leroy Moore is the founder of Krip Hop Nation. He spoke with me about the organization and the work they’ve been doing to advocate for disabled rights and the rights of poor people of color. We also talked about his plans for activism and what he thinks can be done about urgent social problems like police brutality, gentrification and the criminalization of Black and disabled people.
Today we’re going to talk about many serious topics connected with disabled people. Let’s start with Krip Hop nation. What is Krip-Hop Nation?
Leroy Moore
Krip Hop Nation, an international network of musicians with disabilities. We do mainly hip-hop but not only that.
Can you explain to us how it works? Are there different artists, can anyone join Krip Hop nation?
Leroy Moore
Krip Hop Nation is international and so we have chapters.  We have members from South Africa like  Deejay Kabila, Binki Wi from Germany, we have artists in the UK, we have artists in Italy, like DJ Kame, in Canada like The Mighty Rhino etc.. And how it works is that we all get together through the internet, to discuss what we’re going to do. Matter of fact, our 10th anniversary is coming up next year, so we’re going to put out a CD with our best of Krip Hop next year. Krip Hop’s tagline is Krip Hop is more than music, because me and Keith Jones, a friend of mine, and Rob Da Noize Temple from New York, we all started Krip Hop together and we all are activists and musicians. So we saw Krip Hop more than just music, it’s really education, advocacy and we use hip-hop music to get that across. Our tag line is what we live, for example, Krip-Hop Nation led a campaign to raise funds for two wheelchairs for a two daughters of an Ugandan single father.
How does someone join? Do you need to be a musician with a special style and thinking like you guys, with the same objectives or can anyone join?
Leroy Moore
We have objectives that we stand for, like, our artists should not put down other groups in their lyrics, so we really are interested in social justice lyrics. People can email me at [email protected] and we can talk it through but we really look at people’s politics and where they are in the disability justice kind of framework.  Also what is really important that only a few artist understand that the main goal of Krip-Hop Nation is justice not a record contract, gaining a record label contract or another piece of the music industry pie.
We want to know how Krip Hop Nation started. Was it after you teamed up with Lisa ‘Tiny’ Gray-Garcia and POOR Magazine or Krip Hop is something that you created as a separate idea?
Leroy Moore
As a Black disabled youth in the late 70’s and early 80’s I was consistently looking for a mirror and I found my first mirror looking through my father’s record collection that had many artists that look like me aka had a disability.  So it’s not surprising that my life’s path had lead to Krip-Hop Nation.
The early days of Krip-Hop Nation happened on KPFA 94.1FM in Berkeley, CA where Poor Magazine had a show an now are part of a Hip-Hop show, Hard Knock Radio then à disability radio collective, Pushing Limits at the same radio station where I helped produced a three part series on Hip-Hop and disability.
I met Tiny in ’94 – ‘95 and I was doing poetry at an open mic in the Black Rep Theater this was way before Krip Hop. And she saw me on stage at that time and her mother was here at the time. I was always a writer, so they invited me to be a part of POOR Magazine and write a column on race and disability. And the first article was around the police killing of Margaret L. Mitchell, who was living with mental health disabilities in LA on the street, and was shot and killed by the LAPD. So that was our first article on what we call Illin-N-Chillin on POOR Magazine.
From that brief history, Krip-Hop Nation has gone on to perform and holds workshops on college campuses and at international festivals and has put out the first mixtape on the issue of police brutality against people with disabilities with DJ Quad of 5th Battalion in LA.
As we approach our tenth anniversary in 2017 we are working on a Krip-Hop book, an all disabled women CD, our South Africa Tour and more.
Tell us about the label. How many Black artists do you have and how many from different backgrounds do you have involved in Krip HopNation?
Leroy Moore
We have over 300 – 400 people, but the core group that really keeps it going is myself, Keith Jones, Binki Wi and Rob Da Noize Temple from New York. It’s a network so we have people that come in and do a project with us, and go out or stay in contact. Matter of fact, what’s coming up for Krip Hop is that we’re going to go to South Africa in November, and I’ve been connecting with other disabled artists and activists in Africa, not only South Africa but in Uganda and other places in Africa. South Africa has so far the biggest chapter of Krip Hop. So I’m going to go there in November and we’re going to do a tour around South Africa.
The majority of the members are Black and Brown but it’s not only for people of color.  There is a whole story behind the term Krip-Hop.
We want to know, is it just show business to you? Do you and the team do it just for fun, to help in sending your message across or do you do it to get profits as well?
Leroy Moore
I do it for the activism. Of course, we’d love to get paid but really I do it for the education and activism. Matter of fact, two years ago, we put out a mixtape around police brutality against people with disability. I think it’s the first CD of it’s kind dealing with police brutality on people with disabilities. And we also put out a film documentary with Emmitt Thrower – he’s a film maker from NY.  So yeah, it’s more than just getting a check. For me it’s really about education and advocacy. Living in capitalism we are pressure to pay the bills and knowing that the Hip-Hop industry is so ablest we didn’t want to make it our 9 to 5.   This is why the founders of Krip-Hop Nation decided not to turn it into a record label or a non-profit and keep it as a network.
You do a lot of things related to the rights of disabled people or poor people in partnership with POOR Magazine. How does it coincide with the fight against police brutality and gentrification? Do they have anything in common?
Leroy Moore
Yeah, it definitely has a connection. I think that’s why when I first started writing with POOR Magazine it was such a good fit. Because poverty and disability go hand in hand, unfortunately, in this capitalist world we live in. Over 90% of Black and brown people with disabilities are unemployed and they live below the poverty line, so being with POOR Magazine, I connect those issues. With gentrification happening now, it’s getting even worse because rents are going up, and not only rents. There’s like a new generation that’s moving in that don’t want to see poor people or disabled people. So we get a lot of harassment by police, we get a lot of city legislation that says we can’t be on the sidewalks and all that stuff. So all that stuff is really coming to a head in major cities across the country and it’s really affecting people with disabilities. Matter of fact, I get stopped by the police a lot just riding my three-wheel bike.
And how long have you been involved in the fight against police brutality?
Leroy Moore
Since ’84 ‘88, and that was back in Connecticut, New York.  I remember I was in High School  1983-87 and just getting into activism around police brutality against people with disabilities.  At that time I became increasingly critical of the disability rights movement over race and a lack of anything around police brutality against Black disabled people.  One of my first letter to Amsterdam Newspaper was about NYPD killing of Eleanor  Bumpurs.  Now, Deborah Danneri!
Do you see an end to this fight? Do you think anything has happened since you started fighting against this menace?
Leroy Moore
I think a lot of movements started, mine was against police brutality, a lot of campaigns that I have been involved in like the Idriss Stelley Foundation, and of course, the big one today is Black Lives Matter but I think that people today seem to be changing their focus from what police need to what community need.  A lot of activists only focus on what the police can do. But now, with POOR Magazine and other organizations that I’ve been involved with, we’re switching the focus to what can the community do? So really taking back our power and saying that whatever the police do in ‘reform’, is not going to change anything and that we need the resources coming back to the community. So for example, the police’ Crisis Intervention Team that came out in ‘89 in Memphis,Tennessee, a lot of big cities have it now. And so in the beginning, that was the only mainstream answer but now in 2016, we see that that’s not the answer and we need to pull those funds from the police and put them back into the community. It is sad to see foundations trowing gras to Black groups around this issue cause with grants comes with strings attached.  We must reread the book,The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
You talked about the interview we did with Leon Ford. You said that he should have gone a bit more political with that and he should have fought more for disability justice. Why do you think so? 
Leroy Moore
Yeah, I think the article, where he’s coming from is really the beginning stages of disability or disability education, because he’s new to being disabled because he was shot. So he doesn’t have all the politics of what we call disability justice or people with disabilities that have been disabled since birth. So from that article, he talks about training and overcoming this tragedy and I understand that. But it’s a lot broader and I think his politics hopefully will change over time to see it as a ‘we’ kind of situation. So it’s not trying to overcome his disabilities, because he can’t really overcome it, it’s like trying to overcome your race, but how do you live with it and how do you change the society around you? So how do you change the community around you around police brutality? And like I said, fighting for more funding to come to the community, to have services like mental health services, or disability awareness, community classes, things like that. And that takes a person to really challenge their politics around disability. Because a lot of people think that disability is something to overcome or something to sweep away not a political/historical/cultural identity.
There are many cases where a lot of Black people with disabilities are innocently or wrongfully convicted and jailed. When such a thing happens, it is very hard for them to prove their innocence. What’s your opinion on this?
Leroy Moore
Well, I don’t really believe in the term reform, because you can’t reform something that is corrupt. So with prisons, I really think that there is abuse in prisons with disabled/Deaf inmates, a lot with death of people with mental health disabilities. And of course, prisons still have the power of the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, all the civil rights acts and disability laws that they need to follow, and unfortunately they don’t follow. And that’s a problem. They don’t follow and there’s no way to force them to follow that and of course, you have the continuation of discrimination for disabled/Deaf prisoners. Look at Mumia, his health is getting worse and they’re not doing anything about it. That’s a disability issue and that’s totally against the laws. So on one side, I’m for getting rid of prisons altogether and on the other side, before that day comes, we still have to live in this capitalist world and we still have to live with prisons, so the prisons should follow the laws that they have to follow under People with Disabilities.  Please check out the work of HEARD, Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf, their advocacy in Deaf prisoners and police brutality against people who are Deaf.
California itself is way ahead of most of the world when it comes to creating a comfortable environment for disabled people. What issues do you think are still pertinent in California right now?
Leroy Moore
I have traveled all over the US & yes California has a long history of disability activism that produced laws, organizations, services  and more but its no utopia California disabled movement needs to listen and take note from Disability Justice activists, work on their isms.   California, like anywhere else, is dealing with police brutality. From LA to Oakland, so that’s nothing new. And the disability community needs to be more loud about that unfortunately. Just as a state and Black Lives Matter, under the lack of disability justice and disability rights and disability voice so that needs to change inside and outside Black Lives Matter. That, and of course, other social justice issues and gentrification is sweeping out public housing and enforcing laws that discriminate against poor people with disabilities. I’m on section 8, low income housing and the government is taking away section 8, and that involves a lot of people with disabilities. Of course, we always have the same issues about schools and over representation of Black men, Black boys in special education, we have police SROs in schools now, which is horrible because they end up attacking a lot of special education students and those students are mainly Black and brown. Another thing we need to change is that a lot of these Black scholars, activists and even old time national organizations like the NAACP have really no clue about disability and it’s really shocking, because if we talk about the school-to-prisons pipeline, a lot of those students have disabilities. So once again if we don’t talk about it, then it goes under the carpet.  I’m a founding member of the National Black Disability Coalition with Jane Dunham and more.  It’s about time that Black national organizations sit down with Black disabled activists, scholars, artists etc & talk on how to work together.
How aggressively have you set yourself to fight for justice? Do you think that only talking and protesting can change the system? Protests are going on right now across the country but the system has remained the same, and it most likely will be for a long time. How are you planning to set yourself apart in the fight for justice?
Leroy Moore
I think really that things are changing, but they are changing in small packets. I think that mass protests are good, but I think 99% of the work comes after the protests. So for example POOR Magazine is doing Homefulness, and Homefulness is an answer to homelessness and we got a small piece of land in East Oakland,CA and we’re really constructing what poor disabled people of color housing should be, and that’s coming from a small packet of people without foundation grants. So there are answers out there, it’s just not in the mainstream news. Of course, it’s not going to be in, if it’s going against the system. So my answer is that, yeah, protest, and also after the protests, go to the community and work. And that work is not on Fox News, but it’s happening. With my work around police brutality, from 1989 to now, I see a lot of people are switching their focus from what the police need to what the community needs: more cultural activism, reports, young Black disabled activism and collectives like the Harriet Tubman Collective of Black Deaf/Disabled Advocates. I meet people who choose writing on the topic of police brutality against people with disabilities and not only people with mental health disabilities but also Deaf people, people with autism, physical disabilities, people who are blind and so on.  Since mid 1980’s I must slow down and say yes we have come so far and we must see that and be proud about it as we dig in our feet to continue the work. I just wish that Black, Brown, Red people with disabilities can come together on a national level in a conference or something to really see each other and support each other.

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