an inner-view with Saul Williams
Ever since the movie “Slam,” Saul Williams has emerged as one of the nation’ s leading spoken word artists. I respect the fact that the Brotha uses his art to educate people about the world that we live in, instead of just getting caught up in wordplay. These are some critical times we live in, and we have to use whatever weapon is at our disposal to hack Uncle Sam’s boot off of our neck. If we don’t do it, we have to realize that there isn’t nobody who is going to come across seas or out of the sky to save us.
The Creator gave us one life and we had better use it, so that our children, nieces and nephews can have a more healthier, freer, more informed life than we are currently living. I have respect for Saul Williams’ work because he is preparing for those better days. Ya’ll check our Brotha out …
JR: Why is it important to be vocal against the war?
Saul: I’m here because I’m alive, and I have a voice, and I use it. It’s a very simple reason. It’s important for myself to be here in the name of people like Paul Robeson, artists who realized their responsibility to connect their talent to the people.
I think of the countless civilians that are right now in Iraq that are terrorized, that are experiencing within themselves a greater sense of terrorism than the average American has ever experienced. … So I’m here to counter real terrorism - and unfortunately real terrorism comes from our home. We know that as Africans who have been enslaved. We know that as Native Americans that have been just decimated over centuries. We know that, so I cannot help but act on what I know.
JR: Do you see a connection between what you see here in the United Snakes with the police terrorism and what is going on in the Middle East?
Saul: Surely, I believe that when you have a twisted justice system or twisted sense of justice, we can go back to the original Euro-centric symbols of justice that are fed to us, like justice is this blind-folded woman, you know?
(Is that) justice, … that humanity is evil and we have to be blindfolded in order to execute real justice, cuz if we could see people then we would judge and we wouldn’t be able to be just in our decision? I don’t believe that people are at the root evil and unable to think beyond their societal training or what have you.
I believe that people at their root are God. And I don’t believe that God is something that you need to fear. I don’t teach a fear of God philosophy. I believe that God is something that you have to be open to in you.
So that when we talk about the police system or the idea of policing humanity, which is what the Bush administration is aiming to do - “We need to police humanity and do this for the sake of humanity” - I think that it is highly flawed. It is built on an unstable foundation that has more to do with imperialistic rule and colonialistic rule and materialistic ideals and capitalistic ideals and dog-eat-dog ideals than it has to do with truth and humanity, and people eating and living and sharing and growing and learning to truly love beyond how we’ve been trained by society.
There’s a responsibility that comes with power, and whether you have a badge or a title, there is power there. But with that power there is a sense of responsibility that you have to execute. And that responsibility is not to protect and serve, first and foremost. That responsibility is to learn and unlearn within yourself so that you can come from a grounded central place and that you do not impose your flaws on others … that you do not impose your false judgments on others. And that’s the message sent out to the police officers or the man with the title or what have you.
So yeah, they are connected, they’re very much connected. It’s all about the responsibility that comes with power. Amerikkka is a very powerful country; there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with that. Hip Hop is very powerful; there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with that.
JR: What do you hope that the outcome is from the readers of this interview?
Saul: I would pray that people are inspired, in particular people of color. I spoke to the Tavis Smiley Show, and their question was why do you think there aren’t more people of color involved in the anti-war movement. So that ’s the common thought, that there aren’t people of color involved.
So why is that? I’m hoping that more (Black people) will be able to make the connections between what’s happening abroad and what has happened here. Unfortunately, because we are so in the middle of all of this, and because we have bought into American ideals and values so heavily, we may just share the fate of your average everyday American, white or whatever. We may share the same fate if we are not careful, if we’re not mindful of our past and of our history, and remember that we have less of a reason to wave that flag.
JR: What do you think about Black involvement? What do you think can inspire more Black youngsters to get involved? What do you think that we need to see? How does it need to be conveyed? How can we organize so that Black people and Black youth in specific will be interested in fighting against this war abroad and on us?
Saul: I really don’t know the answer to that. I think that the first thing that we will unfortunately have to do is turn down the radio. We may have to turn it off. And we have to find the sources that feed us.
Unfortunately the heroes of today’s Black Amerikkka are not really the Martin Kings and the Malcolm Xs, they are the people that we feel have pimped the system and made loot. And when those people run to take photo ops with their living legends, they’d rather pose in pictures with Donald Trump than with Amiri Baraka or Sonia Sanchez. Many of us are facing some twisted ideals and values, and I don’t know how we get out of that. We have to do like mass colonics. We need some sort of cleansing cuz so many of us have bought into something … so I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a scary thing.
JR: What’s going on with you in terms of your art?
Saul: Right now I just finished a book. It’s coming out next fall, through MTV Books, called “Said the Shotgun to the Head,” and it’s one poem. It’s epic, 200 pages, and it’s a love poem to all of the things that are decaying and destroying the values and ideals of the West, and it’s wild. I just finished that, and last year I put out an album called “Amicus Rock Star.” I’m working on my next album. And I’m also a recurring character - I’ m playing a poet ironically - on UPN’s show called “Girlfriends.” I’m playing a boyfriend of one of the characters. I’m playing a celibate bohemian poet and using every opportunity that I have to get these ideas out there.
JR: When does the book come out?
Saul: The book will come out next September.
JR: What kind of last words of motivation can you give the readers?
Saul: There are no last words. Really, I think that the most important thing that we could do right now is to inform ourselves beyond the way that they are choosing to inform us. Like don’t get your news from the news, from the television or what have you. That ain’t the news. It’s so twisted. We are going to have to find a way to listen to ourselves, so that we could really understand what is going on. We are going to have to tune out of what is being sold to us. So much is being sold to us day by day: “Think Different,” “Just Do It,” “Obey Your Thirst.” You know all of this stuff is coming and we’re taking it from every direction, and we don’t even realize it.
The biggest thing that I will say is this: Be mindful of what you ingest. Some of us take steps like, “I don’t eat beef or pork anymore,” “I’m watching my diet.” But realize that your diet is not only what you eat, it’s what you watch, it’s what you listen to, all of that is digested. You may be vegan, but then the music that you listen to is full of beef and the tv shows that you watch are full of pork. So you got to be mindful of what you digest on every level.
You can keep up with Saul Williams through www.saulwilliams. com. Email JR atfire@sfbayview. com.