01:38 - Source: CNN
Donald Trump in hip-hop, before and after (2016)

Story highlights

Fears are bubbling over concerns that a Trump administration could erode civil rights

"The things I've been fighting for don't end here," Vic Mensa tells CNN

Washington CNN  — 

As the reality of a Donald Trump presidency settles in, artists and activists in the hip-hop community are gearing up for a political battle.

Rapper and activist David Banner predicted that a Trump presidency will continue to revitalize political activism in hip-hop and said in a message recorded on Facebook Live to his fans that Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton “may be the best thing to ever happen to black people.”

“The veil of America has been ripped off,” Banner said. “Maybe Hillary winning would have kept that mask on and we would have been further pacified as a people. Now, what are we going to do as a community? What is the agenda? I’m going to stop waiting on black people having an agenda, I’m gonna create one.”

Banner argues that a Clinton win would have provided the illusion that everything is OK and would make black Americans complacent to policies that have hurt their communities.

Throughout the 2016 election cycle, hip-hop, which was born as a reaction to civil unrest back in the 70s, was the most politically active genre. While artists and activists were generally not fired up about Clinton, they were overwhelmingly united in their passionate rebuke of Trump.

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Fears over civil rights

As the nation’s first black President gets ready to leave office, deeply rooted fears are bubbling over concerns that a Trump administration could deny minorities a seat at the table and lead to the erosion of civil rights. These fears are reinvigorating political activism.

“I think that activism is going to be for the next four years at an all-time high. It’s going to be reminiscent of the 60s,” former South Carolina state representative and Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers told CNN.

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In a statement released following Trump’s election, the Black Lives Matter movement, called on people to organize:

“Donald Trump has promised more death, disenfranchisement and deportations. We believe him. The violence he will inflict in office, and the permission he gives for others to commit violence, is just beginning to emerge. In the face of this, our commitment remains the same: protect ourselves and our communities.”

“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he [got] elected because he will be a leader for every American,” Trump-Pence transition spokesman Bryan Lanza said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

Following a white nationalist conference last weekend in Washington, DC, where attendees hailed Trump’s victory, Trump denied Tuesday that he did anything to energize the “alt-right” movement through his presidential campaign.

“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group,” Trump told a group of New York Times reporters and columnists during a meeting at the newspaper’s headquarters in New York.

Rappers Ty Dolla $ign and Vic Mensa, who were outspoken opponents of Trump throughout the election, held a conference call with fans last week organized by the Hip Hop Caucus to rally their communities to vote in upcoming local elections and urged them to stay politically aware and involved.

“I had not even considered the possibility of Trump being elected and I woke up the next morning and I started to sing the National Anthem … and realized that this isn’t really my country and it’s not a sweet land of liberty as far as people who look like me are concerned,” Mensa told CNN, “and that this wasn’t my election to win or lose. The things I’ve been fighting for don’t end here.”

While members of the hip-hop community are divided in their assessment of President Barack Obama’s legacy, there is a general consensus that a Trump administration would roll back progress — whether big or small — on issues like criminal-justice reform, the war on drugs and the Department of Justice’s efforts to investigate and uncover instances of police brutality and racial biases in various police departments across the nation.

Concerns over Trump administration picks

Trump’s nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general and his appointment of Trump campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon as a chief strategist have exacerbated those concerns.

“What we’re seeing with the rise of Donald Trump is the rise of white nationalism … Trump gave them a voice and a vessel,” Sellers said.

Sessions’ nomination has been dogged by old allegations of racism and racially-charged comments he made as a US attorney in Alabama, which led him to be denied a federal judgeship 30 years ago, have continued to haunt him.

“I am very concerned (about) someone with the history of Jeff Sessions, who has shown animus towards people of color and immigrants,” Sellers said. “It is not conducive to ensuring that all persons with alienable rights are protected.”

Sessions — a fierce opponent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — called the ACLU and the NAACP “un-American” and said the organizations “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

“Sen. Sessions as AG is deeply troubling, and supports an old, ugly history where Civil Rights were not regarded as core American values,” the NAACP tweeted.

A message left with Sessions’ Senate office seeking comment was not returned.

Meanwhile, Bannon’s appointment has appeased white nationalist groups around the country, including former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who told CNN’s KFile that Bannon is an “excellent” choice.

Bannon previously called his site “the platform for the alt-right” — a far-right movement that been aligned with white nationalism, racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism.

“It’s frightening in certain ways to be faced with so much vitriolic … hatred, but it’s the truth,” Mensa said. “That’s what America is. In this moment we’re being forced to face the ugly truth of America and I think it’s a good thing … that we have to confront these issues head on.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bannon rejected white nationalism and said that he’s an “economic nationalist” but does not support racist and anti-Semitic elements of the nationalist alt-right movement.

CNN political commentator Van Jones said that while “a real resistance to Trump’s ideas and his policies,” will revitalize political activism, he hopes that activists will be proactive in their approach.

“When so much energy has to go towards reacting against something negative as opposed to driving for it with something positive, I sometimes get worried,” Jones said.

“We sometimes valorize and glorify street-level protests and activism … I would much rather have people working hard to build communities, rather than working hard to block Donald Trump,” he added.