Black Lives: Hope, Gospel or Gangsta Rap Same Message Different Vibes
For me, the third episode in the Black Lives series is the most interesting. In it, filmmakers explore the importance of Black music in reflecting the soul wrenching reality of modern day ghetto life. They interview gospel singers in a Black church (who tend to be over 45), as well as a saxophonist who plays rock music in Harlem clubs, a guitarist who busks in New York subways to pay his rent and gangsta rappers in Compton California.
They also feature a rap competition in which rappers compete for having the best lyrics and delivery. The poetry they produce has a finally honed brilliance.
The Compton rappers respond to growing criticism that mainstream society finds gangsta rap offensive. One points out that gangsta rap used to be known as “reality” rap. He acknowledges it might be hard to hear, “but this is our life.”
Part 3 is mainly about the collaboration between New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia and Roosevelt to end joblessness, hunger and starvation in Depression-era New York.
One of the first things FDR did following his 1933 inauguration was to close banks for four days (to end the bank runs responsible for an epidemic of bank failures) and pass a $2 billion emergency banking bill to pay off depositors who lost savings due to bank failures.
He also created 10 new agencies during his first 100 days to address the economic crisis caused by the Great Depression. The first three were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which used federal money to put 250,000 jobless Americans to work restoring the national forests; the Federal Emergency Relief (FER) agency, which provided direct financial relief to the unemployed and their families; and the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which set profit and wage limits for businesses.
During the winter of 1933-34, FDR and La Guardia worked together to establish the Public Works Administration, a temporary jobs program that employed 1.5 million jobless Americans in infrastructure projects (building roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, etc). One-fifth of these new jobs went to New York, America’s largest city. Under the leadership of Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, New York’s black community organized to protest overt discrimination against black workers, especially by white-owned businesses in Harlem.
In 1935, the NRA, which was very unpopular with the business community was overturned by the Supreme Court and replaced with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The latter banned racial discrimination, as well as creating numerous jobs for writers, actors and artists, as well as infrastructure projects.
One-seventh of WPA funding went to New York City.
This episode neglects to mention the attempted 1933 Wall Street-initiated coup against Roosevelt foiled by General Smedley Butler.