By Dan Weiss (Verbal Kent)
On February 4th Sheriff Joe Arpaio paraded hundreds of immigrants into their own personal Tent City surrounded by electric fences. Campaign for a United America asked me to help put on an event in Phoenix that would take place days later; a response to the Maricopa County terrorist’s, I mean sheriff’s, latest act of bigotry. I packed up and headed to Arizona to be a part of a new chapter in Hip-Hop history. “Stop The Circus”, a Hip-Hop event featuring local and national acts from Chicago, New York, and Detroit took place just days after I arrived.
The time and effort put in by members of the local Hip-Hop community and area activists to bring the show together was tremendous. In my 10 plus years in Hip-Hop I have never seen people come together like that. They spent three solid days fanning out into their communities promoting the event and talking about the brutal truth behind Arpaio’s rule.
The next few days flew by, but they were full of heart and soul. I learned about life under the microscope of racism and bigotry in Phoenix. I saw firsthand the grip that racist Joe Arpaio has on the community…and on the city council…and on local businesses. I heard stories of what happens during his vengeful raids on Latino neighborhoods. Within hours I could feel it in the air.
But then I learned something more powerful than anything I had been told or felt. I learned that thousands of people truly want his reign to end.
Hours before “Stop The Circus” was to begin I paced nervously in the empty venue. I wondered how the night would end up; if Terrorist Joe would send trouble our way. I imagined the worst, but hoped for the best. I thought to myself ‘if we can pull this off, if the Hip-Hop community can pull this off, we can do anything’.
Thousands of hand shakes and hundreds of signatures later Hip-Hop proved to the world that it can be called upon as a voice of reason in America again. New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Phoenix stood together and let their voices be heard. While Sheriff Joe continues to use violence and terror to spread his message of fear,”Stop the Circus” on the contrary was a peaceful gathering built on respect and tolerance. On February 10th, 400 people met in one room on a few days notice, because they do not tolerate hate or violence, and will not fall victim to fear.