Erykah Badu Live Review

The Revolution Has Begun: Erykah Badu Live Review | Gasparilla Music Festival, Tampa, FL | March 12 and 13, 2016

by • March 22, 2016

“We will not leave until we walk peacefully back on our land,” she tells us in a none-too-subtle, politically charged message about the plight of black people in this country. “Put your palms up. In this moment we have transcended race, time, space.” There is a fire in her cadence, an anger carefully loosed on the crowd at Gasparilla Music Festival 2016.

Erykah Badu’s set ended with the crowd whipped into a frenzy. A police officer angrily tells me to finish my beer or pour it out. The set has been over for maybe thirty seconds and I am still processing what just happened, a mixture of backwash and suds lingering at the bottom of my cup. Badu’s set began an hour tardy, but once she took the stage we were all led around by the heart and her incredible voice — the bridle that ensured we followed her message.

Before I can respond to the officer’s request he takes the beer from my hand and pours it on the ground. The audacity of the decision hits me in the moment as simply the stereotype of a cop living up to their reputation. Just a few minutes ago my fist was raised blissfully in the air with brothers and sisters determined not to allow the system to abuse people, especially people of color.

I am not a person of color. But my day job is one of public service. My life is dedicated to helping people in underserved communities. I am part of a movement, a revolution of the most important kind in the making. A peaceful sea change to result in people claiming what should rightfully be theirs in a country this prosperous — life, liberty, property for all who are willing to work for it.

My anger is boiling for several minutes after being treated so dismissively, especially just after a solidaritous experience, like that of Erykah Badu’s set. Police are harassing people all around me. My frustration is directed at the uniform.

I find a cop who vaguely resembles the man who took my beer minutes earlier. I just want to calmly explain that he was in the wrong and I would appreciate some contrition. I bring this up because , in the moment, I fail to recognize the role white privilege plays in the coming exchange. The fact that I was willing to approach a cop and take him to task speaks to something reserved for only certain people in this country. I fail to consider race at all, not after a beautiful day of music and sharing love.

His behavior is the kind that contributes to a disdain for police in this country. Our collective mistrust of authority is unhealthy and it is up to each individual with a position of power to take on the responsibility of treating people well, of serving rather than dictating.

The night is dark now that Badu’s light has faded, and the guy I walk up to is leaning arrogantly against a barricade. I ask whether he is the one who took the beer from me. He says he took a beer from someone out in the field, but if it was in the VIP area, that must have been another cop. “Was he black?” the cop asks. “Yeah, he was black.” I responded. His race had not registered to me at the time. Blue was the only color I noticed in the moment.

“Of course he was … Do all black people look alike to you?” the policeman badgers. Shocked and offended, I explain what I do for a living. How I work with black folks all day. How I love people. How I just had my fist in the air while Erykah Badu railed against the pain caused by institutionalized racism in this country.

In the moment I have trouble thinking straight, blinded by anger. He goes on about how I probably have latent, unrecognized racism living deep inside of myself. In the moment, I am screaming “Fuck the police!” in my head. It is not until the light of the next day that I realize the impact of this guy’s reaction to me.

Many black folks are understandably angry in this country. This man’s ignorance and vitriol are deep seeded. He saw me as a representation of entitled white America. Something big is happening in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Cleveland, in Tampa. There is a revolution building. Not the peaceful kind I engage in every day, but the kind that will boil over into full scale armed conflict if it is continually ignored except when whipped up by hate mongers, like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Talib Kweli took the stage before sundown. The literal complexion of the festival began to change at that moment. “So proud of this new generation of activists,” he lauded. “If you ain’t scared of the truth, make some noise!” We obliged.

Black folks began filing in about then. White people slowly shuffling out of Curtis Hixon Park. A festival with almost all white patrons was now about 50/50 with like-minded people of different races, there to see great music — hip hop, soul, EDM, and Afro-beat. We, as festival goers, were in it together.

Those cops saw things differently. Perhaps their perspective allowed for a unique understanding of what was really happening.

Erykah Badu Live Review

“In this moment we have transcended race, time, space” are words we believed in the moment. By the time Erykah Badu began grabbing cameras and phones and recording personal concerts for the friends and family of her audience, we were all Black Lives Matter soldiers. Yet, I had no place at the rally according to officers Graham and Davis. They are wrong, but I understand the root of their hate.

We have a problem. All of us. No longer can we retreat to our own homogenous enclaves and consider the plight of other people to be just that. So we have a choice to make. Each of us can find our own way of joining a real movement, or we can face the inevitability of violent revolution.

“Put one finger in the air,” Badu told us. It was a gesture of one love, one human condition. We cannot afford to keep our collective head in the sand.

Volunteer to help folks in need. Develop competencies around causes that are doing something to provide opportunity for the underserved. Play music. Listen to music. Love really fucking hard.

Erykah Badu Live Review by Jason Earle.
Erykah Badu Live Concert Photos by Jason Earle and Martin Cardenas.

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