Onetime Miami mayoral candidate Luther Campbell, who has written his memoir, The Book of Luke: My Fight for Truth, Justice and Liberty City, goes beyond his personal story (as a history-making rapper and artist) and addresses the ills of the African-American community and how unity and political engagement can alleviate them. He touches on everything from his perspective on the failures of the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to Black Lives Matter and the power of sports in part 2 of his exclusive conversation with The Root.
The Root: Now you’re also politically involved. When you made that move, was there great pushback?
Luther Campbell: As far as getting involved into politics, they already knew that I was politically oriented from the fights that I had, going to the Supreme Court, so I knew what I was talking about. So politics is basically easy for me because one, it’s a vicious cycle that you can be taught by old heads, and listening to Malcolm X and H. Rap Brown, the same thing that was happening then is happening right now.
TR: How do we stop it?
LC: How do we stop it? I mean black people, basically, we just got to stop hating on each other. I mean we are a very separate and segregated race of people. We have so many issues within our race that we don’t want to admit. We don’t want to talk about our issues. We’re waiting for the white knight to come and save us.
We are so easily influenced. We’re so [eager] to get on a ship because some white man told us to get on there. We’re still getting on those ships, the wrong ships, right now today. That’s what got us over here. Until the race comes together and stop being so segregated and stop hating on each other and start praising each other, then we will not see some major change. It’s hard. It’s hard-core. I don’t think I will see it happening in my lifetime. I wish.
TR: But in your book, you write about things done purposely to separate us. So how do we combat that when, systemically, there are people coming after us who are vested in us not ever coming together?
LC: Well, the thing is, the folk have to come together in a strong way. Right now, when you look at us as a race, there’s no black leader. Before, you could lean on whether you’re down with Malcolm X or whether you’re down with Martin Luther King. The Al Sharptons of the world, they done played theyself. The Jesse Jacksons of the world played theyself for who they are. I mean, these are the guys who are supposed to take on the legacy of King, and right now, when you look at it, the kids of Black Lives Matter are much more powerful than any of them.
But even that has some issues because if we do really feel that “Black lives matter” and we protest when a white man shoots a black person, then we need to be protesting every week, ’cause it’s more black-on-black shooting than anything, and there’s not enough blacks [saying], “If we want y’all in the police department not to cover up things, then we shouldn’t cover up [things] in our community.” So, I mean, we have issues on all different fronts and, again, we don’t want to talk about it.
TR: So how are we going to get beyond that?
LC: You have to have more hip-hop artists get involved. Like, for instance, and I talk about it in the book, what did I do? I ran for mayor. One thing [President Barack] Obama did do is get everybody to get their voter-registration card. I think that’s the most important thing he did of everything that he did. He energized everybody to get a voter-registration card. Young people got it; so, now, what are you going to do with it? So, now, look at what I did; I ran for mayor.
There’s no other popular thing to go do, but the real popular thing to do is to vote locally, but these people are so boring that the average young person doesn’t want to. So the bottom line is, I ran. So people said, “I’m going to go support Luke because I know he’s going to fight for us.” I lost, but I established a base of over 30,000 voters, and now I’m taking those 30,000 voters, some of them, and then endorsing somebody. So I get a kid that came up in my [youth football Liberty City Warriors] program, Keon Hardemon, fresh out of college, 29 years old. He runs for office in my neighborhood, Overtown, Liberty City, and I say, “Hey, look, support him against the machine.” He beats the machine, double digits.
I have people on the school board that I’ve supported. Right now, in next year’s race, I will be supporting one of the candidates for mayor, and I’ll be supporting one of the candidates for Congress in those areas; and those people, I am going to have to sit down with them and say, “These are the issues.”
TR: Why are sports so important?
LC: Sports is critical. I coach high school football. When my career kind of died down—I talk about it in the book—I started this program 25 years ago, my youth program. I probably got over 40 NFL players, but mostly, I’m proud of the commissioner that came through my program, the doctors, the lawyers, all those different people. … You can get a free education out of it. So that’s why I am so heavily involved in sports and I think sports is so important.
A lot of our young men don’t have a mother at home, a daddy at home, so in sports, I’m a lot of dads. It teaches you discipline, it teaches you how to work together and it teaches you so much on how to be a young man. … And the good thing about it is, about 90 percent of those kids have gotten them a college degree, and that’s great.
Editor’s note: To read part 1 of the interview with Luther Campbell, click here.
Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.