By Maurice Bobb
HOUSTON — Bun B assumed his role as the unofficial Mayor of Houston when he joined Occupy Houston at City Hall on Tuesday. The protest is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began about a month ago in New York.
And as rap fans know, hip-hop has a long tradition of serving as an outlet for activism. So, like Talib Kweli and Kanye West did in NYC's Zuccotti Park, the legendary Professor of Trill turned up in his home city to show support for the demonstrators. MTV News caught up with Bun B at the protest and he opened up about why he decided to come through.
"I think it's important that Bernard Freeman be here as a citizen of the world," he told us, mentioning his birth name. "And I think it's important that Bun B be here as a person of influence who has a voice that can bring attention to a cause. It's very important that someone from the hip-hop community is out here supporting Occupy Houston, simply because of the fact of how hip-hop is represented in the world," he added.
The Trill O.G. M.C. said it was also important to show that rappers are about more than their money.
"I think a lot of people look at us as being these flashy, fly types of people who are just concerned with spending money, but that's not all of us," he said. "That's not what hip-hop is here to do. We have individuals that represent that, and I represented that from time to time, but that doesn't make me who I am. I understand how real this world is and how real things can get and that's what Occupy Houston is about. It's not about what we do on the clock — it's about being off the clock and supporting people who can't even get on the clock right now."
While Houston is a long way from Wall Street, the city knows corporate corruption all too well. The Enron debacle, for example, is still a sore spot with many Houstonians.
"The effects of the Enron collapse in Houston are still felt today," Bun said. "Not everyone who had strong jobs in that sector were able to find replacements for those jobs. A lot of people had to take positions in companies to do things that they didn't necessarily train for in order to support their families and that's kinda what we're standing for at Occupy Houston.
"The misconception about Occupy Houston is that it's a bunch of jobless people who don't wanna work and just want the rich to give them their money. Well, that's not true. The majority of these people are educated — not just high school, but they're college graduates, they have degrees, they've done what it takes to get into the workforce. Unfortunately, corporate America is not affording enough opportunities for people to go out get jobs and support their families. Instead of hiring more people, they're firing more people just to keep the numbers up. A company that makes $3 billion a year, it's still gonna function if they only make $2.8 billion a year in order to keep a couple people employed.
Bun explained that protesters' frustration was due in large part to feeling underrepresented at the government level, where decisions affecting their lives are being made. "So that's what we're here fighting against, you know, corporate irresponsibility," he continued. "The fact that we in Houston and America — even though we're the people that vote, we're the people that pay our taxes — we don't have the voice that we should have in our local state and federal governments, and that's another stance that we're taking."
On Tuesday, demonstrators looked like most of those at Occupy rallies across the nation, brandishing homemade placards and signs with varying messages such as, "I am the 99 percent" and "Heal America, Tax Wall Street." Bun rolled up his sleeves and pitched in with assigning posters and announcing general assembly guidelines, which included the proper way to agree (both hands held aloft), block proposals (both arms crossed like an X) and to ask a question (one fist in the air).
Police were on hand, but no arrests were made on Tuesday.
"Anybody that wants to understand clearly what the Occupy movement here in Houston, across the country, as well as the world, a little better can go to any of the Occupy sites and find all the real information, not the misinformation," Bun said.