With seven words on live primetime TV, Kanye West pushed the world's attention to a new dimension of the tragedy surrounding Hurricane Katrina, sparking a flurry of debate and an army of support.
"George Bush doesn't care about black people."
Those words — spoken by Kanye during an emotional, unscripted rant during Friday night's hurricane benefit telethon on NBC — provided the crest of a growing wave of criticism against a relief effort that left hundreds of thousands without food, water, electricity or hope for five full days (see "Jay-Z, Diddy, Others Reach Out To Disaster Victims; Kanye West Attacks Bush During Telethon"). They also tapped into some long-standing concerns about the current administration.
"We've been screaming this for five years," David Banner said Tuesday (September 6) of Kanye's remarks. "You listen to your David Banners, Dead Prez, listen to rap music period. This is what rappers have been screaming all the time. The problem is America concentrates more on our cuss words. They don't hear the pain in the music all the time. You just finally had somebody who has the power Kanye has, who said it at the right time."
West certainly isn't the first member of the hip-hop community to speak out against the current administration. Many feel the "compassionate conservative" president has been uncaring and negligent in using federal resources to help Americans in need.
"We can't wait around for the government to help. We're not waiting, we're taking action," Diddy told MTV News on Thursday after donating $1 million to the Red Cross with Jay-Z. "We can find money to bomb people overseas, but not to help our brothers and sisters?"
"It's been seen that the government don't really give a f--- about our situation," T.I. said Tuesday, alleging that if rich white communities were hit as hard as the poor black communities have been, Bush would have ordered aid in a more timely manner. "All those people who are down there without homes and shelter, those are folks from the 'hood. That's the urban community."
"I'm like, 'What is it?' " Twista said Tuesday. " 'What are we looked at as? Do you look at us as less than human?' The response said something. Any other people, people [suffering a catastrophe,] you get people from all over the world to come and jump right on [the problem]. But you get mostly poor and black people, and we get the slow response."
Bush has responded to the growing criticism by conceding that the government's initial response to the disaster was unacceptable. And congressional officials said Bush intends to seek around $40 billion for the next phase of relief (Congress approved $10.5 billion in relief funding last week). Meanwhile, lawmakers are vowing to investigate what delayed aid in the first several days after the hurricane (see "New Orleans Begins Pump-Out Process; Mayor Says Death Toll May Reach 10,000").
T.I., Young Jeezy and hip-hop publication Juice are teaming up to help David Banner's own relief effort via his Heal the Hood Foundation. Banner has been in Mississippi personally giving out food, water and clothing he purchased himself. The hyperactive MC said he's witnessed the unimaginable, like dead babies floating in water.
Banner, Jeezy and T.I. have been putting together an all-star fundraiser at Atlanta's Phillips Arena, and T.I. helped raise more than $265,000 Monday when he went on an Atlanta radio station and solicited donations. Among the contributors were Warner Music Group President Kevin Liles and producers Jermaine Dupri and Dallas Austin, who donated $25,000 apiece.
"I called everybody's bluff who be talking all that ballin' sh--," T.I. said. "Popping all them bottles in the club ... talking about how much girls and jewelry and cars they got. Let's see how much money they've got for a good cause. Basically, I told everybody to put their money where their mouths are, and if you ain't got no money to give to the cause, I don't want to hear that sh-- no more."
Twista is working with Budweiser to hold a benefit concert at the House of Blues in Chicago. Bump J and Do or Die will also be performing. The fastest-rapping MC in hip-hop said he feels it's up to black people to help their own rather than relying on the government.
"They've been bogus, so what is everybody so shocked about?" he said. "I feel the response was real slow, but I look at my own harder than I look at them. I feel like us as black folks were supposed to stop what we was doing, put all that sh-- down and get these [disaster victims] straight."
While Banner continues to help aid the survivors of Katrina, he's still seething over what he feels is a betrayal by his government.
"I don't want to hear the national anthem, dude," he said. "Don't play the national anthem around me no more."
Banner said people can donate to his Heal the Hood Foundation by credit card at HealTheHood.com, and checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 13185, Jackson, MS 39236.
What do you think of Kanye's comments? Speak your mind, and check out other readers' support and criticism of the controversial move in You Tell Us.
To find out what you can do to help provide relief to victims of Katrina, head to think MTV's hurricane relief page.