Disabled Hip-Hop Artist Runs for Senate Seat in Massachusetts


root - Posted on 15 April 2008

Leroy Moore interviews Keith Jones on his run for Senate, hip-hop and his recent role in a documentary

by Leroy Moore/PNN

Leroy Moore: Keith you are many things Hip-Hop artist, advocate, father and now you are going into politics. Tell us your recent goals and projects.

Keith Jones: Well, my goals are quite simple at this stage of my life. The goals are to continue to strive to be a good father and to continue to work on issues that are important to me. As far as projects, I have begun to really focus on putting together a solid team and running an effective and successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

LM: How many CDs have you put out and what is your latest?

KJ: Well, in my illustrious career (tongue firmly in cheek), I have recorded two cds and the latest one, which will be my last, is called "Vocal Tai Chi." Two of the tracks off of the cd have been featured on Krip-Hop Volumes 1 and 2.

LM: Where does the name Fezo and your other names you use come from?

KJ: The name has been around for almost as long as I have been into hip-hop. It is actually an acronym from "back in the day" and I came up with it after visiting my grandparents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. After listening to Mr. Magic's Rap Attack and Cool DJ Red Alert, I decided I wanted to be an emcee. I felt I needed a name that was different from everybody else that also represented how "dope" I was. Hence FEZO, (F*ckin’ EZ to Obliterate suckers). I've had that name for almost three decades –that’s a long time.

LM: What is your response to the hip-hop industry when it comes to artists with disabilities?

KJ: I don't have one. The industry much like society in general has a schism towards people with disabilities. The reason I am and have remained unsigned is because they "didn’t know how to market me." This is indicative of a larger issue – there is uneasiness around disability and what talents and contributions the individual has to offer. So in that sense, I don't think the industry will "take a chance" on a hip-hop artist who is a person with a disability until and unless their attitudes change.

LM: We met face to face at the DNC in 2004 and now you are exploring a political run for the Senate why? And as a Black disabled man what do you bring to the political arena?

KJ: Why run? Because as a person concerned about the state and the future of the country. I believe that there has been a systematic consolidation of power and at the same time an ignoring of the really critical issues facing us as a country. For example, the recent report from the IRS that nearly 30% of the nations wealth is controlled by 1% of the nation's population. The fact that there is virtually no parity in quality or access to health-care, and that as a country this will be the first time that the succeeding generation has the prospect of doing worse than generation before it. And this on top of a war that needs to and should end.

And as a Black man with a disability I am under no illusions about what this journey will entail. The only thing I can anticipate is that I am intent on affecting change. I know that people may look at this endeavor as a lofty goal to obtain. I can’t help their impression of what a candidate should or must look like. I do believe however, that I could either complain about those making the decision or participate in the democracy as it's advertised. Or I can wait for the repercussions. What I bring to the race is a perspective that no other candidate has. A perspective on the "promise of America" and its "reality."

The promise that America has and offers for some is everything they could have imagined. For others it’s like an "Old wives tale," Yet for others its almost but not quite. I am not convinced that a candidate speaking focused group tested ideas is the answer this time. People want the truth this time – I know I do. I want that promise to be kept.

LM: Your state, Massachusetts, elected the first Black Governor. Have you followed his action and what do you think about his policies?

KJ: I pay attention to the policies along with the philosophy that guides him. I think he has a unique challenge before him. He has to for better or worst do what he said he intended to do as well as, be forever vigilant that he is governing for all. Do I agree with everything? No. Do I believe he is governing for the entire Commonwealth? Yes.

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LMDiscuss your political platform and the people that make up your supporters.

KJThe platform of "Fulfilling America's Promise," is centered on promoting along developing policies and legislation that support the workers of the Commonwealth and the country to earn a "living wage." This is done with a goal of stimulating a much fairer approach to equitable sustained economic growth.

Support equal and fair access to affordable health care, regardless of urban or rural dwelling, in the Commonwealth and the nation as a whole. Also, for those who have a need for governmental assistance; particularly seniors veterans children persons with disabilities and, families and individuals who are under insured.

Support the funding of public education in order to close the achievement gap, modernizing schools, recruiting and retaining talented people to the profession. All to guarantee our publicly educated students are some of the best prepared in the world.

Ensure that ALL citizens of the Commonwealth and the nation are afforded their constitutional rights and protections, including the right to vote, to choose, and to marry.

As for supporters, they aren't what one would consider typical for this type of candidacy.. The supporters cut across all demographics and, that at this point is a very good indication that people still believe in the promise of America.

LM: Last Congressional election there were many disabled candidates running but few got media attention. What would you do in your campaign to have the media cover you?

KJ: I have a very talented team who are committed to executing in every phase of the campaign – including attracting media coverage. But as I stated earlier, I am under no illusions. However, this is an era where user generated content sites and non-traditional outlets can be an entree to larger media outlets. Also, I know if this campaign appears to be even slightly "not ready for prime-time." It will be very difficult if not impossible to be seen as having a viable campaign – especially due to the unorthodox nature of me as a candidate. So, I am going to focus in the campaign on controlling what we can control and if we do that we will be right were we should be on November 5th 2008.

LM: What party are you running under and what is your view on political parties when it comes to race, poverty, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians?

KJ: I am running as an Independent/third party. In terms of the political parties and their stances related to race, poverty, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians, the answers lie in their actions towards these groups. America as well as the political parties have yet to engage in real and earnest dialog about the existence of racism, homophobia, classism or ableism. If you don’t engage or at least acknowledge that there are people in this country for whom those isms are all too real. That being the case, how can they understand or address the effects policy or, the effects socio-economic upward mobility. As a person who is among and advocate for these groups, I would say neither party has, really tackle the issues that have led to and perpetuate disparities for minorities, the poor, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians. Which is why I am running outside the two party system.

LM: Will you continue to do your cultural work if you win?

KJ: Of course, the only thing I probably won't do is shop for a record deal. But then again you never know.

LM: What are the top ten concerns of people in Mass?

KJ: At this stage there are a lot of issues facing the Commonwealth much like the rest of country. Some of the more pressing issues: affordable housing, the economy, healthcare, home foreclosures, taxes and, education. This includes highly charged issues like what to do about the undocumented residents ending the Iraq War, making communities safer, environmental concerns as well as, the dealing with the state's nearly $1 billion budget deficit. Also, there are issues that are very particular to each region of the state for example the proposed "Cape Wind" project in Nantucket Sound. The commonwealth has its own unique challenges and its own way of developing solutions to those challenges.

LM: You were in a documentary. Tell us more.

KJ: The documentary is called "Including Samuel." The film was done by Dan Habib whose son has a disability. When he asked me if I would like to be involved he said he wanted to show how he and his family include Samuel in all facets of school and community. What I found even more important was his desire to paint an accurate picture of life as a family. And what that a family faces when confronted with society's reactions to the family member with a disability. The film, "Including Samuel" also features other families, teachers, young people, parents and disability rights experts.

LM: I saw you make music with your feet in the studio please tell our readers how do you do that.

KJ: Well, it is a result of my disability limiting the dexterity of my hands. So, when your hands fail you use your feet and that's what I do. There’s no special equipment needed. I put the MPC on the floor and go for what I know. I use my feet not only to make music but also to write type draw and cook, if I'm hungry enough. I cant say when or how I started to do things in that way. My grandmother said that I "just started doing it." There were no classes. No training – I just did it.

LM: As a Black disabled advocate what is your view on the aftermath of Katrina?

KJ: Honestly, as disturbed and upset as I was and still am – I can’t say I was surprised. Whether its perception or reality, the facts speak for themselves. It was the poorest of the poor who were neglected and this was in a city where poverty among its disabled and African-American population ran well above the nation average. So, if you take that and compound it with non-existent emergency planning and what to me was and is a complete disregard of those who are in need how can you be surprised at the ongoing issues around Katrina and Rita and Gulf Coast recovery? I do however think that as a Senator I can and will deal with the apparent anemic efforts placed on disaster response and recovery. Around that same time there were flooding issues that struck parts of Massachusetts that had an equally devastating effect. And some of those same issues arose. Like how do you evacuate the elderly and disabled citizens who require assistance? How can we continue to allow insurance companies to not honor their policies? And, what is the role of government in help people rebuild their lives and communities?

LM: Where can people go to keep up with your campaign?

KJ: People will have a chance to follow the campaign via our website

http://KJ-08.COM/.Com We will also have a youtube channel that allows people to submit homemade ads that may get used during the campaign along with telling us what are the issues that they want to hear discussed. As much as it is about the candidate it really is about the people it has always been about the people.

LM: Any last words?

KJ: People need to retake the power of their government. Get involved. Be active. Vote for the candidate based on the issues. And if you live in Massachusetts and you want to hear and learn more about me and the issues I care about go to the website to set up town hall meetings, house parties, or other events.

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