DAVID GREENE, HOST:
What you're about to hear is a pitch for a political movement.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SHO BARAKA: If you're tired of being forced to choose between social justice and biblical values, then you're ready for a new voice.
GREENE: It's from a hip-hop artist who says he feels like he has been given a false choice. Sho Baraka was raised by a Black Panther. He is passionate about fixing poverty and reforming the police, and he feels Democrats are more compassionate on those issues. And yet, as an evangelical Christian, Baraka has a big problem with that party. He opposes abortion rights, and on social issues, he is more closely aligned with Republicans. The AND campaign is this rapper's attempt to forge a new path among a group he reluctantly labels urban Christians. And for inspiration, Sho Baraka has said this movement might look at the tea party, a group many see as dividing Republicans in recent years.
Defend the tea party as a successful movement and model in your mind that you would love to copy.
BARAKA: Well, no, I (laughter) I don't know if I'm going to defend them as successful. But I will say they've been successful in communicating their desire and their needs in the sense of creating a platform where people hear their desires and what they stand for. And I don't know if there is a unified voice in the urban Christian context where you can say that there is these group of peoples who speak for us. And I do feel like the tea party has been successful in doing that.
GREENE: What's your ultimate goal here?
BARAKA: Ultimately, I think baby steps. One, just creating a coalition that is biblically based but also shares the compassion that Jesus displayed in the Scriptures, an individual who cares for the poor, who's concerned for the outcast and the marginalized but, at the same time, doesn't compromise his divinity in order to show compassion. I think what we often are asked to do is to make those things mutually exclusive.
GREENE: Are you going to vote in November?
BARAKA: I am going to vote. I'm especially going to vote in my state and local elections. I will definitely cast a ballot for someone in a presidential election. It will not be Trump or Clinton.
GREENE: Do you worry that by voting for a candidate who's not a Republican, not a Democrat, that you're not really taking part in the election?
BARAKA: I mean, I understand the argument and I think it's a viable argument, but I also believe the protest vote, as they will say, it should speak volumes. So, like, if Donald Trump wins, then the Democratic Party should recognize, well, there is a base of individuals that we could have actually listened to and rather pandered to. And then on the left, if Hillary Clinton wins, I think there needs to be a lot of work done on the right to say, hey, how do we actually - like, you know, you hear a lot of Donald Trump in his platitudes of I'll help the black community. But what actually will you do?
And I don't think there's been any steps to actually have real, legitimate conversations or interactions with people. And so for both parties, I think there needs to be a reassessment on how we are to earn the vote of the urban Christian.
GREENE: You're a musician. I guess I wonder if there's a song of yours that you feel speaks to the kinds of tension that we've been talking about.
BARAKA: Absolutely. It's a song called "Maybe Both."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAYBE BOTH")
BARAKA: (Rapping) Is it a ballot or a bullet. Let me know. Should I fight or should I pray? Who's my foe? Are they killing with a pistol or a vote? Or maybe it is both.
It's loosely based off of Malcolm X's Ballot in a Bullet speech where he talks about the importance of the vote and to hold your vote and use it like a bullet. You don't waste bullets in war. And I think what we've done, not just as an urban Christian demographic but as a black community, I think we've just given our allegiance - blind allegiance to the Democratic Party without them actually giving any real true concern to the plight of African-Americans in this country.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAYBE BOTH")
BARAKA: (Rapping) Put your ballot in the air. Pull out a lighter, then burn it. We just give away votes. Make them Democrats earn it.
Malcolm X would have said that was political. He called those individuals political chumps. And so this song basically talks about a critique of both parties. And then on the third verse, I draw a greater conclusion on how oftentimes we use Jesus as a construct to propel or promote our own personal agendas. But understand that he was much more complex than we often like to make him out to be.
GREENE: Sho Baraka, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you.
BARAKA: Thank you, David. I appreciate it. It's been a pleasure.
GREENE: Sho Baraka is a recording artist and also co-founder of the AND campaign.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.