Twenty years ago this summer, when Public Enemy dropped "Fight the Power" the wake-up call of an anthem laced with 400 years of black angst and pent-up aggression Kalonji Jama Changa was sitting behind bars for engaging in illegal drug activity or, as he now refers to it, "selling plantation poison."
Born into a family of activists, his misguided sense of rebellion led him astray as a teen, "almost like the preacher's son," says Changa, who still went by his birth name Nigel Korsnick Brown at the time. "I was like the white sheep of the family."
Locked away in prison for nearly two years, Changa finally heard his calling.
"Everything my mother and father ever told me came to me all at once. It came to me when they talked about slavery. It came to me when they talked about the prison business. Everything just started popping in my head," he recalls. "I could not believe that I was really running from myself."
He runs in the opposite direction now, as founder and national coordinator of FTP Movement, the several-years-old community activist conglomerate with an exchangeable acronym: "For the people. Free the prisoners. Formulating the plan. Fuck the policies," Changa says, rattling off the endless options. "We wanted something that was interchangeable for any given situation."
When "fuck the police" is suggested, Changa laughs. "Usually, I don't say that. We don't want to appear to just be some mad, ranting, raving lunatics."
"Veggies & Fruit" (Vance Vexed feat. Nappy Roots and A. Leon Craft)
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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