An open letter in response to James C. McKinley Jr.’s NY Times article, “At the Protests, the Message Lacks a Melody,” insisting #Occupy lacks an anthem
by La Guardia and Subhash Kateel

Once again, the New York Times takes it upon itself to be the gatekeeper of social movements. The paper that has really good articles until it doesn’t, first reduced the Occupy movement to “pantomiming progressivism” right before embracing it. Now it unilaterally declares that the movement lacks an anthem. For James C. McKinley Jr., the article’s author, his evidence is the lack of Bob Dylan-esque tunes flowing out of the lips of Occupy protestors.

Maybe McKinley wrote his article before searching YouTube, or reading other news sites like CBS or the Miami New Times (twice). Because we can count at least 4 anthems off the top of our heads. We should know, we wrote one of them. But so did Rebel Diaz, a group called Occupy Freedom, Ground Zero and the Global Block Collective and a group out west called The Roaring.

Each of the anthems hail from a different region but speak to our common struggles. When we sing or rap or whatever we do, we do it based on what we see in real communities. And we see a lot of people that are tired of an unbalanced system. Our anthems aren’t lazy, complaining, we don’t wanna work, somebody hold our hands, rich bad/poor good songs. They are honest looks at struggles facing the 99% that we know and see everyday, while making a public decree that there WILL be changes.

As for our anthem, (“We Are The 99%), we aren’t Bob Dylan, or a group of billboard chart topping international recording artists. We’re a community organizer turned radio show host, temporarily unemployed rapper, music teacher/producer, and a vocalist…But we are also the 99%…

If James C. McKinley wanted to truly write an article that broke new ground about Occupy anthems, he could write about what makes this generation of anthem artists different.

The singers, producers, and thought creators behind most Occupy anthems are, no doubt, musicians and music lovers; but also more. In the case of Rebel Diaz, they run a community organization in the Bronx, the Rebel Diaz Art Collective. And while other folks were complaining about the lack of melanin at Occupy Wall Street, they did something about it by bringing their members out from the Bronx to Wall Street.

The people that put together “We Are The 99%” in Miami have been part of organizations like Seed305, Families For Freedom, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Catalyst Hip Hop, PATH to Hip Hop and Amnesty International as organizers, directors, community workers and participants for over a decade.

In other words, the creators of Occupy anthems don’t just sing for a better world, we try our hardest to practice what we sing. But make no mistake, we will sing and chant, organize and mobilize until we really see a change that benefits the communities we love.