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Touring for the People: Kiwi raises awareness about politically-motivated killings in the Philippines

By Donna Tamfeatures
Apr 30, 2008 - 11:29 AM

Geologic (left) and Kiwi (right) are currently on the road for the People Power tour to raise awareness about social injustices in the Philippines.

Kiwi just couldn’t stand by and do nothing when he learned about the kidnapping and killings of progressive Filipino Americans in the Philippines under the current administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The San Francisco-based rapper, formerly of the group Native Guns, decided to use his music to express his frustrations with the Filipino government’s politically-motivated killings.

Along with Blue Scholar’s Geologic (aka Prometheus Brown), Kiwi set out to do the Stop the Killings Tour in 2007 to raise awareness and funds for the families of the victims, so they could testify at the International People’s Tribunal where the tribunal president found Arroyo guilty of crimes against the Philippine people.

Now Kiwi and Geologic are touring again, this time to bring even more awareness to the worsening political and economic conditions in the Philippines.

Kicking off the three-week 2008 People Power Tour, inspired by a revolution of the same name, in the Midwest on April 19, the duo will make their way up and down the West Coast. Right before he left for the tour, Oh Dang! asked Kiwi about his motivations and why being aware of the situation overseas should be important to everyone.

Oh Dang!: When did you start learning about the political killings?

Kiwi: I learned about them early on when they first started, since many of the victims were from organizations that I'm affiliated with. However, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines is nothing new. It happened during the Marcos dictatorship. It even happened during Cory Aquino's regime. The reason that the killings during this current administration's are of special interest is the actual number of killings, not to mention abductions and other human rights violations that have been documented.

OD!: In your opinion, why are they happening?

K: The Philippines is controlled by the richest one percent of the population, mostly rich landlords who own nearly all the wealth and resources of the country. Of course, these people are all over Philippine politics, from councilpeople to the president. And they will stop at nothing to maintain that control, even if it means intimidating or 'exterminating' those who oppose them. And, because the Philippine government has Bush's backing, they have somewhat of a 'green light' in the international community to do things like this, and get away with it. The Philippine military has the financial (American tax dollars) and physical (American soldiers) support of the U.S.

OD!: How have these acts affected your life? Your music?

K: They've given me a real sense of urgency to do whatever I can, through music and beyond, to not just raise awareness about these issues, but to continue the building of this movement for social change, a process that has been going on way before us. Hopefully, my music can be a contribution, but bigger than that, it's about really hitting the concrete and organizing the community.

OD!: How does it feel to be a part of the efforts?

K: I don't think it's about any kind of personal gratification to me. I just see myself as a servant of the people. If anything, it makes me feel angry that it's gotten to this level, as far as the human rights violations, the injustice, the poverty, the inequality.

OD!: Do you feel people are responding to the story of the struggle?

K: I think people are responding. But it's like any political issue, it has a high point where people are hyped up and most active, then it mellows out and some folks start forgetting. The hope is that we can get as many people as possible to be compelled enough to take it beyond the concert, and perhaps even join some of the organizations who are sponsoring the tour.

OD!: You guys provide a pretty substantial history of the political tensions in the Philippines in your press release. How does this message translate to the music? Do you have songs made specifically for this tour or anything to that extent?

K: Yeah, we definitely got a couple songs like that. Last year, when we did the "Stop the Killings" tour, we were part of a big ol' posse cut featuring Filipino emcees that addressed the issue from the victims' point of view. Geo and I are also working on this song called "Never No More" that's addressed to Philippine President Gloria Magcapagal-Arroyo. At the same time, for the show itself, we want to make sure there's a good variety of topics and themes in terms of what we're performing.

OD!: Some of your music focuses on local struggles and injustices. Why are international issues important to recognize as well?

K: That's kind of the beauty of it, tying these themes together and being able to connect our struggles here in the states to the larger international struggles. I really feel like we're more connected to those struggles than we think. And when people here in the U.S get to a point where we're actually being more critical about things like foreign policy and military aid, when we really start to have an internationalist perspective, that's when we'll really start moving forward as a society.

OD!: You said the killings have increased by 100 since last year (900 total). That is such an insane number. Does it ever feel hopeless?

K: The Philippine people have been resisting oppression since the first colonizer stepped foot on our land. We're talking centuries. So we'll always be fighting. And that will always keep me hopeful.

For tour dates and more info about the People Power tour, visit www.myspace.com/kiwi. Kiwi’s currently co-coordinating and facilitating a hip hop writing workshop series with youth at the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco. Be on the lookout for his upcoming album, The People’s Pistol, late summer/mid-fall, as well another mixtape and collaboration with Deuce Eclipse. Catch him this fall on tour with poets Bao Phi and Giles Li on the Beats, Rhymes and Rice tour, coming to a college campus near you.


Donna Tam is the managing editor of Oh Dang!

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