Willie Lynch/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr/Kendrick Lamar/Rapsody & U: “Complexion”

The following is an activity from a 5 song Hip-Hop youth development curriculum that was developed in 2015 by Timothy Jones, CVO #HipHopEd @tdj6899

Healthy Connections: (S) 101 “Beat 2 the Rhyme” Creative Writing for Youth Development
This workshop will introduce concepts based on the 12 Youth Development Outcomes (6 ability and 6 identity) and the 5th stage of development for adolescence (12 to 18 years) according to Erickson’s Stages of Development. The analysis and evaluation of the lyrics along with the creative writing assignments will allow the students to opportunities to reflect on how they see themselves according to youth outcome and component of development that is highlighted in the song. The creative writing and critical thinking assignments will focus on the following:
– Identity
– Social Interactions/Peer Groups
– Moral/Ethic Issues
– Moratorium
– Philosophy of Life
– Various Youth Development Outcomes

Song: Complexion (Kendrick Lamar)

Youth Development Outcome: Self-Worth/Intellectual Ability

Stage 5: Identity (Internal/External)

Sound Check: Write down three jokes that you have either said or have heard said about the color of someone’s skin. Do not write a person’s name into the jokes. Have a select group of students read the jokes that they have written down. Keep a tally as to whether the joke is directed towards dark or light skin. Keep a tally of the complexion the student that is saying the joke. After the sample has read their jokes ask the students to count up the jokes that they wrote down that are directed towards dark and light skin. Get the responses and create a class total of the number of total jokes and the number of dark and light skin jokes. Hold this data for a discussion at another time in the activity.

Introduction: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. – Dr. Martin Luther King” This is a quote from the “I Have a Dream Speech” made on August 28, 1963. When Dr. King referred to “a nation” what type of people do you think he was predominately talking to? Who would be the predominate group of people this quote would be speaking to if the word nation was changed to community? Is the impact on your sense of identity and self-worth the same in both quotes if you believe they are predominately speaking to different groups of people? It is almost 52 years later and Kendrick Lamar believes that the issues and challenges surrounding complexion are alive and impacting the way we see one another and ourselves. The song sheds light on a theory of where these issues began and alludes to strategies and ways of thinking that are needed to rid ourselves of these issues surrounding complexion once and for all. Do you think we will ever live in a nation or community where we don’t cast some level of judgement based on complexion? This song features a woman name Rapsody who would be viewed as a dark skin woman, do you think this holds any significance given how we as a society and community view complexion? Always ask if there are any questions or comments. You may modify the questions for discussion within the introduction for a middle school audience by focusing on school, community and what they watch on television.

Performance: Pass out the lyrics to “Complexion” and then play the song. Have the students read along as the song is playing so that you know that they are paying attention because they will keep time with the song.

Lyrics of Emphasis:
– Even if master listenin’, cover your ears, he ’bout to mention
– Let the Willie Lynch theory reverse a million times with…
– Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid
– Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens

Students should choose 3 of the 4 lyrics and write (3) sentences that explain what is being said by each lyric. For middle school students you may want to talk one lyric out together and have the students select two of the remaining three lyrics for this exercise

Lyrical Exercise:
“In my bag, I have a fool proof method for controlling your slaves. I guarantee every one of you that if installed it will control the slaves for at least three hundred years. My method is simple, any member of your family or any OVERSEER can use it.
I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves, and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use FEAR, DISTRUST, and ENVY for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies, and it will work throughout the SOUTH. Take this simple little list of differences and think about them. On the top of my list is “AGE” but it is only there because it starts with an “A”; The second is “COLOR” or shade; there is INTELLIGENCE, SIZE, SEX, SIZE OF PLANTATION, ATTITUDE of owner, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, east or west, north, south, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences, I shall give you an outline of action- but before that, I shall assure you that DISTRUST IS STRONGER THAN TRUST, AND ENVY IS STRONGER THAN ADULATION, RESPECT OR ADMIRATION.
The black slave, after receiving this indoctrination, shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.
Don’t forget you must pitch the old black VS. the young black males, and the young black male against the old black male. You must use the dark skinned slaves VS. the light skin slaves. You must use the female VS the male, and the male VS, the female. You must always have your servants and OVERSEERS distrust all blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us.
Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control, use them. Never miss an opportunity. My plan is guaranteed, and the good thing about this plan is that if used intensely for one year the slave will remain perpetually distrustful.”- exert from Willie Lynch letter 1772 via www.daveyd.com

Dr. King Said It: I’m Black and I’m Proud!

As a group read the supplied text from the Willie Lynch and ask each student to write down a number from 1 to 5 that expresses their opinion as to the relevance of the content of the Willie Lynch letter in today’s society. A 5 represents the opinion that approach and resulting issues raised in the letter are fully visible and applicable today and a 1 represents that the approach and resulting issues raised in the letter are obsolete and not applicable today. Document all of the student’s responses on flip chart paper or the board separating the boys from the girls. Calculate the average for the boys, girls and the class as a whole. You can choose to reflect on the averages of each sub group and whole group by having a few students share their thoughts to their own response and the averages.

The following activity can be completed individually or in pairs (Co-Author Collaboration):
Write a rebuttal letter that lays out a plan that if we as a community implemented would actually “Let the willie lynch letter reverse a million times with…” You can pull from points that Dr. King expressed in the clip regarding black and white. Think about the lines where Kendrick states “Even if master’s listenin’, I got the world’s attention/So I’mma say somethin’ that’s vital and critical for survival/ Of mankind, if he lyin’, color should never rival/.” These lines express the impact that our culture has and can have on not only our community, but society as a whole. Use this to feel empowered as you write your letter that lays out the plan. Be creative in how we should use the resources that we have to go against every point in the exert of the Willie Lynch letter your reviewed as a group. This means that you address the issues of age, color, intellect, locale, size, etc. The result of your letter and plan should be a community where as Rapsody states “call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens.

Each individual or pair will present their letter to the group. After the group has presented their letters you can have a rap session to discuss the feasibility of implementing some of the suggestions identified in the letters. If the suggestions aren’t feasible for implementation on a macro level, what could a micro implementation look like within your school, after school and or summer program?

Edited Lyrics for class usage: Lyrics in green are the lyrics of emphasis for this activity

Kendrick Lamar – Complexion (A Zulu Love) Lyrics (Featuring Rapsody)

[Hook: (Pete Rock)]
Complexion (two-step)
Complexion don’t mean a thing (it’s a Zulu love)
Complexion (two-step)
It all feels the same (it’s a Zulu love)

[Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar]
Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun
Give a f#$% about your complexion, I know what the Germans done
Sneak (dissin’)
Sneak me through the back window, I’m a good field n#$%!
I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you
You know I’d go the distance, you know I’m ten toes down
Even if master listenin’, cover your ears, he ’bout to mention


[Verse 2: Kendrick Lamar]
Dark as the midnight hour, I’m bright as the mornin’ Sun
Brown skinned, but your blue eyes tell me your mama can’t run
Sneak (dissin’)
Sneak me through the back window, I’m a good field n@#$!
I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you
You know I’d go the distance, you know I’m ten toes down
Even if master’s listenin’, I got the world’s attention
So I’mma say somethin’ that’s vital and critical for survival
Of mankind, if he lyin’, color should never rival
Beauty is what you make it, I used to be so mistaken
By different shades of faces
Then wit told me, “A woman is woman, love the creation”
It all came from God then you was my confirmation
I came to where you reside
And looked around to see more sights for sore eyes
Let the Willie Lynch theory reverse a million times with…


You like it, I love it
You like it, I love it
[Verse 3: Rapsody]
Let me talk my Stu Scott, ‘scuse me on my 2Pac
Keep your head up, when did you stop? Love and die
Color of your skin, color of your eyes
That’s the real blues, baby, like you met Jay’s baby
You blew me away, you think more beauty in blue green and grey
All my Solomon up north, 12 years a slave
12 years of age, thinkin’ my shade too dark
I love myself, I no longer need Cupid
Enforcin’ my dark side like a young George Lucas
Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid
And frame of mind for them bustas, ain’t talkin’ “Woohah!”
Need a paradox for the pair of dots they tutored
Like two ties, L-L, you lose two times
If you don’t see you beautiful in your complexion
It ain’t complex to put it in context
Find the air beneath the kite, that’s the context
Yeah, baby, I’m conscious, ain’t no contest
If you like it, I love it, all your earth tones been blessed
Ain’t no stress, jigga boos wanna be
I ain’t talkin’ Jay, I ain’t talkin’ B
I’m talkin’ days we got school watchin’ movie screens
And spike your self-esteem
The new James Bond gon’ be black as me
Black as brown, hazelnut, cinnamon, black tea
And it’s all beautiful to me
Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens
We all on the same team, blues and pirus, no colors ain’t a thing

[Outro: Kendrick Lamar]
Barefoot babies with no cares
Teenage gun toters that don’t play fair, should I get out the car?
I don’t see Compton, I see something much worse
The land of the landmines, the hell that’s on earth