Jenho Ferreira, also known as “Piper” from the alternative/Hip-Hop band is an Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputy. I know Piper. Well, it would be more honest and appropriate to say that I knew Piper, as we’ve been out of touch for the last few years when I disassociated myself with him based on his decision (and how he handled his decision) to become a police officer. To be even more honest, Piper isn’t really the type of cat anyone can ever really know (himself included), because he is a complex, brilliant, and possibly genius brother. He was a brother of mine that I love. In the ghetto and in the general Black culture as a whole it is common for us to say, “I know him” or “that’s my patna”, when really we are only referencing a basic acquaintance or general knowledge of who someone is. That isn’t the case with Piper and I. Piper and I were both friends and business associates. We traveled together and made music together. We completed a screenplay together which entailed him and I meeting at least once a week over the course of a year and were both in attendance at the 10 year anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, DC. When Piper would travel oversees opening for the Black Eyed Peas and Snoop Dog, him and I would often pow wow before he left and even talk by phone when he was abroad. Him and his wife have attended my performances and I have love and respect for his family and crew. In short, everything I am about to write is coming from a knowledgeable space of Piper as a man, community member, and artist. It is also coming from a knowledgeable space of social justice, what our ancestors sacrificed, and what it means for human beings to have a consistent commitment to relieving the plight of oppressed people. I am genuinely shocked at the passivity and continued acceptance of Piper as a representative or advocate of our community. It is painful for me to write this, but the rules are the rules. I’ve decided to address this publicly. Please note that I have made attempts to address Piper in private and he has never responded.
Piper recently wrote and began performing a one man theater piece titled, Cops and Robbers. Both the piece and Piper’s existence as a voice in our community is going relatively unchecked, as well as celebrated as a noble action. However, just as Christopher Dorner was a House Negro gone crazy, Jenho “Piper” Ferreira is a Field Negro gone crazy and or delusional- running around the plantation with a schizophrenic narrative and posture as if it is acceptable or urban avant garde to be a police officer.
For the last 10-15yrs Piper’s entire relevance and trust with the Hip-Hop, Social Justice, and general community has been based on music, teaching, and words he’s written that have always been in upliftment and protection of Black and Brown people around the world. It was this trust and validity that granted him and the people associated with him access and ears of the people.
If Piper was never a rapper/educator/artist from our community and just suddenly walked out onto the scene as some pig doing Hip-Hop theater we would all laugh (accept people who are either lame or ignorant) and the very notion would be absurd. Even other police officers would think it was strange. So this is evidence (no pun intended) that our acceptance is based on the reputation Piper built before putting on the khaki colored pants with the stripes up the side.
His major record label funded music videos were often shot in the slums of Oakland, with all of us in attendance encouraging him and his band forward (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jA-7iEW15Y). Producers and studio engineers worked with Piper at low-no cost, not just out of a love for Piper, but also because of a love for what his music stood for. Lyrics like:
"If we can’t live in peace then fuck it let’s die
They aint tryin’ to hear us then fuck it let’s ride
Catch a traitor then stick a needle in his eye
Smash mode soilder we runnin’ out of time
And fuck Thanksgiving cause I ride with the heartless
And fight for my Goddess the hardest of artist
That’s given em’ problems
And fuck your congress …”
So now Mr. Fuck your congress is now Mr. show me your hands??? There is no disassociating or compartmentalizing Piper’s past a proponent of social change with his whatever this is as a police officer. If you’re a felon in America you are rejected from employment, voting, and even housing. The principle being that once you cross over to the “other side” you cannot function in society the same way. Here with Piper though there seems to be a double standard. He is able to be a revolutionary rapper turned police officer (that right there is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had to type) and still be accepted on the community side as a voice for us..?
Piper, Brother. I love you. I mean that. You know I mean that. But you are the police. You breaking the script doesn’t mean you get to write them now and straddle the fence. I think if you’re going to be a Sheriff doing plays about our people you should publicize your work as plays written by Jenho Ferreira and leave all the bullshit that makes it seems like your violation is some provocative selling point out of the equation. Another suggestion: Instead of doing plays, maybe your energy should go into writing policy and starting an internal organization within the Sheriff’s department consisting of officers of color who demand the end of unjust beating and murdering of poor people by your comrades, the police. Or, resign and repent and get back to the work. I find it extremely arrogant and dishonoring for you not to feel the need to fully address and disclose publicly your choice to become the police. You working at youth centers and all the popular attention and regard you’re getting from these corny ass politicians and clubs does not blur the reality.
Some people will disagree with this, and others will agree. I feel it is Piper’s right to pursue whatever career path he chooses, regardless of how stupid it is to me.Piper is well intended I believe, but shit- so are dope dealers that give back to their community. Some months back “Cops and Robbers” was presented by the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. I think it’s shameful that the African American Studies Dept at UC Berkeley would even acknowledge Piper’s play, let alone present it, but this is reflective of our current state as a people. I’ll tell you one thing though- nobody, and I mean nobody who is a knowledgeable and respected vanguard of our history and resistance would endorse a conscious rapper turned police officer speaking on behalf of us.
I am critical on our behalf out of love for Black people and extreme concern for our ability (or chronic inability) to recognize what is acceptable, unacceptable, or outright laughable when we are presented with narratives about our experience. I take no pleasure in these type of writings and am actually spiritually burdened by the obligation at times.
All the love there is,