On Friday, rapper Killer Mike made an impromptu speech at a press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, urging protesters to proceed carefully. The musician — whose real name is Michael Render — stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement while still showing some deference to the Atlanta Police Department. He told protesters not to “burn your own house down” while fighting for change.
Render joined Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for a televised press conference on Friday night. He spoke for about eight minutes, and the clip of his words soon went viral on social media. While he has a strong background in grassroots activism, Render pointed out that he also has strong ties to the police, with a father and two cousins on the force. Render was emotional — even on the point of tears as he spoke.
The whole country needs to stop right now and listen to Killer Mike. He’s verbalizing what a lot of us don’t know how to express pic.twitter.com/yiBEaicRGT
— ment (@mentnelson) May 30, 2020
Render began by invoking the first eight African-American police officers in Atlanta, describing how they were forced to segregate from their white co-workers in 1948. After that, he reminded viewers of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, led by Martin Luther King Jr. Coming to the present day, he invoked George Floyd, saying: “I watched a white police officer assassinate a black man. And I know that tore your heart out.”
Render expertly avoided preaching for or against any particular forms of activism in his speech, saying: “I am duty-bound to be here to simply say that it is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.”
Render also reminded listeners to take the passion they have now with them to the 2020 election this fall. “It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth,” he said. “It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs.”
Finally, Render admitted that he himself can sympathize with the feelings of even the most violent people in the demonstrations across the country this week. “I’m mad as hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I am tired of seeing black men die,” he said. “We want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burned to the ground.”
Render gave this whole speech in a t-shirt with one of his own lyrics on the front — “kill your masters.” He was praised on social media for his genuine and thoughtful rhetoric, with most people assuming he was not reciting a script but speaking from the heart. The video of his speech is still circulating on social media.