The Run the Jewels rapper and activist invokes Martin Luther King, and becomes one of the candidate’s fiercest—and most effective—supporters.
Image via YouTube screen capture
Killer Mike does not mince words.
As one half of hip-hop supergroup Run the Jewels, the rapper and activist otherwise known as Michael Render was one of the first artists to pick up a mic and address the outpouring of rage and sadness that followed a grand jury’s decision not to prosecute police officer Darren Wilson for the 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. “It is not about race, it is not about class, it is not about color,” Killer Mike told a St. Louis crowd at the time. “It is about what they killed him for. It is about poverty, it is about greed, and it is about a war machine … So I might go today, I might go tomorrow, but the one thing I want you to know: It is about us versus the motherfucking machine.”
It is that fight—“us versus the motherfucking machine”—in which Killer Mike has found a kindred spirit: Vermont senator, and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders.
Sanders first earned Killer Mike’s official endorsement in June, after the senator declared plans to reinstate the Voting Rights Act, key sections of which were stuck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. “It’s official,” Killer Mike announced to his nearly 170,000 Twitter followers. “I support @SenSanders! His call 4 the restoration of the voters rights act sealed the deal for me.”
Since then, Render has continued to boost Sanders, but perhaps never as forcefully as this week, when he took the stage at a Sanders rally in his hometown of Atlanta. There, in front of a cheering crowd, Render invoked the spirit of fellow Atlanta native Martin Luther King Jr. “The Martin King post-the Washington March,” explained Killer Mike. “The Martin King against the war machine that uses your sons, and your nephews, to go to other lands and murder.”
While celebrity endorsements of politicians are nothing new in and of themselves, Killer Mike drawing a direct line between the Sanders campaign and one of the nation’s most iconic and important civil rights leaders seems particularly significant. Sanders has long struggled to connect with minority voters, trailing far behind his Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton, when it comes to support within the black community. While the Sanders campaign has made significant and serious efforts to reach out to Black Lives Matter activists, particularly after an uncomfortable summer confrontation with BLM supporters, recent polling still points to minority support being a key weakness for the candidate.
“In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the right man to lead this country,” proclaimed Killer Mike, before concluding his speech with a fiery call to arms:
“I know I’m preaching to the choir tonight. I know there are not a lot of voices of dissension out there, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I’m here to tell you—stay encouraged, stay invigorated, stay bold, stay confronting bullshit at every turn. Make sure that wherever you go, you take the name, the ideas, the philosophy, and the ideology of Bernie Sanders there, and you make sure when you leave they are on fire, because they have felt the Bern.”