Cornbreadd Goes To Washington: Maurice Duhon Talks U.S. House Campaign
He's articulate, opinionated and effervescent, a tireless self-promoter with a genuine concern for and interest in the welfare of others - first his fans as the rapping front man of Houston Press Music Award winners Tha Fucking Transmissions, then readers on his Wordpress blog PoliticalAbyss, now his possible potential constituents as an independent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives against longtime District 18 Democratic incumbent Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
This evening at 6 p.m., Duhon will give a lecture on Harriet Beecher Stowe's 19th-century novel Uncle Tom's Cabin as part of a campaign fundraiser. As you might expect, the lecture's original title - "WHO and WHAT is an Uncle Tom? A Retrospective Conversation" - raised a few eyebrows, and the event was rescheduled to Check Other Outfitters, 2507 Bagby near McGowen, from the Eldorado Ballroom when the nonprofit sponsors dropped out.
In an email interview last week, Duhon was careful to say that he's not calling Rep. Lee an Uncle Tom. "Absolutely not," he said. Instead, he's using the novel and the lecture to illustrate what he calls "preconceived assumptions and perpetuated myths and misunderstandings."
"The novel Uncle Tom's Cabin is a case study of such a situation," he said. "This novel remains one of the best-selling, but also [most] misunderstood works of literature to ever be forgotten."
Duhon answered several other questions, at some length. A few of his edited and condensed answers are below.
Rocks Off: What made you decide to run for Congress?
Maurice Duhon: I feel as if, in the 31 years of my life, I have been able to accomplish many of the goals and aspirations I had given myself. With those accomplishments out of the way, I believe it allowed me to, "Take a step away from the trees in order to look at the forest," as they say.
What I found was our United States Congress bogged down in the muck and mire of the most evident case of severe political polarization observed since our country's unfortunate Civil War. At the time, I was slated to begin bringing my musical talents to Europe. I had been invited to the Netherlands to begin a tour that would take me all throughout Europe for six months.
Thinking how convenient it would be to escape the unstable economy, evaporated job market, and sky-rocketing commodity prices, I was ready to go. I purchased a passport; scouted some cool hostels and then it happened... The feeling that I have when I write music, that hard-to-describe feeling I get when I follow my gut, Socrates referred to it as a certain Diamonia, I believe most people would call it their conscience.
In that moment of inspiration it was as if I instantly realized, the American Citizen in such an economic stalemate didn't stand much of a chance unless people who aren't afraid to "speak up" do eventually speak up.
RO: As far as you know, does this make you the first rapper (or former rapper) to run for Congress?
MD: When I think of the issues and tasks involved within this campaign and while I'm locked in the hours of research and contemplation in which my current position requires, I realize I have not had an opportunity to ponder this question.
I've never been a fan of "first-feats," if I may be allowed to use the term. I've seen too many people be the first to do something. The question still remains: "Even though they managed to be the first, were they the best?"
RO: Are you a former rapper?
MD: Let us first ask Will Smith, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Rev. Run, Lauryn Hill and Ice-T if they are former rappers. I believe they all are working on current music projects. I don't believe you can ever stop being a rapper if you were exceptional in doing so at one time.
The fault lies in defining your existence on this planet as that of being a rapper. For all the awesome accomplishments I was able to attain while I engaged in rapping around our city and nation, I never once struggled to provide that art.
RO: Are you planning to downplay your rap background in the campaign?
I will never hide from who I am or my life experiences and abilities. You don't earn critical acclaim and massive exposure for lackluster efforts. At present, I've earned over 3.1 million YouTube views for my creative offerings.
Anyone reading this should ask themselves, "Honestly, can my Congressperson, mayor, or governor manage over 3.1 million YouTube views from a video they created and most if not all the comments to be found remain positive?"
What I am saying is, we live in new times, with new ways, and new customs and with that comes new candidates. Though these candidates may not have the same look and feel as our political perception of olde, they may possess the exact qualities and characteristics that are needed to produce the political product we are so desperately in need of.