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Lawton, Okla. — A local rapper said he’s hurt but hopeful after residents spread rumors that his music video shoot would become a riot, causing businesses to close early and board up their windows.
As cities across the United States led rallies, marches and uprisings during the first week of outrage over police officers publicly lynching George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis, Texas rapper Christian Lane (C Lane) announced he was returning to his hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma to shoot a music video.
“I wrote the song after the George Floyd protests,” Lane said.
The rapper made an announcement on social media that he would be coming to Lawton to shoot a “Black Power” music video on Friday, June 5. Rumors that Lane planned to lead riots and looting spread so fast in the small town that large and small businesses from Red Lobster to Wal-Mart closed their doors early on the day of the video shoot, according to Channel 7 News.
“It hurt my feelings for a town I grew up in to show blatant signs of racism and judging me because of my past, when I was a juvenile,” Lane said. “But I was like, I got to do it.”
Hours before the video shoot near King of Kutz Barbershop, a community leader contacted Christian Lane. He offered to set up a meeting between Lane, the Chief of Police, and other leaders to clear up the confusion and erase the rumors.
Jacobi Crowley is a Black community organizer on several city boards who currently works for Cameron University. He said several people reached out to him the day of the music video shoot voicing concern about the planned music video.
“Actually, it was mostly Black people that reached out to me,” Crowley said.
Instead of feeding the rumors, Crowley went to the source, reaching out to Lane for understanding. Crowley said he understood why Lane was upset. While many White people readily believed the rumors, it was also Black Lawtonians spreading the false stereotype against their one of their own.
“I think that we as Black folks sometimes have that crabs in a bucket mentality,” Crowley said. He called the Mayor, Chief of Police and others, giving Lane the opportunity to express himself before the shoot.
Days earlier, Crowley had organized the largest rally for racial justice that Lawton had seen in half a century. Nearly 2,000 people in a town of barely 90,000 came out to show support for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter outside Lawton City Hall on Monday, June 1.
Lawtonians held a small sit-in over breastfeeding rights in the Mall in 2017. They also came together to March for Trayvon Martin in 2013. But June’s rally at City Hall was the largest gathering for justice in the city since hundreds marched on July 4, 1966 from OKC to Lawton to force Doe Doe Recreation Park, a private white-only water park, to let in Blacks.
“We can’t be at the table throwing out ideas if we’re not able to put those ideas into action,” Crowley said. For Christian Lane, that meant telling the Chief of Police why the music video was a necessary outlet.
“I told the Chief the poverty-stricken areas are tired of being targeted,” Lane said. “We demand change, and it’s gonna happen one way or the other.”
Lane said the biggest thing City officials, businesses and residents took out of context was the style of his event.
“They said it was gonna be a Malcolm X-style riot. But they never could tell me what that was because he never rioted once. All he did was educate, and he was militant-minded.”
Lane said people thought he wanted to March to City Hall and overthrow the government by force. “I meant educate our kids to be politicians. Overthrow the government from the inside,” Lane said. After the meeting, the Chief of Police agreed to support the music video shoot and block off traffic for Lane’s group.
Mariah Mcswain is a well-known rapper and videographer in Lawton. She had already made four music videos for Christian Lane before the “Black Power” video. She said the difference between this music videos and others was the type of police presence.
“Usually when they come to my shoot, they’re coming to shut it down or because someone called about it,” Mcswain said.
Mariah said she couldn’t believe how one rumor could spread and cause so much chaos. “I’m just happy to be able to give somebody the opportunity to bring their visual to life, and I’m happy he trusted me with it,” Mcswain said.
Moving forward, Christian Lane said he wants people to stop meeting violence from the state with peace. He wants people of all races to stand up against police brutality. “I feel like it’s us versus the Government, not White versus Black,” Lane said.
For Jacobi Crowley, standing up means establishing a Citizens Advisory Board for policing. Crowley said he formed a committee more than a year ago to draft a proposal for Lawton City Council to approve. After the rally on June 1, city officials called him and others in to ask what can be done. “I guess they thought we were going to come to the table and kind of start writing, but we handed them the document,” Crowley said.
He said his group is giving the city two weeks to go over the document and meet again. Then, they will bring the final proposal to Lawton City Council for a vote.
Crowley said the biggest lesson he’s learned about being a leader is to listen to people’s voices regardless of the manner in which they present themselves. “If someone doesn’t sound exactly how you want them to sound, they must be bad,” Crowley said. “As a leader, you have to understand that people have their voices, period.”
Many voices on social media expressed outrage over the city’s handling of the rumors. Some have called for the city to apologize to Christian Lane. But Lane said an apology this late would fall on deaf ears. “I’ve yet to receive a public apology for them assassinating my character,” Lane said. “So, I believe it was intentional.”
Still hopeful, Lane said he wants to see people come together more often. “Let’s help each other out, have each other’s back, and let’s stand together. That’s the definition of a great country,” Lane said.