Oakland artist Boots Riley made a name for himself in the early ’90s with his group The Coup, singing about revolutionary politics, before taking an active role in the Occupy Oakland movement in recent years. Now, Riley ventures into new territory: a collaborative stage performance featuring musicians, dancers, actors and puppets called “The Coup’s Shadowbox,” inspired by a surrealist production he saw as a child. Riley talks about his latest production and taking his activism beyond music.

Boots Riley, lead vocalist for The Coup and local activist

  • Sam Badger

    I would just like to add to the conversation – the music video to the The Guillotine is done with great creativity and is far superior to the flashy music videos we’ve become accustomed to.

  • Sue

    I was sometimes dismayed by how Occupy hurt small struggling businesses in Oakland. I always hoped there would be an Occupy Rodeo Drive

  • Sue

    That is…Occupy Rodeo Drive as the heart of exhibitionist wealth

  • Sam Badger

    On the political side, I am curious as to how Boots thinks we can spread radicalism from Oakland and the fringes of SF to the rest of the bay, and from the workers who know they are workers (the majority of us) to the workers who don’t (the tech industry guys). There is a serious state of alienation between the different layers of worker in the bay area, and I don’t think a broader left struggle can happen until this has been solved.

  • Jim Vetter

    Boots, thanks for continuing to raise our consciousness all these years.
    I first became aware of your work when you visited our class US History
    from an African American perspective with Professor Harris at San Jose State University in
    the late 90’s. Much respect! Wish I could make the Shadowbox event, I know it will be powerful! Jim (Sacramento)

  • Whamadoodle

    I like this guy. He sounds as if he’s done all his reading. I agree with him on almost everything (including the idea that workers should be able to decide democratically how the fruits of their labor should be shared). However, on radicalism, note this:

    – In 1918, German communists rejected the majority Social Democrats’ formation of a government, and opted to lead a revolution; however, with revolutionary violence comes answering violence. So Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were killed.
    – In 1933, though they had a nominal three MILLION paramilitaries supporting their party (just as several other political parties in Germany had paramilitaries), the Social Democrats wanted to respect law and order, so they never ordered them to mobilize. And so THEIR leaders were killed.

    Thus, both their Martin Luther Kings and their Malcolm Xs would be killed. How do you solve that paradox, when both the violent and the non-violent can point to the same result, and say “you see? You should subscribe to our point of view”?

    I think Dr. King and Gandhi were right: change should be made only non-violently. I get the point about smashed windows, but… don’t smash windows anyway 🙂

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor