Cornbreadd - make that Maurice Duhon Jr. - is, to use a term of the trade, good copy.
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.
RO: How are you going to explain to more conservative voters that you used to be in a band called Tha Fucking Transmissions?
I will explain to them that I believe religious institutions in our country have the right to practice their policy and procedures in dealing with birth control and STD prevention according to their religious beliefs, as long as those practices do not harm or hurt our fellow American citizens. I will also tell them that I have a nice set of sweater-vests - five in all, I believe.
RO: Realistically, do you think you can win? Why? MD: YES, with the help of others who believe we need a new voice for our 18th District and our U.S. Congress, we can win. With the help of those who feel disenfranchised and those who feel ignored, we can win. With the cooperation of my fellow Americans who believe we the people hold the solutions to what ails our country, we can win.
Without others, without the dreamers and facilitators, without contributions and volunteers, without vision and support this campaign will only wither away. Without the people and their support I cannot win, because it would be impossible to win while alone and on my own, similar to where the American voter is positioned today.
RO: If elected, what would your top three priorities in Congress be?
- Rescind or remove a percentage of my Congressional salary to be utilized to fund reasonable, rational, and sustainable projects that will promote beautification and commerce in the blighted areas of the 18th District and if this is not possible I would ask that the money be used to pay down on the national debt. I would then, in setting that example, look to my fellow Representatives to do the same.
- Introduce legislation or co-sponsor a bill that would bring forth a conversation supporting our need for Congressional and Senatorial term limits.
- Create legislation or co-sponsor a bill that would give tax-breaks to cities that chose to re-invest in the rehabilitation and refurbishing of our nation's infrastructure. This could remedy the massive water-main issues no one seems to want to discuss or the 17th-century-like streets that can be found throughout our lovely city. Basically, specific tax breaks for the purchaser and vendor of materials used for civic repair.
RO: Do you have any further political ambitions besides the House?
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This isn't my first Rodeo, Mr. Gray. But, like most cowboys, I can only ride one bull at a time.