Brother Ali at Breakfast with Gary

I had a chance to attend Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff’s monthly Breakfast with Gary this morning where Brother Ali was a guest speaker. Normally, I don’t make it to 7:30 events, but for Brother Ali I made an exception.

It turns out that this was well worth it. Brother Ali shared a ton of stories about his life, including growing up in Michigan, then North Minneapolis and later South Minneapolis. As an albino hip hop artist who came from nothing, moved a lot, lived in some of the poorest and blackest parts of the city, growing up Christan and converting to Islam, he’s lived in the middle of nearly every major cultural conflict in the United States in the past two decades outside of Terri Schiavo.

Of the many awesome stories he shared – often peppered with rhymes that pop into his head, including the above Fruit Pebbles commercial from 1992 – was one about how a police brutality incident in North Minneapolis helped fund his first CD.

As Brother Ali tells it, a friend of his was pulled over at around 3am in North Minneapolis. He handed his license to the cop through a slightly rolled down window. The cop asked him to get out of the car, so he asked why. At that point, the cop smashed his window, dragged him out of the car, beat him, and later wrote him up for drunk driving. The driver was not a drinker or even use caffeine.

The driver ended up having his day in court due to pro-bono representation from a young lawyer by the name of Keith. Keith Ellison, to be precise. The city ended up settling out of court with Brother Ali’s friend, and Ellison managed to make additional sensitivity training for cops part of the settlement. Of the money Brother Ali’s friend received for getting hiss ass kicked, some of it ended up being used to help Brother Ali create his first cassette only release.

Now, Brother Ali is traveling the country, internationally, and making one heck of an awesome living doing something that he loves.

On top of all that, we had scrambled eggs and tamales for breakfast. Awesome.

Thanks to Brother Ali for speaking, Gary Schiff for hosting, and Gary’s awesome staff for pulling together such a great event.

Also, Hart Van Denburg from CityPages was sitting next to me and you can read his perspective here.