Keith Jones interviewed Leroy Moore Jr. for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on July 20, 2016. In this clip, Leroy and Keith talk about their experiences being Black hip hop artists living with Cerebral Palsy. Keith and Leroy share about how they got involved in the New York hip hop scene in the late 1970s and how their love of hip hop plus the discrimination they face moved them to create Krip Hop Nation. Leroy and Keith also describe how they grew up and their experiences of police profiling.
[Hip Hop music – drum beat / riff with an overlaid voice says “now you.. now you listen and you listen good” ]
Leroy Moore Jr.: I grew up when hip hop was on the corners in New York. So I… I… I used to go to cyphers. People saw me going down to the Bronx with my walker. So the cypher is like a big circle and just like you know, a DJ on the side [sound effect of DJ scratching]. He’s scratchin stuff and, you know, but back then they took the electricity from, from the poles.
You know I come out with my walker, click, click, click [chuckles to himself]. You know I’m seeing these big brothers in the circle, like muscles and stuff, you know. And I was like, oh no, I’m not getting in there, you know, with my skinny legs and my walker. So I just, I just, stood out. And seeing people you know, saying hey hey Leroy, you gonna, you gonna, you gonna be our eyes for the popo this time? I was like, yeah yeah, yeah.
You know, back, back then, it was so diverse. You had women, you had people on crutches in the cypher and you know, back then it was more as street cultures.
Keith Jones: In the 80s and the 90s we put on step shows and parties but in college one of the teachers was like, I wanna be your manager. So he took our demo tape into New York and they were like, this is amazing! Yes, one of the guys has a disability… errrrrr. It was like once they found out that I had the Cerbral Palsy, they were like, oh this mother fucker too crippled to rap. I make beats with my feet, I rock, and then the beat drops.
[Hip Hop music – drum beat / riff with Keith’s voice rapping ]
Keith Jones: I mean yes I’ve been Black and crippled like a long time but I wasn’t like deep in the whole disability rights movement because I was, there was no, there was no face that looked like anything remotely I could attach a connection to. There was no Black anything. There’s like no Black leadership. All this history that we have in the disability rights movement is white disability rights movement history. When you talk about police profiling that should be a significant issue within the disability rights community. Nobody is talking about it.
Leroy Moore Jr.: So, you, you were profiled in Boston by the police.
Keith Jones: A friend of mine, one of my old college roommates had drove. He was, he was, he was, he was an exchange student from Sweden. He was driving around the country and he ended up in Boston and he called me. He was like ‘yo Keith, let’s meet and let’s have a couple drinks.’ And so we went to the bar right around the corner from my house. I say, ‘well where did you park?’ He says he parked in the Boston Commons and I said ‘ooo, that’s all bad.’ I said ‘maybe you need to go get the car.’ So he walks off and he comes back maybe fifteen minutes later beet red, flushed as… ‘oh my God! Keith, Keith, Keith!.’ I said ‘what happened?’ Somebody had thrown a brick through the back seat back window and stole his luggage.
So the back window is broken, so it’s me, him, and our other friend. Both of them were like they look straight outta Thor. You know what I mean. They had the blond hair the blue eyes, the whole Nordic mythology thing. And he says, ‘Keith, here. Imma put my wallet in the ash tray. Can you come up here and sit in the car while we go look for the luggage?’ That’s my man, ‘I got you dawg.’
So I’m sitting in the car and I see two white couples walking. And you can hear em. And then it goes silent because they made the eye contact with me. And then they see the back window broken out. And they hurry they asses passed the car. And I just got this feeling like it’s about to go down.
Thirty seconds later you hear boooooo [imitating police siren]. And you see… and and and they pull up in a paddy wagon Leroy! They tried to shoot me in Boston Commons sitting in the car for my friend. He said ‘put your hands up!’ Now as a person with Cerebral Palsy my hands are not going up above my head. So when you say to me put your hands up, oh. That… I remember…. I heard it… and he cocked his gun.
And I tell him, I’m like, this is, this is my friend’s car. They broke the back window, here is his wallet, he’s walking around Boston Commons because somebody stole his luggage. I’m not on drugs I have Cerebral Palsy. ‘Somebody said you were stealing a car!’ And this time Peter is coming out of the um.. Commons. He sees all this commotion cause at this time the paddy wagon showed up, he called for back up so there are like four cars around me now.
Peter comes out, I’ll never forget this, he walks out, he goes ‘oh my God!’ And he’s thinking something happened to me cause he left me in the car with the broken window. He’s like ‘oh my God, oh my God, Keith are you ok?’ Everybody puts their gun away and says ‘oh my God we thought he was having a medical emergency.’ Like legitimately. If I had twitched one way or the other it was a wrap. And they would a said he was trying to, he was stealing a car…
Leroy Moore Jr.: he was stealing a car, yeah…
Keith Jones: And he was resisting arrest…
Leroy Moore Jr.: resisting arrest…
Keith Jones: we told him to put his hands up
[musical interlude – instrumental hip hop beat]
Leroy Moore Jr.: I think hip hop um… especially now…just… you know, it tells a story. And it’s like poetry, it tells a story. And I was like, oh, this is an avenue where I can tell my story, my Black disabled story through hip hop.
[Hip Hop music – drum beat / riff with Leroy’s voice rapping ‘yeah I’m a Black man, knowin about racial profilin…]
(“Alter Ego” by Fezo aka Keith Jones and “Disabled Profiled” by Leroy Moore.) All songs included with permission from the artists. Sound effects under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License
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Disability Visibility Project™. (2017, February 24). DVP Interview: Keith Jones and Leroy Moore Jr. Retrieved from: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2017/02/24/leroy-moore-jr-and-keith-jones/
A photo featuring Leroy Moore Jr. and Keith Jones was taken on July 20, 2016: close up portrait of two men, standing together and slightly angled to the right, both facing the camera. The man on the left, Leroy, has close cropped hair, and a trim mustache, goatee combination that is slightly graying. Leroy identifies as Black and is wearing a dark brown button down with a black fleece vest over the top. Leroy smiles at the camera with his mouth slightly open. The man on the right, Keith, has his head and face cleanly shaven. Keith identifies as Black and is wearing oblong wire framed glasses and a black t-shirt. Keith stands facing the camera smiling.
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Yosmay del Mazo and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com