"We have to remember history."-Talib Kweli
What he found, gave him hope: "I heard a consensus out there -- I heard that apathy is now complicity. That's how they feel," says the artist, who also goes by Tech. "They feel that those who are apathetic are now complicit because they helped facilitate this system into what it is."
Both New York City artists are known for their activism-laced lyrics and for speaking out about recent police-involved deaths of unarmed, young black men. They played in Madison for their People's Champion Tour, which they created in response to the Mike Brown and Eric Garner deaths at the hands of police, in Ferguson and Staten Island, respectively.
The artists performed lively sets, both discussing the Robinson incident onstage. Afterwards, they spoke to Isthmus about the issue, saying they share the same frustrations and anger felt by many in Madison about Robinson's death.
Kweli, who was on the frontlines of the Ferguson protests, urged activists here to keep pushing for change but to remain aware that major change doesn't happen overnight.
"We have to remember history. We have to remember that the Montgomery bus boycott [against segregation during the mid-1950s] lasted a year and a half," he says, adding that today's activists are far different than those of the past and are gaining momentum their own way.
"And this snowball effect is happening in communities that are not plugged into traditional charitable organizations or traditional civil rights leadership -- these are people who have never done this type of stuff," he says. "The kids in Ferguson and the kids in Madison who are taking the lead here are not the traditional activists -- they're just people in communities that are fed up and trying to find their voice."
Immortal Technique met up with the protesters Monday afternoon and was encouraged to see their energy. "I was really proud seeing all those kids. They showed a lot of heart," he says. "They really inspired me because they were fearless and strong and wanted their voices heard. And they weren't willing to be pacified."
And although immediate change is unlikely, Kweli says those seeking to change what they see as institutionalized racism and police militarization need to keep their heads up and note their progress, no matter how minimal.
"There are victories daily and losses daily and you have to acknowledge that as just the nature of life," he says. "But if we don't celebrate our victories, there's nothing to fight for."