The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has issued an urgent alert to millions of supporters of hip-hop music and culture across the United States and throughout the world. "It is imperative that all persons of good will join us today in calling upon the President of the United States, George W. Bush, to take executive action to end the unjust 6-month federal incarceration of hip-hop icon, Slick Rick, and to take further action to stop the Immigration and Naturalization Service from executing Slick Rick's imminent deportation," the HSAN said in a statement.
"He served time for attempted murder," said a HSAN spokesperson, "He was released and then picked up unexpectedly by the INS, claiming he deported himself when he went to work a gig on a cruise ship and then entered the country illegally. He's been fighting this INS thing for years, in and out of jail after he already served his debt to society."
The HSAN is working closely with Congressman John Conyers, dean of the
Congressional Black Caucus and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary
Committee, to call for a fair court hearing on this case."
Slick Rick, formerly named Rick Walters, is known as one of the greatest storytellers
in hip-hop. A United States resident since 1976 and a graduate of New York City's
High School of Music and Art, Rick has had a successful career since his debut 1988
album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. He has been a tireless contributor to and
performer for numerous charities for disadvantaged youth.
"We in the hip-hop community stand in resolute solidarity today with Slick Rick and
his family," commented Russell Simmons, chairman of the HSAN. "We want the
Federal government to bring justice to this case by releasing Slick Rick."
"President Bush should not permit this gross violation of human rights to
continue," added HSAN president, Dr. Benjamin Chavis. "We call upon the President
to act immediately to bring a just resolution and to stop this unfair deportation."
Mandy Aragones, wife of Slick Rick, added, "My husband is being mistreated by the
U.S. government. I personally feel that we have been abused as a result of six months
of unfair imprisonment. And now, the INS is taking imminent steps to deport my
husband without the benefit of a court hearing."
Bill Adler, longtime family friend and associate of Slick Rick, states, "I have known
and worked with Slick Rick for many years. There is no justification for deporting a
person who has made such positive contributions to our society."
Concerned supporters can call the White House directly at 202-456-1111.
Rapper Slick Rick Hoping to Rebuild Life
For six months, Ricky "Slick Rick" Walters has been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, but now the worst is imminent.
At any moment, the 1980s rapper known for crafting humorous rhymes on classic tracks like "Mona Lisa" and "The Show" could be deported to England, where he was born 37 years ago, his ability to legally travel to the United States again seriously jeopardized.
From a cell in Manatee County Jail, 1,200 miles away from his home in the Bronx, New York, Walters has watched his appeals be rejected. He now waits for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to carry out the order to send him to a country where he hasn't lived since he was 11. And he wonders what it will all mean for his career and family.
"My whole life has been uprooted. One minute you're in America, you got your ties … the next minute you're being deported," Walters said. "It's ripping (my) whole family apart. It's nerve-racking."
Walters is facing deportation because of an attempted murder conviction 11 years ago.
In 1990, a year after his solo debut album, "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick," went platinum, Walters shot his cousin, the cousin's then-pregnant girlfriend and a bystander, during a dispute. He pleaded guilty and spent five years in a New York prison.
In the years that followed, Walters returned to the Bronx, where he owns property, to focus on raising his son and daughter, now both 11, and getting his career back on track.
But in June, three months after he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame along with his original partner, Doug E. Fresh, a U.S. law requiring the INS to deport foreigners convicted of "aggravated felonies," such as murder, rape and some lesser offenses, caught up with Walters.
Citing a 1997 Board of Immigration Appeals order to deport him, INS agents arrested Walters as he came into port after performing on a Caribbean cruise. He's been in the Bradenton jail, 32 miles south of Tampa, ever since.
"It's like being re-punished," Walters said. "I was in the process of working on another album. I'd been on the street for seven years, no problems."
Walters has taken to calling New York radio stations to speak about his situation. Russell Simmons, who owns Walters' label, Def Jam Records, has lobbied members of Congress for support and collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for the rapper to be allowed to return to New York while he fights deportation.
But it doesn't look good.
"Looks like a 95 percent chance that I'm being deported," Walters said. "So I have to be a realist. I have to prepare myself for the worst right now."
Walters' wife, Mandy, a New York native, says she's been preparing for a new life in London, where the couple plans to live if Walters is deported. His children from a previous relationship live with their mother.
Walters says he has spent much of his time in jail reflecting on what put him in this position in the first place.
"I would tell my fans to learn from my mistake and never take the law in your own hand," he said. "It's an old case, (but) it still comes back to haunt you."
His ability to preform in the United States in the future could also be hurt if he is deported. Aliens removed or convicted of an aggravated felony are not allowed to re-enter the United States unless they obtain permission from the U.S. Attorney General, said INS spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez.
Still, Walters says he's eyeing a comeback. Def Jam has an office in London.
"Luckily for me they speak English and it's not like a Third World country," he said.
He has been writing rhymes for the follow-up to 1999's hit "The Art of Storytelling." While one might expect the new material to be dark, reflecting his imprisonment and separation from his wife and children, Walters says, the tone will be upbeat as always.
"What can you do? You gotta put a smile on it," he says, adding that while he had decided to title the record "Ferocious," he has changed mind in recent weeks.
"I'm leaning more to 'The Adventure Continues.'"