Tuesday, July 29, 2008

List Serve


I need your help. I started putting together a list of the artists,
musicians, photographers,
filmmakers, actors, who share our
vision for the "non profit".

The working rule that I used is that these are artists who, take
risks, can use our support and share our vision of
diverse representations of African
Americans in entertainment.
(If you can help me clean that sentence up a bit, please do. It
seems a bit clunky).

Men (music)

De La Soul
Lupe Fiasco
Little Brother
Mos Def

Jay Electronica
Jazzy Jeff
The Roots
Talib Kweli

Women (Music)
Black Lily Foundation
Chrisette Michelle
Erykah Badu
Jill Scott
Santo Gold

J Davey

Carrie Mae Weems
Gordon Parks

Gina Prince-Bythewood- Love and Basketball
Christopher Scott Cherot- Have Plenty
Saana Hamri- Something New
Leslie Harris- Just Another Girl on the IRT
Spike Lee- Do the Right Thing
Kasi Lemons - Eves Bayou
Sterling Macer Junior- Park Day
Vanessa Middleton- 30 Years to Life
Cauleen Smith- Drylongso

The Brooklyn Young Mothers Collective
The Center for Young Womens Development
Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice
The Door
Prop 36.org
Rap Coalition
Sustainable South Bronx
Sisters in Cinema

Policies that Affect Black Families Disproportionaly
(Working List of Policies that we will lobby against)
Gun Free Schools Act of 1994
The Rockefeller Drug Act
3 Strikes
Mandatory Minimums (Crack Sentencing)

Please add on in the comments, along with their respective category.

Another question. I am thinking of building into the website, a location
where moms/dads can share solutions they have found, related to parenting
(dealing with the court, dealing with child's teachers, learning disabilities,
discipline, budgenting, dealing with the police).
If you are a parent and a reader, what would encourage/discourage
you from using such a forum?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Response to CNN's " Black in America"


They need to call it Trife in America.

There is nothing that I couldn't have learned from watching that show
that I wouldn't have picked up from living with Black people, talking to
my homies,
and reading internet message boards.

That show should be called, Black Pathology: A Presentation
for White Folks.


All of us know a Single Black dad raising his kids and facing
housing issues, someone who is being evicted, a "successful"
Black woman who has decided to date white dudes, and a middle
class Black couple that has been married 20 years.


This, IS NEWS?

Why should we be excited about the hardships of the black
family being presented
on CNN?

I think its because we expect someone else to save us. For reals homie.

C. Dubb and I go back and forth at least three times a day
trying to hammer
out what the mission and vision for this non
profit will be and each day we get closer.

Do you KNOW how much more difficult it is to talk about a
SOLUTION than to
go on and on about the problems.

Let me ask you again.

Do you KNOW how much more difficult it is to talk about a
SOLUTION than to
go on and on about the problems.

The bugged out thing about the entire show is that I knew
every "talking head" they

The academics, the Hollywood writers, the magazine editors.

How much more effective would the series had been if it were focused on
on who makes money off of our poverty
and how the every day person can
contribute to changing the situation.

Would they ever make a White in America show?

Why not?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Gossip Girl to Ghetto Girl: What Messages Are We Sending?


From Ghetto Girls to Gossip Girls, just what are our girls reading?

I had been thinking about Gossip Girl, as recently read an article
in the New York Times which featured a dissertation by Dr. Naomi
Johnson. In her study she analyzed the brands being mentioned in the
pages of the three titles, Gossip Girl, The Clique and A-List and
came to the conclusion consumption is the new femininity for
the girls in these books.
Michael Winerip reports,

She examined three series, with combined sales of 13.5 million — “Clique,” “Gossip Girl” and “A-List” — and found, on average, there was more than one brand mentioned per page, 1,553 brand mentions in 1,431 pages of the six books she had read.

Massie, the lead “Clique” character, doesn’t wear miniskirts and sandals. She wears Moschino minis, Jimmy Choo sandals, and Chanel No. 19 on her thin wrists, rides in a Range Rover, drinks Glaceau Vitamin Water and totes her books in a Louis Vuitton backpack.

Dr. Johnson concluded that romancing boys was no longer the primary objective of this new generation of romance novels, as it had been in the good old days of the 184-book series “Sweet Valley High.”

In the new romances, she wrote, “brands are more important than romantic relationships to female protagonists’ popularity.”

Two weeks ago, Ruth LaFerla wrote about the impact that the show, Gossip
Girl, is having on the fashion industry. She writes,

Now the show’s sense of style is having a broader impact, in the retail marketplace. Merchants, designers and trend consultants say that “Gossip Girl,” which is in summer reruns on the CW network before returning Sept. 1, just in time for back-to-school shopping, is one of the biggest influences on how young women spend.

Fans stride into boutiques bearing magazine tear sheets that feature members of the cast and ask for their exact outfits. Or they order scoop-neck tops and hobo bags by following e-commerce links from the show’s Web site.

“The show has had a profound influence on retail,” said Stephanie Solomon, the fashion director for Bloomingdale’s, adding that it appeals not just to teenagers but also to women in their 20s, the daughters and the younger sisters of the generation that made “Sex and the City” requisite viewing for aspiring glamoristas.

I was immediately reminded of this article when I came across the
Street Lit Review last Sunday. While the Gossip Girl genre is targeted
towards middle class white girls, the Ghetto Girl genre is targeted
towards low income Black and Latina girls.

If I were fifteen, I would be reading Ghetto Girl Lit and Gossip Girl as well.
However, it wouldn't have ended with that. I would be consuming
some Walter Dean Myers, some Ntozake Shange and some Rosa Guy
as well.

The issue isn't that the girls are receiving the messages about sex.
As a teenager, you are always seeking out what you parents say
you should have. Its natural. In middle school we really thought
we were doing something reading Go Ask Alice and A Hero Ain't Nothing
But a Sandwich. However, our reading habits were diverse.

The covers of the Ghetto Girls books are a bit racy, as the desire is to
catch the young girls attention. What I found in Street Lit Magazine was
that the covers of the Grown Girl Lit , Ghetto Girls big sister, looked
awfully similar to covers of
prison skin rags, KING, SMOOTH etc. It is
as if the line between stripper chic, rap videos and adult fiction is being

If the Gossip Girl genre is about consumption and sex and the Ghetto Girls genre
is about drug dealers, sex and fast money and faster cars, what exactly
do we expect our girls to become when we are sending them these
messages through entertainment?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Road Less Traveled


Guilt and shame are two of the primary tools that we use to control
each other. Think of the last time you had a conflict with another person.
How much of the conflict arose from the fact that they were trying to either
assert control over you, guilt you into doing something or shame you because
of who you were?

I read a book in April, The Road Less Traveled, and it made it crystal
clear the way guilt, shame and control factor into our day to day lives.

Apparently, last April was when I was suppose to read it because within
6 days of each other I lost my job and my roommate read me the riot act,
so I decided that it was time to move. The job situation, I anticipated and
already had begun to make moves to transition to another gig. The roommate
situation caught me off guard, and came across as a clear desire to assert
control over me, when it appeared that was I vulnerable and without
options. Clearly, that was a bad move on her end.

In the midst of all these life changes I was reading "The Road Less Traveled".

The book is incredible for three reasons. First it sets forth the nature of control
and how human beings would rather control others than control themselves.

Second, it sets forth a definition of love as "the willingnesses to extend yourself
for the spiritual growth of another".

Thirdly, it talks about what it means to love each other and to love children.

I am always fascinated when I hear people talk about how they arn't going
to spoil their kids. It is easier said then done. When you are tired,
and they are whining or crying and giving them that new bratz doll or video
game will bring you a moment of peace, it is easy to see how we get on the road to
spoiledville. Dr. Peck addresses the issue of love and discipline when he

Love is not simply giving, it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising, judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting. It is leadership. The word judicious means requiring judgment, and judgment requires more than instinct. It requires thoughtful and often painful decisionmaking.
Once we recognize that life is a series of problems to be solved then we
are in the position to make things happen. Dr. Peck addresses this issue
when he writes,
Life is difficult....Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan...Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan or do we want to solve them. Do we want to teach our children to solve them?

...Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems. It will be come clear that these tools are techniques of suffering, means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow.
Discipline and self examination go hand in hand. One of the reasons
why I have the courage to criticize hip hop, is because
I have found the courage to criticize myself. It isn't easy. No one wants
to have their personal contradictions staring them in the face. It makes you
feel like an idiot. However, I know that life for me, is always, changing
and moving, and I rarely have the same problem twice. Dr. Peck talks about the
importance of self examination when he writes,
Examination of the world without is never as personally painful as the world within and it is certainly because the pain involved in a life of genuine self examination that the majority steer away from it. Yet when one is dedicated to the truth this pain seems relatively unimportant- and less and less important (and therefore less painful) the farther one proceeds down the path of self examination.
I often write about hip hop and the problem with our passive acceptance of the
messages we get from Hip Hop and the media at large. I was reminded
of this in Dr. Peck's chapter on love. In the following paragraph, he discuses
the way that passive dependence can impact a persons life. He writes,
Passive dependent people lack self discipline. They are unwilling or
unable to delay gratification of their hunger for attention. In their
desperation to form and preserve attachments they throw honesty
to the winds. They cling to outworn relationships when they should
give them up. Most important, they lack a sense of responsibility for
themselves.They passively look to others, frequently to their own
children, as the source of their happiness and fulfillment, and therefore
when they are not happy or fulfilled they basically feel that others are
I started this post off talking about guilt and shame. Last night, I was reminded
of both guilt and shame and of how children are socialized to treat each other.
We say that "kids are mean", but in reality they aren't. They are taught at a young
age that to make yourself feel better you have to pounce verbally or physically
on someone else.

I watch people. I watch the little things that they do that indicate a desire
to control the situation they are in. The desire to control others runs deep.
Birkhold said something amazing to me yesterday about control that
I haven't quite been able to shake. He said that one of the
reasons that I feel the way that I do is because I am more vulnerable than
I am in control and that this is a sign of being a healthy human being.
I, of course don't like it. I feel like I am standing at the edge of a cliff, looking
over it.

However, I know that being around people who like to control me and others
feels like a hazing ritual so it is affirming to know that while it is uncomfortable
at the moment, that the discipline and the ability to sit with the suffering is
being cultivated.

When was the last time someone tried to assert control over you?

How did you handle it?

Do you see yourself as a "control freak"?
If yes, how do you
reconcile your desire to control others with the avoidance
wanted to control yourself?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Knew I Would Never Be the Same


I knew that I would never be the same when, while researching
the Beyond the Down
Low post, I read a passage in Keith Boykin's
book where he describes affirming the rage
or questioning the rage.

I am rage sensitive. It comes from watching the world around me,
as a child, be eaten alive by addiction. In many ways rage operates
like a stray bullets, taking out whatever is in its path.

In the book, Boykin was discussing how he was speaking at an event on
AIDS, and the women stood up and said "Sure they would have you here,
you are one of them", one of them meaning that he is a gay man.
Apparently the womans husband, cheated on her and left her for a man.

It was at that moment where Boykin pointed out that she wanted
him, to affirm her rage, but instead he questioned it by telling her that she
has a right to be angry but a conference about Black people and HIV
isn't automatically about Black men who are in the closet and
to presume that it is the same is apart of the problem that leads them
to being closet in the first place.

When you read the paper, or watch the news, think about whether the story
you are reading is raising questions or affirming passively held values,
be they healthy, racist, sexist or pathological.

I think about affirming the rage or questioning the rage when I go back and
forth with C.Dubb about what this non profit is going to look like.

I think about it when I say to myself, that there are so MANY people getting
money off of poverty that anything we do MUST be committed to being about
solutions. No more talk about the problem. ((Problem))((Solution)).

I think about affirming the rage or questioning the rage when I read Michael Eric
Dyson talking a whole bunch of yak about Tupac, as if Pac was the second
coming. Pac was an artist. He had potential. Sadly he did not live up to it.

Sometimes Dyson man reads like he is Pac's publicist.

I listen to Pac. I listen to rap. But, what is bugged out to me is Dyson's
unwillingness to question Pac or Hip Hop at all.

However, if Dyson questioned Pac he may begin to question other things,
and who know's where that may lead.

Its almost like we need a conference where we criticize each other, then decide to
take action on the issues that arise.

But that would mean taking time from Fox News appearances, conferences,
the Black Literature circuit and actually figure out sustainable ways to address the
sh-t "we" talk about on Fox News, at conferences and on the Black
Literature circuit.

I thought of how the rage was affirmed when I picked up Street Lit Review.
In many ways it is a magazine with great potential. But most of its
reviews are thinly disguised pressed releases. But for one article
on the challenges of ghost writing, I learned nothing new about street
lit that I couldn't have easily picked up by browsing a book table at
Fulton Mall.

What really got me was the pages in the magazines displaying the covers
of the books. Many of them looked like stills from an R. Kelly or Young Joc

All I could think was, "Is this what we think of each other?"

Often times, I evaluate Black art by asking myself, if II came from
another country and knew zero about African Americans, what
would this piece of music, book, tv show, tell about
me about Black folks?

This is NOT to say that every piece has to be on some Fight the Power.

Because that is nonsense.

However, it must be noted
how much both street lit and how much
of Snoop, 50 and Weezy says about us, as a people to each other and to
the world.

I thought of affirming the rage or questioning the rage when I was
reading Black Issues Book review and Melody Guy, senior editor at
One World Ballentine said, in defense of street
lit, "You can't force them to read James Baldwin. There is a reason
why people are choosing these stories and maybe we should
look at what is causing this hunger".

I know what causes the hunger, the same thing that sustained my appetite
for Mobb Deep, sustains and feeds desire for these stories
which ultimately play the role in feeding the dysfunction within us.

The Baldwin statement interesting for two reasons.
First, since the 4th, I have been reading
Baldwin to get a handle on how to write about my family
in an accessible an effective way.

Two, Baldwin always questioned the rage.

In many ways, the folks who want more diversity in Hip Hop,
are like the folks who want more diversity in Black book titles.

I wonder what will happen when we decide enough is enough
and that we will support both the musicians, writers and fine artists
who create images that aren't hella corny like a back to school special,
see the above Ice Cube movie, yet aren't so pathological they make
me want consider homicide because the ________ is enough.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Million Minority Movement: Survey Results


Thank you to all who completed the survey,
I have seventeen responses so far and would really
like twenty.

Here is a short summary:

41% of you volunteer in your community
58% of you don't

Some of the things that we can do in hip hop to change the music is:

  • community outreach with increased focus on sex education and gender studies. Get non misogynistic black males out in the streets to catch these kids early, educate them about sexism and violence as key components in the dissolution of the greater black community.
  • Encourage a movement that includes youth speaking for youth.
  • 1. Support and get press for artists creating counter-violent, counter-sexist music. 2. Educate youth on the original core values of hip hop, and teach them how to advocate in their communities. 3. Create a social network where people can share information on counter-violent, counter-sexist artists and
You all were clear about donating money to social justice initiatives.
88% yes
11% no.
  • We would need to be very sure of who we were donating to AND we would need to tell them exactly why we were donating and what needs to be done in the next session for us to KEEP donating
  • But... it depends on the type of support it is providing.It would have to be something pretty radical. In my lifetime, I've seen "support" for low income families used to keep them low income.
  • it's gonna take grassroots efforts. i was watching this video about generational research....there's usually 4 generations alive at any given time...a builder generation that says we can do anything, the next generation that says, 'we can do anything better than our parents did', the next that says 'we don't want to do anything our parents did', and the next that, in rebellion to all that, want to do new things and make a real difference. that is the generation that is up and coming now. it's a really ripe time for grassroots efforts like you're talking about.
You all were far more skeptical about obtaining shares in record companies,
or rather the parent corporations that own the labels.
58% yes
41% no
  • Unsure... Not sure if buying a small amount of stock would make a big enough difference. You'd need to purchase a LARGE amount for them to even take you seriously.
  • I'd like to have a voice.
  • the record company would just buy 2 Bentleys and tell you to fuck off on the album
  • As a professional equity trader, I think it would be incredibly difficult to gain a seat on the board to influence which records are released. Good luck anyway. To the equity trader who said good luck with buying shares
I have question for the equity trader, what are some of the foreseeable
obstacles that we may face? I wasn't as much focused on obtaining
a seat on the board, as I am interested in having a voice during the proxy vote.
Please contact me at m.dotwrites@gmail.com.
I would encourage you to check out the work of ICCR, which is an
organization that lobby's corporations on the behalf of institutional shareholders (church's, non profits, state pensions) to make socially responsible
investment decisions.

I didn't envision us working alone. I envisioned using pooling our shares
with others who shared a concern about violence and sexism in the industry.

In short, I have one more survey. It is only two questions. I need to know
which specific social justice and hip hop initiatives you would support with your

The way that I craft my strategy is by starting with the goals first.

I look forward to your responses.

Click Here to take survey

***Thank you to C DUBB for graciously pointing out that I had the content
posted twice.

Pregnant and Feeling Like Erykah Badu


While reading the comments on various sites about Erykah's pregnancy,
I couldn't help but think of a property, double standards and marriage.
I thought of property because, it appears to me, that when Black women,
do things with their bodies, publicly, that involve the issue of sex or sexuality,
one would think that
they were public property based on the responses.

Historically wives were considered the property of their husbands.
In fact, historically marriage functioned property consolidation tool,

Marriage dates back several thousand years, emerging as a civil arrangement at the same time as the emergence of private property....anthropologists theorize that most primitive marriages were polygamous. Marriages were entered into in order to expand the land or material goods base of a clan, either through the receipt of a dowry or the merger of two clans' assets. Religious guidelines ......were first used as a means of preventing different religious groups from losing wealthy followers by restricting them from marrying into other religions.
In more modern times, authorities historically turned a blind eye to women being assaulted by their husbands because the notion was the the wife belonged to the husband so he had the implicit right to hit her.

I make the above comments for the specific purposes of providing
some background on the institution of marriage as opposed to just
talking about it with blind uncritical acceptance.

If you think that I am overstating the issue, where is the wrath of criticism
for the number of out of wedlock children that Eddie Murphy, Mos Def, Diddy,
Lil Wayne, has?

Based on some of the comments its almost as if Erykah doesn't have a right
to do, as she wishes with her body, yet there is a passive uncritical acceptance
of what men do.
To: Ms. Erykah Badu. From: Smooth Thug. Ms. Badu, Upon the completion of the reading of your statements and comments, I was very amazed, rather astounded, and most amused. I, therefore, find it highly necessary to inform you that I can not, and will not, go along with you in your assessment of the present state of affairs in your life. You stated that when it came to having your first two children you had “2 wonderful partners by my side.” 1) Those were not “partners”, sweetheart. Those were sperm donors....

...It’s 2008 if you end up pregnant its your fault..you are a GROWN A Woman and book smarts and common sense need to meet at some point. Baby number two. baby number three and still not in a commited relationship.One thing I found in myself and notice in other women is…we are the problem. No standards and no boundary lines for what we allow and tollorate going into a relationship. We do not demand a man that is going to commit and be respectful of the faith. We are just glad to have the company and something close to a title so we forgive and forget. My SISTA’S ITS TIME TO GO HIGHER! Higher in choices, higher in judgement. higher in selection. higher in relation... - Lovher Just because you are married to your children’s father, you can still be a single mother. There are men who are right in the household who won’t help their children get dressed for school,much less home school them. I feel more sorry for those women. At least she is not a depressed mother, who feels unloved by a husband. I would’nt care if I were never proposed to, marrige is not what is used to be. I will get married when I am old and need someone to take me to the doctor and to the grocery store. lol For now, I am happy going through life with me and my daughter. - mo'star

The comments were mixed. I couldn't help but wonder if the about the self righteous
commenter's who care so much about holding her accountable for who she
procreates with, and where is the willingness to hold Mos Def, Diddy, Lil Wayne etc for either the messages in their music and for their out of wedlock children as well?

Perhaps, in their minds, its okay because they are men, or perhaps in their minds
if they criticized them, they would have to criticize R.Kelly, and if they criticized R.
Kelly they would have to stop listening to his music and you know no one wants
to do that.

Our ancestors came to this country as property, so it makes sense that,
until this issue is dealt with, both amongst us and in society at large,
that we will be seen as property.
Everyday when we walk down the street, when we are propositioned by men who honk, wait, or honk and slow down, as if we are going
to turn around and walk over to their cars and given them our numbers,

we are treated like property,
not human beings.


Erykah's situation is particularly personal for me because I recently let down
down my guard with the man that I am seeing and broached the "topic" of the
future. In the aftermath of the conversation I learned that there may or may not be the future that I envision.

Subsequently, I had to come to terms with the fact I may have to have my
child alone. With a support network nonetheless, but not within the system that society
has deemed to be the preferred nuclear structure that a child should be raised
in. I would imagine that that this is where being on the margins come in handy.

So many other women, Black and/or otherwise have done so in this world.
While this will entail a plan and a strategy, it is, on its face, no different than
the plan and the strategy that will take place should I choose to procreate,
shack up with and or marry the father of my child.

All of these scenarios involve choice because all humans have agency,
which is a will to act.

I recently experienced another incident that reminded me of how women
are treated like property. Last week I ran into someone that I met before left
New York last year. The key to the story is that right after I met him,
my phone was stolen, so I didn't have a way to contact him.
Unbeknownst to me, he thought I met him and just never called again.

Part of the "you didn't call me" anger apparently stemmed from the
fact that right after meeting him, I met his two young sons, so it came
across as a double diss. I was, however, under the guise that it was a
professional relationship as I wanted advice from him about the
investment banking world.

In the midst of our conversation we were talking about our
pasts and broken engagements come up. He clearly had anger towards
his ex- fiancee and so I said, "Well, she couldn't have been that bad,
she moved in with you and you proposed to her. There was something
about her that you liked".

He responded, "I didn't like her, I just liked to f-ck her".

I was floored, but stayed with my poker face, because I knew that
in that statement, there was a smidgen of rage being directed at me.
I also knew that his rage was his business and it had nothing to
do with me.

At that time, he worked 90 hours a week and went on to say, "At work, you have
no time to develop social skills, conversational skills or interpersonal
skills. When I got home, I had someone to f-ck. When I woke up in the morning
my shirt was pressed and my tie was laid out. I also had peer pressure
from co-workers and family to get married."

It was incredible for him to say this because I have certainly heard this
alluded to, and we get the message from media and our families what
a woman's role should be, but I never heard to spoken so honestly
from the heart.

When I saw the responses to Erkyah, all I could think was when we choose,
as women, what do with ourselves, and it involves sexuality and not
being on another person dime or watch, be prepared for the ridicule.

Erykah's pregnancy, and the subsequent commentary speaks to
our lack of understanding of the history of marriage, our hypocrisy in attitudes
towards women who have children out of wedlock versus men, and our
unwillingness to see the way Black women have historically been treated like
property and lastly, how our attitudes today reflect a continued willingness to
see us a property.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Game Changer: The Model Minority Movement


Last week, after going back and forth with Sportaphile about whether Hip Hop
or Parents raised the kids I asked him:

If I started a website, voter registration, polling, policy advocacy etc, what would be a meaningful way to allow people to facilitate working for social change, in their respective cities, while communicating suggestions challenges and outcomes via the site?
While he didn't respond, another reader, C.Dubb did on some, you
have good banter on your site, but whats next? She said she was interested in
what I mentioned about a site and wanted to work on it.

I was stuck because she forced me to act and think.

For the last three days we have been going back and forth over what such an organization/website would like.

I mentiond the idea to my homie Minnesota, and he said that he knows 1000
people that would donate $25 each to an organization that
distributed fellowships to support to artist who make the kind music that
we liked. Jean Grae, The Black Lily Ladies, The Next Talib, The Next Tribe, etc.

We have a loose outline of what the site/organization can do.

So far we are envisioning a website with a moveon.org for the hood component.
My interaction with Sportaphile confirmed that it has to be a two pronged
effort. One on the hip hop front, another on the home front.

I am reaching out to you all, as based on the comments we care.

Now I am taking a step out on faith and putting the words into action.

However I would like feedback from you, as what you think will shape
what the site looks like and functions.

If there are any programmers or people who have run web communities
please get at me at m.dotwrites@gmail.com. I will need your help.

Here is the survey. I keep my surveys short and to the
point because I respect your time and I value the information.

Thursday Lainks


  • Ta-Nehisi is killing them. Stats on Black babies born out of wedlock? He has them. Jesse is messing with Obama? He is on that too.
  • Birkhold is a thorn in our sides with How Hip Hop Became a Corporate Commodity. Want proof? Read this.
  • You ever read someone's blog and want to be their offline friend after reading a few posts? I felt this way while reading WNG's blog. Passion. Brevity. Thoughtfulness. Its all there.
  • Nas. "To me creatively challenging myself is my version of owning The Nets".

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Try and F*ck a Black Girl


Last night I walked out of the movie "The Wackness".

This was a disappointment for three reasons.

First of all it was a date.

Secondly, we planned on watching it for the last two weeks.

Thirdly, I had moderate hopes for the movie, as circa 1994 hip hop
a prominent role in the film.

The gist of the story is that the main character, Luke, is a
18 year old virgin who is spending the summer before college
selling weed, listening to Biggie, navigating his parents dysfunction
and trying to have sex for the first time.

A modern coming of age story.

The movie also reminded me of Brandon Soderberg's analysis of
Judd Apatow's usage of hip hop in his films. Soderberg's theory is that
Apatow uses hip hop to illustrate the more dysfunctional and or pathological
aspects of his characters. Soderberg writes,

Apatow's producer/director/writer filmography contains a weird trend of using hip-hop as either a quick throwaway joke or as a way to reduce a character or scene to absurdity. Recall the intro to 'Knocked-Up' which uses Ol' Dirty Bastard's classic 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya' (Armond White: "white boys clowning to Old Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”) with emphasis on Dirty's "Ooh baby I like it raw" hook to make it really obvious and funny what this movie's already going to be about. Think of the constant hip-hop slang used by everyone but Steve Carrell's character in 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin' and how it's essentially used to represent just how vulgar and crass everyone's become and how stupid white people are for adopting any part of this culture.

Back to walking out.

I walked out of the movie when Ben Kingsly's character, Dr. Squires,
is giving Luke advice on life, love and sex in college and beyond
and suggests to him, hopefully, "Try and Fuck a Black Girl".

The take away from that is that we are easy. We are exotic. If you are
having a hard time try the Black girls. We are willing.

I am not lying y'all, he said it. I said "The F*ck is this?" I told my date,
"Uh, I'm leaving".

The issue for me wasn't just that Dr. Squires said it, it was the fact that people,
many of whom were white women, laughed.

It wasn't funny.

I wondered if they would have laughed if the character said
"Try and fuck a Jewish girl?"

I also wondered if writer, director Jonathan Levine, thought twice
about keeping that line.

Soderberg has a thorough, with a capital T, analysis
of the role that rap music plays in white movies.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Hip Hop Generation Gap: I Cram to Understand


What in the name of patriarchy is Ice-T talking about?

Cop Killer Ice-T? Law and Order Ice-T?

It isn't clear to me whether Ice-T is more angry at Hurricane Chris's
and Souljah Boy's perceived lack of "black thug" masculinity or at the
their inability to measure up to Rakim, Das Efx and BDK as emcees.

"Man Up"?

"Take those beads out your hair"?

Please take a moment to understand the irony of a gangster rapping black
man pulling his Cop Killer song amid political controversy, turning around
and acting as a police officer on a television show, then criticizing
myspace rappers for ruining hip hop.

It took me a minute to tie that together. Irony is bugged.

Why did societal pressures influence Ice-T to pull cop killer,
but there is not nary chirp about 50 or Prodigy rapping about killing
20 dudes on Thursday after breakfast?

Because the murder of black men fails to enrage us.

Talk about the public performance of "The Black Thug".

Ice T has been moving in some real, ahem,
non thuggish,
circles for the last 8 years so he comes across as putting
10 on 2 for telling someone to man up.

Granted, I will note that he has performed as recently,
as 2006 as a rapper.

However, it would be interesting to see how he performs his day
to day masculinity on the set of one of his Dick Wolf projects.

What Ice-T and many of us fail to understand is that, since Mc Hammer,
in general, and since The Chronic specifically, since the advent of
Soundscan, Hip Hop is like property in Downtown Brooklyn,
Oakland or Chicago.

Its worth a lot of money to those who own the rights to it.

Capitalism performs a specific function with precise efficiency.

This function is to obtain the most profit out of capital (productive

Sometimes that capital is a rental house other times its stock in Viveindi
Universal Studios

Let me ask you this.

Why is a cd that cost $3 cents to make $15.99 in the stores? Profits.

Why is the rent $1100 this year, when it was $850 three years ago? Profits.

Why is gas $4.20 per gallon? Demand, Supply shortages AND Profits.

Quality control, culture or People be damed.

There is a comment on a three year old post on Hip Hop Blogs, ironically
on the hip hop generation gap which
sums up why 2008 is not 1988.

The commenter interestingly named, Iamtheskidwad writes,

I think it's important to see that the exceptional 1% comes to represent and define an era. 99% of artists today are just as wack as back in '89 (when there was just sunshine).

Overall, I think the quality of rap music overall has remained solid to this day. But I definitely agree that we don't have that special 1% anymore. This is old news, but I think the optimism and the sense of possibility was a big part of it. The music had an expansive consciousness. There was a balance between the individual and the group. Rappers still had a little restraint. They were still conscious of their role as representatives of black people and the struggle. Now the attitude is like, "Of course I'm part of the struggle... I'm black."

I also think the audience in the 1980s was looking to rap music to address a wide range of issues. The music had a multi-dimensional social and cultural purpose. But now the music seems to have a much narrower purpose: hedonism and typecasting.

I know this might strike some people the wrong way, but back then I think it was more about being a person, an individual. Now, it's way more about being black in this very self-conscious and superficial way.

I find it ironic that now that a lot of the artistic chains have been lifted, black artists can say anything they want... and yet somehow precisely the opposite is what happens: a lot of rappers seem to be reading from a script on "how to be Black." sorry, i just had to say it.

Upon rereading that I moved by both the honesty, eloquence and sincerity.

Rappers had a little restraint.

Now rapper turned actor-rappers are telling the myspace rappers to man up.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Guardian


I woke up this morning tired. Putting ice on my knee tired.

I went out to Ms. Coca's party last night.

Ali Shaheed played Electric Relaxation and I got hoarse from singing along.

I was checking my blog statistics this morning and noticed that I was getting
referrals from
The Guardian.

I clicked on the link and saw that The Guardian had linked to my
"If You Want to Change Society" piece under their Best of the Web section.

I had to blink back the water y'all.

Thank you to Latoya for the Racialicious cross links.

Thank you to all who read and comment. Thank you to the lurkers. I see you.

Thank you to the folks who e-mail me, who reach out and ask for advice,
who write and share how they are "on becoming a more human human",
or that they are "struggling with learning that their partner has a near
fatal disease and they just wanted to reach out".

bell and Audre speak out their being power in the margins, so there is nothing
like being recognized, publicly, for being yourself.

Hip Hop, Violence and White Men


Honesty is incredible.

I was honest in my piece, "If You Want to Change Society...",
and the Racilicious readers turned around and gave me some feed back
that took it to a whole other level. I found myself writing so many
responses that I knew I just had to go ahead and post about it.

A reader, a white dude from the suburbs, wrote the first response
that had my wig twisted.
The comment is incredible because
we know that white kids
buy and listen to rap, but we never
hear them reflect on
how it has impacted them. The commenter,
Vodalus, speaks on violence, hip hop and being from the
suburbs. He writes,

It seems to me, as a suburban white kid, that another problem with rap music is that it conflates black youth culture with violence. It teaches non-black listeners that black youth who listen to hip-hop and dress like rappers are likely to be violent. Recognizing that this is largely a false assumption and rooting out the biases stemming from that conflation has been hard work for me. It’s also work that I don’t think I could have accomplished when I was growing up in the suburbs.

I wish that rappers would stand up and admit that they are delivering prepacked stereotypes straight to the suburbs. Not only are they teaching black youth to disrespect themselves but rap teaches non-blacks youths to fear and disdain young blacks. -Vodalus

The above comment made me wonder how T.I. and David Banner
would have responded if they were asked how do they feel about
white teenage boys consuming their music? Singing along, buying it

Someone also made a comment that reminded me that we lack
a fundamental
understanding of capitalism. Capital being productive property.
In the 1800's we Negros were productive property. Now productive property
is a house with a rental unit or stocks, bonds and dividends. Capitalism seeks
to make as much profit as possible of all capital. Hence why you can't stop
gentrification. I was reminded of this when a Racilicious commenter,
Phil Deeze, noticed how
on the new VH1 documentary on video vixens
there was no mention of the consumer.

Well of course. There will also never be any mention of the consumer,
of unionizing he vixens or the similarities between the vixens and Venus
Hottentot. Phil writes,

And, sadly the component that wasn’t mentioned was the consumer. Someone is out there watching the booty-shaking and grinding. Someone is out there buying the CD’s and going to the concerts. People of all races. But black folks are responsible for the images out there because most of the images that are out there for black folks are harmful images.
~Phil Deeze
I also read something that would have MLK break-dancing in his grave.
A commenter aptly named, Devils Advocate, made the power argument.
I ride for being a more human human, not a more power driven being.
I want to not that his analysis was both well thought out and cynical.
When I read stuff like this I think, thank god they weren't on the US
Abolitionist committee otherwise
I would be sharecropping in
Alabama right now
. Devils Advocate writes,

People are beasts who are made docile by having their needs readily met by a network made possible by advanced tools. Without this network, we would not even be having this discussion on morality.

Instead of talking about how we can make the community better, why don’t we just continue to find new ways to exploit each other’s needs more profitably? I mean, that’s what drug dealing, prostitution, and war-profiteering are all about. And hip-hop too. And academia.

Call it cynical if you want, but as I look at the empires of today and yesterday, morality (and religion) serves only to control laborers, allowing the managers to do as they please. What if the black community stopped trying to heal itself and just succumbed to that desire to exploit? After all, isn’t that what brought this nation’s founders their great power today?

Another commenter, Kjen said in 38 words what it would take me to , wink, say
in 500.

The “close your legs” argument always disturbs me because of how it continues to disempower men. It encourages men to distance themselves from the only people they have control over, themselves, and blame women for the s**t they do.

Alexandra caught something about the Hip Hop vs. America piece
that I noticed, but didn't know how to analyze. Raw Patriarchy. Remember
when David said "close your legs", then hit on Time writer Lola Ogunnaike and
mumbled on the under that he was going to open hers and she blushed!
Alexandra nails it
when she writes,
Great Post.
I especially agree with part of we don’t want to hold rappers accountable because dont’ want to hold ourselves accountable......David Banner also undermined his comments by hitting on the female panelist after she agreed with his comment. How are you going to tell women to close their legs in one breath and say I’m gonna get another open hers in another. All she did was agree with him, he didn’t have to say that.
The men act this way because women want thugs and dope dealers argument annoyed me too is he serious with that.
I am always struck by the willingness to blame the victim. I would imagine
that Sasha means well, but the trifecta of Capitalism, White Supremacy
and Patriarchy is largely responsible for plethora of ills that impoverished
Black, White Latino and Asian teens are suffering from. Here comes Moniyhan.
Sasha writes
I believe if more girls from poor communities were taught to respect themselves and their bodies, rates of teen pregnancy, stds, and generational cycles of poverty would decrease....I don’t believe in trying to force rappers, filmmakers, etc. to only create certain types of music or movies. Yes I know that the images of black people and women in entertainment is often stereotypical and indicative of how societies them but I can’t change that...you are right, after school programs are not the solution to teen pregnancy, stds, generational cycles of poverty, low academic test scores etc. If a child is not being raised properly and all the other children in the neighborhood are in the same boat, nothing is going to change that until you get the parent’s to change or someone else steps in.
I hope she isn't a teacher.

I close out with a little bit of Audre Lorde, who I have been reading
the last two weeks. You notice the influence?

Raising Black children -female and male- in the mouth of a racist,
sexist suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love
and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive. And in
order to survive they must let go. This is what mothers teach- love,
survival- that is, self determination and letting go. For each of these,
the ability feel strongly and to recognize those feelings is
central: how to feel love, how to neither discount fear nor be
overwhelmed by it, hot to enjoy feeling deeply.

I wish to raise a Black man who will not be destroyed by, nor settle for,
those corruptions called power by the white fathers who mean his destruction
as surely as they mean mine. I wish to raise a Black man who will recognize that the legitimate objects of his hostility are not women, but the particulars of
a structure that programs him to fear and despise women as well as his own
Black self.

From the essay, Man Child, Sister Outsider

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Who Raises the Kids, Rappers or Parents?


Our children's successes and our children's failures belong to us.
We are the reason.

Every time I criticize hip hop, I am dumb founded by the responses I get back.

Its like, I am talking about peoples mommas or something.

Sportaphile's insistence that it starts with "the family" is misguided, at best.

No one makes it anywhere in life without the help of several people. Whether
you are selling crack or bound for Congress. Somebody has to put you
on and nurture you. And the help does not typically or necessarily begin
or end with your own family.

I know some pretty fabulous people, I also know some amazing fuck-ups.
Many cats fall right in between.

Investment bankers, 15 year veteran d-boys, music video editors.
brain surgeons, full time cigarette hustlers. You name them. Dot knows 'em.

So I am perplexed at the "it starts at home", but what about those
for whom home is NOT where it is? Where home is a war zone.

Sniff, sniff, is that a boot strap that we are suppose to be pulling ourselves
up with.

Hip hop or rather rap music and videos carry and incredible amount of weight
with young people.

Why is that so difficult to acknowledge?

That shit remind me of the the displacement denial that people in
Bedstuy-Harlem-Forte Greene have. They think they are going to be able
to remain in their neighborhoods. But I have this little friend called the Euro,
and he is the new game in town. But I digress.

Back to rap. Rappers shouldn't carry the weight that they do, but they do.
(For the record, listening to new Busta Rhymes, Don't Touch Me,
as I write this.me likes).

I knew in April that I had to openly criticize Hip Hop when Birkhold pointed out that
not doing so constitute being similar to whites who refuse to acknowledge
racism. While Birkhold writes about the need to talk about how patriarchy
has been internalized, the need to critique it can be extended to the discussion
about the scope and extent to which our children are affected by the lyrics and

He gets into what is in store for us when we decide to be bold enough
to analyze ourselves and our music. He writes,

This unfortunately means that a critique of the way hip-hop has internalized patriarchy must lead to a painful examination of the ways we have internalized patriarchy. Despite the soreness this may cause, reflection and self-critique is necessary. In many ways, refusing to engage in this reflection mirrors the refusal of many whites to admit to collaborating with racism or acknowledging that America itself is a racist nation.
What is it going to be, empathy or darwinian "my momma raised me right"?
The latter implies, I don't know what the fuck yours was doing, but mine
was on her job.

The latter attitude is what got us where we are now in the first place.
For every 1 time you point the finger at what some rapper says, you should point 50 fingers at the broken and dysfunctional homes we come from and try to fix **THAT** instead.~Sportafile

I am capable of critiquing more than one thing at a time. Are you?

As for building a foundation, I am in the middle of writing a position
paper on addressing the preschool to prison pipeline. Its ambitious,
hard, frustrating and necessary.

My general premise is that that policy and spending has to shift to
prevention and that the economic incentives to having such how Black male drop
outs head to prison must be acknowledged, analyzed and addressed
in order to make any true head way.

Is that foundation enough for you?
It's like we're making skyscrapers with faulty material and no structural integrity. We can't stand up if we're ankle deep in quicksand.

Let's work on the foundation before we start blaming ANYTHING else in the elements thats bringing us down.~Sportaphile
Penni Brown respond

We can't stand up if we're ankle deep in quicksand.

If you're ankle deep in quicksand, the last thing you're going to be thinking about is building a structure to avoid quicksand traps. Your going to be screaming, 'THROW ME A DAYUM ROPE!

Thats the point. Many young bucks don't ever receive any rope. They receive a f-cking brick necklace and a substantial amount of rap music and videos serves as a link holding that necklace together.

(Reminds me that I need to do that piece on Grand Theft Auto.)

What is the problem with acknowledge that some Hip Hop feeds the darkside within us? Why is that sh-t so difficult? Are we saying that Parents are completly absolved from parenting?No Are we saying that rappers are completly absolved from their responsibility?No. Are we saying that WE are completly absolved from our duties as those who remember WATCHED Yo MTV Raps? Maybe. Just kidding. Just kidding.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Response to BET's Hip Hop vs. America


Last week, Tracey Rose sent me the above video.
As I watched Hip Hop vs. America the video weighed
on my mind.

For example, in the clip titled TI and Nelly Speak Nelly continued to
talk about TipDrillGate.

The general sentiment of the women at Spelman
was that they wanted to host his bone marrow drive,
(his sister died of a bone marrow related disease) but that they
also wanted him to speak on the images in the TipDrill video.

Spelman's attitude towards Nelly was "We care about your sister,
but we care about our sisters too".

Dr.William Jelani Cobb
gets into the nuances of TipDrillGate
when he writes,

The flyers posted in Cosby Hall said it all: "We Care About Your Sister, But You Have To Care About Ours, Too." The slogan explained the position of the student-activists at Spelman College whose protests over Nelly's "Tip Drill" video led the artist to cancel his scheduled appearance for a bone marrow drive on the campus earlier this month. But in a real sense, their point went beyond any single rapper or any single video and went to the center of a longstanding conflict in the heart of the black community. But rarely do we hear the point that these students were bringing home: that this single video is part of a centuries-long debasement of black women's bodies. And the sad truth is that hip hop artists' verbal and visual renderings of black women are now virtually indistinguishable from those of 19th century white slave owners.

Nelly seems to want us to believe that the actions of his
non profit render us silent on a critique of the video.

Record scratch.

I have spoken here before on my view non-profit programs.
The general notion
is that they tend to have more to do with
serving the interests of those
who created them, than those who
they claim to serve.

However, Nelly does have a point about the positive contributions
of Black men in general and his contributions specifically
being unrecognized.

Perhaps it would behoove us to recognize the positive, tangible,
contributions that both the famous and the every day folks make.

Back to the segment. What was really telling about this clip
and about us as a people is the cheering of Nelly as he
expressed his anger towards Farai.

While watching this I thought, why was she the only person on
stage representing the interest of thinking about analyzing
how these images impact all of us?

Why did Master P get so defensive towards her as well? As if
she is responsible for him having to hustle.

That they were allowed to yell on stage indicated that
Toure was doing a poor job of moderating.

Then came the next segment titled, and Toure redeemed himself.

Nelly was mentioning how his daughter made recently honor roll,
that parents come up to him complaining about how
Hip Hop is "messing their kids up in school".

Nelly then states, "My daughter doesn't watch Tip Drill".

That, is what we call the rub.

Toure then, interjects and asks, "How can you make Tip Drill
but your daughter can't watch it?" Nelly's response?
"Tip Drill came on at 3am on a program labeled for adult audiences


This is odd. Rappers are artists and artists know that you can't
control product distribution. RIAA anyone? Once it is out it is
on the internet, on DVD's, youtube, its viral.

You can no longer control information.

Nelly appears to be lightweight enraged at the gall of us. At our
audacity about caring about how we are displayed in "Tip Drill".

Which brings me to the street.

Yesterday I saw a young man, maybe 16, with a t-shirt which
said "Bad Girls Suck, Good Girls Swallow".
His willingness to
wear the t-shirt is indicative of someone
who may potentially
lack respect for the sex and sexuality of another being.

If that statement is on his shirt and he is willing to wear it,
I could only imagine what was going on in his head.

Perhaps it is more important to me is that the message being
sent to all of the younger boys and girls that see him in the
street wearing it.

Which bring me to the street.

When the woman at the beginning of the video said, Dudes getting
at her on the street was normal, "everyday like breakfast".

I wondered how the rap panel would respond if I asked them,
"How do you think your videos contribute to how men treat
us on the street?"

Why do Black men speak to women the way they do on the street?

Why is there a presumption of access to us, our bodies?

Why is their a refusal to see that rap videos normalize the notion
of access?

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