Archive | May 2009

Dealing with misogyny in hip-hop

What’s up fam,

The Michigan Policy Summit is over so I can get back to blogging more regularly. Below is a draft of a piece I plan on submitting to The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture. Please read the prompt (in italics) and provide any relevant feedback. I look forward to reading your comments,

Stay up fam,

p.s. Shout out to Eboni, a long time reader of the SuperSpade that was at the Summit,

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

“Sex and Hip-Hop Beyond Misogyny”

Many have stated that sex sells with regard to commodities, hip-hop culture in particular.  However, in recent years the industries surrounding sex and hip-hop have developed a symbiotic relationship.  For example, rappers often use strip clubs to premiere records and circumvent mainstream radio payola.  In turn, the porn industry employs rappers to promote its DVDs and Web sites. This connection not only allows the two industries to benefit financially, but also results in their mutual exploitation. Read More…

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Racial inequity has our economy rigged

Many people still think racism is intentional, conscious and personal. It’s not. As the economic crisis shows, we are facing racial inequities that have their roots in the explicit racism of earlier generations but which now devastate communities of color without intent. This is where we now need to turn our attention.

From Stop the Next American Nightmare by Seth Freed Wessler at Huffington Post

My take:

  • The common argument that “the racism that happened in the past is not important today” is flatly wrong. Some complain that pollution today hurts children in the future. Others say that poor financial decisions will burden our children with unthinkable debts & deficits. In exactly the same fashion, the racism of our forefathers hurts people in the here and now.
  • This is further evidence of the myth of the Post-Racial Society. In order for a Post-Racial Society to come into being, the racism and the remnants of that racism, and them impact of that racism must be dealt with justly.
  • The problem is racism is at a minimum both moral & economic. Once one agrees that racism [and other manifestations of prejudice] are morally wrong, there are economic questions that must be addressed. The Applied Research Center’s report outlines how racism hurt both the hearts and wallets of people of color during this very recession.
  • The solutions to the problem of racism help us all. I’m not a fan of playing the race card unjustifiably. However, when we justly and ethically deal with racist norms, policies and practices, all people benefit.
    • Fair lending practices benefit all people looking to qualify for a home or car loan.
    • Fair admissions & financial aid policies make college education accessible for all students.
    • A more responsible police force better protects all members of community.

One Love. One II.

John Legend's Commencement Address at UPenn

I generally disdain the Cult of the Celebrity. It frustrates me when the unqualified, unverified, and unquestioned present weak arguments and empty claims that are accepted as facts given from experts. While I also reject the Cult of Expertise, I’d take that one over celebrity.

The Cult of Celebrity & the Cult of Expertise often cross paths during this time of year: graduation time. Colleges across the country are hosting commencement celebrations and inviting speakers of all types to inspire students to go off and change the world. President Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker. John Legend.

John Legend? Yeah, that John Legend.

He addressed the graduating class of UPenn on Monday, the school he graduated from 10 years ago. At first, I saw this as a classic case of the Cult of the Celebrity:

  1. Why exactly is this guy giving this address.
  2. Is he really that interesting/compelling/appropriate?
  3. I bet I’d give a better speech than him

While I will definitely not concede the third point, I was pleasantly surprised with the address he delivered. So much so in fact, that I’d like to share it with all of you.

My key takeaway from the speech was:

Now, I don’t assume that the truth is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of democracy and justice, I believe it is quite rare to find. It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening. It’s about accepting that complex problems require complicated solutions.

Enjoy this, and share it.

One Love. One II.

P.S. Now, back to my hating on the Cult of the Celebrity.

The SuperSpade is Everywhere – on the Kindle, the iPhone, and everywhere else

The SuperSpade is everywhere.

The SuperSpade is everywhere.

Just a quick note today about ways Brandon and I are making The SuperSpade available to you in as many ways as possible:

Last but not least, we’ll soon be rolling out an email newsletter where subscribers will receive great insider benefits like:

  • Tips on how you can be an effective activist and get involved at the local and national level
  • Additional in-depth analysis on issues and events
  • Connections to other online activists and bloggers working on issues impacting people of color
  • A chance to have your voice heard on The SuperSpade
  • Much more…

There will be another announcement when the email newsletter is up and running.

Stay tuned and stay connected.

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: lennbob on Flickr

Take This Hammer: James Baldwin talks Race, Religion, and Activism

James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Take This Hammer is a 1963 documentary film that shows author/activist James Baldwin’s fact-finding mission to San Francisco that same year. His purpose was to answer the question: is the Negro in San Francisco, CA any better off than the Negro in Birmingham, AL? He concluded that:

There is no moral distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham.

Baldwin presents an extraordinary social critique of America North & South, white liberalism, and the angst of Black teenagers. What’s exceptional are some of the specific barometers he uses to judge young Black people’s view on their future.

Will there ever be a Black President?

There is one exchange where he asks a group of young men if there will ever be a Negro President in this country. They flatly tell him “No, never.” Baldwin retorts with solidly nuanced optimism: “Yes, there will be a Negro President, but this country will be different from the one that exists now.”

Obviously, we have a Black President now. That begs the question: was Baldwin right? Is this a different country than it was in 1963? Yes in many ways, and no in many others.

The failure of Christianity

Near the end of the film, Baldwin opines on the almost comical hypocrisy of American [white] Christianity. Baldwin asserts that:

…these churches are absolutely meaningless and almost blasphemous…more social club than spiritual institution…the Christian church in this country has never, as far as i know, been Christian.

Baldwin is himself a Christian, but he sees and hears the spiritual frustrations of Black youth. One young man told him that the best way for Black people to organize [for revolution] was by “coming together as Muslims.” What does that mean? That spirituality & religion as forces of identification, pride, and community were as important then as they are today. It also speaks to the fluidity of religion, to people’s desire to find a spiritual persuasion that speaks to their needs. Baldwin’s critique on American Christianity shows that many young, militant Black folks rejected a faith they saw as hypocritical and weak. Today’s Christianity is still fighting this battle. 

On “liberalism”

Baldwin shares an intellectual pedigree with Steve Biko with his disdain of “liberals” (in this context, they both mean White liberals). In the film, Baldwin has a lot to say about this:

Everywhere I’ve been in this country, white people think race relations are excellent.

Liberals are looking for an alleviation, a protection of their own consciousness.

Liberals can’t be fake and be heroic too.

White people think of themselves as missionaries…but we don’t want you to do it for the Negro, we want you to do it for you.

His critique is not of liberalism, but of dishonest, half-hearted activism. Activism and organizing are based upon trust, and Baldwin did not trust white liberal activists in many cases.

This tension still exists in some circles today. Most interestingly, it creates a chasm between those arguing over whether the shortest path to equality and freedom in this country is through racial reconciliation or class-based economic struggle. Baldwin, Biko, myself, and others saw this as a false choice, but it creates a very real debate for many activists and thinkers.

Where do we go from here?

Baldwin in the film is neither overly optimistic nor terribly pessimistic. He does offer some thoughts that give insight into his thoughts on the future:

Buildings without foundations will inevitably come down.

I can be fooled, but my kids won’t be…either we will correct what’s wrong, it will be corrected for us.

This is something that’s been hitting close to home with me in recent years. The aspirations and assumptions of one generation are often realized, debunked, and adjusted by the next. Baldwin speaks specifically about ideas such as the “fakeness” of the American dream (i.e. having a garage) and what is actually meant when politicians & developers say “redevelopment” (to Baldwin, that means “remove the Negro”).

As my generation of activists, thinkers, leaders, and citizens chart our course through this dynamic social landscape, we can learn a lot from those that came before us. However, learn means neither repeat nor ignore. Instead, it means absorbing the knowledge and experiences, examining the current context for similarities and differences, applying what we’ve absorbed where appropriate, and innovating where necessary.

One Love. One II.

Photo credit: Ben Wheeler on Flickr