Black Enlightenment: Does consciousness end when gangsta rap begins?

The “straight outta” social media frenzy surrounding the upcoming debut of “Straight Outta Compton” which will be released this Friday has stirred up a generous amount of healthy discussion. Not to anyone’s surprise, those conversations are being spearheaded by Black women. Black women are asking the necessary questions in order to critique imperative aspects of our once, and from the looks of it, still beloved “gangsta rap” culture. Without an in-depth analysis on such a topic how can we expect to bring about the necessary change to promote productive growth, both in our minds and our communities? It is important to note, that by celebrating N.W.A we are also celebrating their lyrics, which extend FAR beyond “Fuck The Police”. They encompass such lyrics as, “Dumb hoe says something stupid that made me mad/ She said somethin that I couldn’t believe/ So I grabbed the stupid bitch by her nappy ass weave/ She started talkin shit, wouldn’t you know?/Reached back like a pimp and slapped the hoe/Her father jumped out and he started to shout so I threw a right-cross cold knocked him out.”

It disheartened me to see the very same Black men who have been consistently preaching about uplifting Black Kings and Queens, while parading around in their cloaks of consciousness, upload and promote their “straight outta” branded photos. Perhaps it is time to take a step back and understand the messages we are promoting by branding ourselves as “straight outta” our respective hometowns. Much like the messages the white man sends to our children and communities with his selective story of our history, what messages are WE sending by promoting THIS type of message as opposed to all of the other positive messages in music we could be endorsing? One could easily argue that we are doing the white man’s job of destroying our communities and families for him. How does “So what about the bitch that got shot, fuck her, you think I give a damn about a bitch, I’m not a sucker” promote unity, respect for black women or black humanity? As we continue to grow as a people and organize as a community, standing against these types of messages should be included in that growth. 
We must ask ourselves, do we want “Compton” included in our oral tradition? Is this the story we want our children and future generations to read and learn from? How will we come to explain, that at during this very wave of “Black Enlightenment” our endorsement of “Straight Outta Compton” was merely an endorsement of Black economics? That is an irresponsible excuse for not holding our communities to the very standards upon which we want others to hold them to. 
I too have faulted, and have realized my stumbling, but that only came through self-actualization and after months of harsh self-criticism. I loved myself enough to change the things about who I was in order to fully accept me as a person; I love music enough to do the same. I shouldn’t have to decide which aspect of the Black culture I want to support. Black culture should be all-inclusive of everything that is altruistic, loving and humane. I should no longer have to shield my child from the ugliness embodied in mainstream and commercialized hip-hop/rap. 
If we are to overthrow the oppressive forces of white supremacy we must also overthrow the oppressive forces of gangsta rap, that deem it not only acceptable but honorable to demean women, our people, our communities and life in general. It is no longer acceptable to choose when our women are to be upheld as Queens (in an attempt to counter the negative images of Black women by white media) yet deem it acceptable when we are doing the same. Does black consciousness end where black profit begins? We must be more responsible with our money, and that means keeping it out of racist establishments as much as it means keeping it out of the hands of women beaters and misogynistic artists who promote the killing and rape of black women in our communities.  
As I critique all aspects of the world it is imperative that I do the same within my own culture as well. It is not fair to artists such as Yusha Assad and Real Talk Raps, of whom I’ve had the pleasure to hear speak at last year’s Hip-Hop conference at my alma mater Hampton University. These are just two examples of artists who are putting the message back into music and not compromising the integrity of our women or communities. At that very same conference, I had the pleasure of speaking with author and artist Jeff Weaver. His book “5/5 No Compromise” with an introduction by Freedom Williams, who was also in attendance at the Hip-Hop Conference, offers an enlightening insight into the obstacles that hip-hop/rap artists must overcome in order to fully serve the people. Referring to music from a spiritual standpoint, Weaver writes, “However, it is the manner in which the artist and producer paints the picture and fires the musical torch that sculpts the portrait that makes the difference. The obsession with the ‘creations’ of God change the spiritual direction of the message of the song. Attracting malignant energy to the ‘host’ artist/producer and opening doors to spiritual and soul prostitution. Thereby causing what I refer to as ‘spiricide’ or a self-inflicted spiritual death.” During the age of Black Enlightenment are we to continue what Weaver refers to as “spiricide?” Are we prepared to “consciously” kill our spirit and prostitute our souls to support music that we KNOW does not align with our journeys as Enlightened Black Women and Men? In “5/5 No Compromise,” Weaver goes on to further discuss the lack of understanding artists have in the sacredness of their power of speech or their ase, he writes, “Unfortunately, the same applies to most rap artists and MCs who lack understanding of what they are doing in the context of their ancestral history, despite how well they do it by the standards of American Pop culture. Like bastard children-in this case, raised and abandoned in the culture of their captor father Uncle Sam-they demonstrate the inherent genetic traits of the mother (Africa) they have never mer, but have been taught to despise. Hip hop exemplifies the bold, aggressive combativeness of American-driven Western culture, while simultaneously embodying the spiritually compelling, magnetic and irresistible creative expression of traditional African culture.” 
I’ve seen quite a number of images of Malcolm X being brandished over social media in response to police brutality and realized oppression. I hope we have not forgotten the journey Malcolm Little took to become Malcolm X; we owe it to him and others to break free from our shackles of oppression, even when that oppression comes in the form of entertainment and from our “brothers and sisters.” Shouldn’t we use art as a means to not only reflect our reality but to bring forth positive and impactful change? In “When I Die” Nikki Giovanni writes, “Do somebody please tell him i knew all along that what would be is what will be / but i wanted to be a new person and my rebirth was stifled not by the master but the slave.” Let us take this time and ask ourselves: “Does consciousness end when gangsta rap begins?” 

The White Man’s Burden: Donald Trump

On Friday evening Donald Trump was banned from one of the biggest gatherings of conservative activists by the event’s coordinator, Erik Erickson. What was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back? He insinuated that during the first Republican presidential debate, moderator Megyn Kelly was particularly harsh towards him because she was menstruating. In a CNN interview, referring to Kelly during the GOP debate, Trump said, she “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

THAT, was the comment that drew the line for many conservatives. In defense of his decision, Erik Erickson, the organizer of the event had this to say on his Twitter account late Friday night: “I have rescinded my invitation to Mr. Trump. While I have tried to give him great latitude, his remark about Megyn Kelly was a bridge too far.”
So this is what it takes to get uninvited to a major conservative event? Elaborating on the topic Erickson went on to say “I think it crossed a line of decency no one running for president should ever cross whether you are a professional or amateur politician.”
He went on to further say “This is my event, that I’m paying for and I can do whatever I want. I wanted to have him here as a legitimate candidate, but no legitimate candidate suggests a female asking questions does so because she’s hormonal.”

So let me get this straight, alleged hormonal behavior and inferences made toward menstruation are crude, outrageous, unacceptable and not fit for daughters or wives to hear? Erickson opined that “I don’t think I should have anyone on stage while my wife and daughter are watching who would say that on a female journalist.” But, grating and damning comments made about Mexicans are acceptable? It’s acceptable for the wives and daughters of conservatives to hear filth and hate filled bigotry spew from Trump’s mouth regarding Mexicans as he calls them rapists and murderers? This allowance can be perceived in accordance with the behavior of white men who allowed their wives and daughters to attend lynchings of black women, children and men during our not so distant past in America.  

Donald Trump has now managed to take on the savaged and beastly caricature of the brute, a label once reserved for African-American men pre and post reconstruction; think of the silent film “Birth of a Nation,” once hailed as truth by President Woodrow Wilson, a man who is described as being “progressive” and “liberal.” Black men in particular were depicted as uncouth, uncivilized, terrorists and rapists who instilled fear amongst white society, especially white women who were seen as the target of their savagery. It was from this narrative that birthed the ideology that Black men could only be controlled by the white man, who with his paternalistic instincts ingrained in the beast his moral compass; without white paternalism the Black man was left to his own devices of immoral ineptitude. In an odd twist of events Trump is now facing the same judgement of white paternalism that Black men once did, by threatening the collective authority of white patriarchy and attacking the white woman’s body. In “The Second Sex” Simone de Beauvoir states, “It is not true that men respect women: they respect each other through their women – wives, mistresses, ‘kept’ women; when masculine protection no longer extends over her, woman is disarmed before a superior caste that is aggressive, sneering, or hostile.” From her words one can understand the nature in which the white man has come to rescue his white woman from the “aggressive, sneering and hostile” commentary made by Trump. Trump has successfully disrespected the white man by insulting his second most prized possession, next to money, the white woman. 

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packer also took a stand for women and menstruation, tweeting: “Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse,” and “I stand with @megynkelly.” I can’t help but to think where these “feminist” voices were when Trump accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and drug dealers. It’s obvious to see, in accordance with conservative fashion, the sanctity of brown (and black) bodies do not matter. 

It is not about Donald Trump or his bigotry but rather it is about what Megyn Kelly represents, the white, beautiful and thin blonde; the historic representation of purity and innocence in this country, who must be defended at all costs. The cloak of white conservatist protection does not cover Rosie O’Donnell and the comments made about her during that very same GOP debate that caused his banishing. When Megyn Kelly attempted to ask Trump about his misogynist comments towards women by saying, “You’ve called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals…,” Trump interrupted her and said, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.” Comments such as these spouted toward O’Donnell, a woman, are okay for wives and daughters to hear but not ones referring to menstruation and hormonal behavior? It has been made clear that the white man must preserve the delicacy of his precious white woman especially when a brute like Trump attacks her sanctified body. How dare he defile the white woman’s virtuousness with something so heinous, uncleanly and disturbing as menstruation. 

As much as I would like to be supportive of Megyn Kelly and her menstrual cycle, there are more pressing issues at hand such as the deaths of black women in jail, the molestation of black women by police officers on the street, black girls being suspended from school at a rate 6 times higher than that of white girls (larger than the disparity between black and white boys) and the increasing rate of suicide amongst black children aged five to 11, which is twice as high than the rate for white children. Donald Trump is a creation of the Old America. I am looking forward and creating the vision I want to see for the New America; a country where a platform for hate, misogyny and bigotry would never be allowed. Donald Trump is not my burden, but yours. 

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