Kanye Didn’t Give the Most Infamous Outburst on MTV

By now I’m certain enough people have heard about Kanye West’s hijacking of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. He’d been drinking and used his male privilege to assert his opinion about why Swift’s video for “You Belong With Me” wasn’t as good as Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. Considering the fact she did a virtual recreation of Bob Fosse’s “Mexican Breakfast” (that she sparingly attributes to him) shouldn’t West have been demanding giving credit where credit is due?

Lest anyone think I’m excusing the rap artist’s boorish, rude behavior I’m not! It didn’t go unnoticed how quickly the president’s “off the record” comment referring to West as a jacka** was “accidently” released as well. While it may be true we’re also observing yet another situation where Obama decides to put down blacks to curry brownie points amongst whites. I’m not impressed by either males’ behavior under these circumstances.

For me the honor of the most infamous VMA acceptance interruptus goes to Fiona Apple. Whether she was speaking from the heart or biting the hand that fed her, the then 19-year-old’s speech from 1997 will remain memorable.

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Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: When Black Artists Flip the Script

In the third installment of of my series exploring music and cultural appropriation – and abandonment – we will focus on Black artists who aren’t necessarily doing what some consider “Black” music. That assessment in and of itself is problematic because of the ramifications of an audience that has acquiesced its legacy to others. The dictionary explanation for acquiesce is: to accept, comply, or submit tacitly or passively.

I believe this is a problem particular to African-Americans (as I’m defining those descendants from the enslaved/indentured people who built the United States and is still owed a debt that has yet to be paid). Far too many AAs are stuck on a very narrow road of “Blackness” whereby you must comply with an extremely limited expression lest you have your Black card revoked.  Again it goes back to not knowing who you are and letting others define your identity, being afraid to step outside parameters, being closed-off and xenophobic or being filled with so much shame that you don’t want to be around anyone who looks like or reminds you of….you. It’s a mess isn’t it?

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Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: When White Artists Go Black

I’m continuing the conversation from last week where I evaluated the use of Black gospel choirs to elevate the songs of non-Black artists. I haven’t decided whether it’s an all-out appropriation, some appreciation or callous apathy on their part but I suspect it’s a tradition that will continue. It will continue because some of us don’t have any cultural or racial pride and think of ourselves less than. Except when we’re validated by others (esp. whites). Even if that means we abdicate our musical heritage to anybody who shows an appreciation for early Aretha Franklin. We forget it’s the use of a music borne from pain, suffering and survival from experiences unique to African-Americans and part of our never-ending (but lax on acknowledging) contributions to the good ol’ USA.

Which brings me to the second conversation in this series about white artists who appropriate their version of the Black (American) experience and sell it back to us. Now the question that needs to be asked is why are those artists given a blanket credibility and support when we won’t even support actual Black artists who aren’t putting out what I’m calling XXX Porn & Warfare set to a beat? I think I already answered my question but I’m putting it out there for consideration anyway…..

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Deploying A Little Negro Spirit: Gotta Have Soul

Ok, I wasn’t trying to make this post a full-on charge of cultural appropriation. Though the question begs to be asked: When non-Black artists use Black gospel choirs in popular music does it convey levity to their songs? Or as Dave Chapelle would say, “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.” Is it blatant swiping of “Black cred” or something else? I also think we should consider the borrowing of “spirituality” by employing a choir.

I want to specify that’s it’s African-Americans who are descendants of slaves that created this music. That’s why listening to other Black artists of different ethnicities and cultures and who hail from other countries aren’t quite able to capture that sound unless they’re trying to imitate it. Why isn’t it considered “cool” and “different” i.e. as VALID when Blacks of different ethnicities collaborate on projects? We’re not all coming from the same place or perspective even if our skin shade is similar.

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Mrs. O Blog is a Sham: Black Culture Theft for White Profit 2009 Style

Ok, I am pissed off but should I be? Nichelle Gainer first posted a link on Twitter a few days ago to alert her followers about the New York Times article featuring the Mrs. O blog.  It’s a creation by ad agency Bartel Bogle & Hagerty not a personal blog created by Michelle Obama supporters. Since it’s a business venture it should be listed as a .com NOT a .org! I read Clutch, Pop Sugar, Glam, Daily Candy and other blogs providing Michelle Obama coverage that are part of a media or publishing group. They weren’t trying to pretend to be a small individual blog though. 
Mrs. O was able to quickly saturate itself across the blogosphere when it was published following DNC week and the interest for all things Obama ran 24/7. It immediately stood out as there are few outlets of simple reporting on Michelle Obama and her style choices in a respectful manner (no talk of her body or her hair or her trails and tribulations). It seemed like a nice addition to Michelle Obama Watch and Black Snob as well as 55 Secret Street and others, but it did come long after these other blogs had started and after Barack Obama won the nomination. 
Those blogs are the creative endeavors of Black female professionals and their coverage of Michelle specifically was to ensure a counterbalance to the initial media attacks by the white-controlled media at the beginning of the primary. The ‘official’ Black press had also been slow to respond and many of us felt personally protective of Michelle due to the historical attacks on the image of all Black women. Even Iceberg Slim’s political blog, This Week With Barack Obama took up the cause. We had to when the “liberal” media and so-called progressives with their never-ending satires (that only reused the same racist imagery they claimed to be opposed to) compelled us to respond.  If not for the efforts of these bloggers, the Mrs. O blog would not be as successful as it’s been.
Zag got into the fashion blogging business in September, after Mary Tomer, a 27-year-old account planner at Bartle Bogle in New York, hatched the idea for the blog. She noticed Mrs. Obama’s style during the Democratic convention, yet could not find information on what she wore.
She decided to create a Web site, which she described as “a central resource for tracking her style and providing as much designer information and commentary as possible.”
It’s not about the blog per se. It’s about the support and traffic they’ve received from us while not clarifying themselves. Surely Ms. Tomer read Danielle Belton’s site, Black Snob which had been doing this for months. Way before the President-Elect had won the nomination. Must it ALWAYS be about MONETIZING and MONOPOLIZING REVENUE? It’s a slap in the face of all the bloggers who’ve been doing similar work at cost (if that) in addition to their other career endeavors.
A few advertising dollars does not equal a full-blown career with benefits. They have a deal with Sugar Inc., will be selling merchandise and have a book deal as well! They have the Black female blogs listed on their blog roll – and vice versa! Surely no one is going to dispute it was Black women championing Michelle Obama long before it became ‘safe’ and ‘popular’ for everybody else to do so!  B B & H doesn’t want to be part of the pack it wants to lead the pack. 

The site’s creators will have to tread lightly as they try to make money on the site, because audiences want blogs and social networks to be conversation tools, not marketing vessels. “Particularly with the Obama mystique, anything that smacks of commercialism will blow up,” 

There was a definite intention by the agency to make it appear like a small individual effort and not part of a larger media entity. Had they just been clear about that in the first place I wouldn’t be writing about this. I think this is a larger issue that deserves discussion here. A company that capitalizes on the uniqueness of having our first Black First Family for their profit should be examined. Especially when independent bloggers made it amenable for them to do so.
This has historical connotations. If anyone has read the Cadillac Records film script it mentions but glosses over how the owners of the real-life Chess Records owners bilked money from their artists. How the Beach Boys stole Chuck Berry’s music and had to be sued to give proper credit and funds. It’s the continuation of cultural misappropriation by outsiders for their own profit. Like with music and everything else we do that’s great but either stolen, maligned or ignored. 
Is this just business as usual, where the person with the most contacts wins? Are we supposed to be okay with the obvious advantages a large ad agency has and the subterfuge involved? The historic head start those that continue to benefit from systematic racism have? 
Are people just slow on the uptake and failed to build adequate relationships and strategies? I am certain any number of the bloggers I listed above would take the time to write a Michelle Obama fashion book with a deal in place. Was it the responsibility of individuals to go after one and some people are just a day late and a dollar short? That’s assuming they even wanted to. It’s not as if there can’t be numerous books, but I also can’t help but wonder how many submissions would’ve been dismissed. It feels as if the rug’s been pulled out from underneath.
Perhaps I’m taking this personally, but as a Black woman how can I not? Many of us use the blogosphere to reach out to each other and build networks and relationships. It was a way to bypass gatekeepers who aren’t interested in equality and diversity. Look at your nightly news shows, your Sunday morning political shows and who do you see in front of the camera? A quick search who are in the towers, holding the keys will reveal people who don’t always have our best interests in mind. 
Barack got my support early on due to his stance against the Iraq war but my vote was largely based on his choice of wife. We were there defending Michelle in public at times when he lapsed big time! Although we still have to see what Michelle does to benefit the lives of Black women and children in tangible ways, symbolically she has done wonders to elevate the status of many of us. Now the continuation of that is up to us, but it was a huge and welcome boost all the same. 
This website was a johnny come lately to the efforts of many of us who created or contributed to blogs and in the media throughout the entire campaign on our own. The content is not that impressive – in fact I’ve noticed a decrease in quality and the tone is somewhat detached and clinical in its precision. That’s where the purpose reveals itself and its limitations are exposed. It’s the difference between writing a story you love and writing a story based on an agency pitch for market share. It’s not a labor of love or excellent but a cheap approximation. 
There are some of us more than ready to create avenues for ourselves and build partnerships given access to the right situations. The good thing is now that this has been revealed those of us who have ideas had better bust a move, get an agent, submit that 1st draft and toot our horns because that ship has pulled anchor. 

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