Jewish World Review April 28, 2004 / 7 Iyar, 5764

Stanley Crouch

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Hip-hop takes a hit: Black women are starting to fight rap's degrading images | You never know in America. Just when you think something bad is going to go on far longer than it should, signs of its being brought to a sudden halt appear.

Nelly, a rapper from St. Louis who is notorious for his hedonistic rap videos and dehumanizing images of black women, has been stopped in his tracks by a group of concerned young women from Spelman College and young men from Morehouse College, two historically black schools in Atlanta.

The rapper chose not to appear at a recent fund-raiser in Atlanta for a bone-marrow project to avoid being confronted by these students, who deem the images of women in his videos indefensible.

This was a first, and a long time coming — and it may be just the tip of a mountain that has been hidden from view by all the excuses made for rappers based purely on the big money they make.

A brother is just out there working hard to make some cash, say the apologists. All a rapper is telling us is what he is seeing. And nobody is forcing those women to roll their behinds at the video cameras. They are just trying to make a little money like everybody else.

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The women at Spelman were not having it. They were tired of being referred to as bitches, as 'hos, as freaks. They demanded a change of direction and content. It is an issue of respect.

This should be a revolutionary moment in popular culture — the fire starting to get free. No group other than black women has sat in silence while being constantly dehumanized for so long a time.

That dehumanization has reached a level that makes the old-time movies full of giggling, handkerchief-headed black maids seem child's play.

How long could we expect women to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the obvious hatred of their sex expressed in rap videos? How long would it be before women grew angry at being perpetually depicted as hopped-up sluts willing to do anything for a chance to party next to young men with money?

I am seeing signs that what happened at Spelman and Morehouse colleges is far from an isolated reaction.

About a month ago, I was brought (coincidentally) to Atlanta by Leatrice Ellzy, a cultural producer who runs a lecture series called "The Intellectual Underground." One gives a talk and entertains questions from the audience. I made my usual attack on the new minstrelsy of rap and got a very good response.

Earlier, in February, I spoke in Minneapolis at the request of composer Bill Banfield, and got a similar response. Clearly, folks are getting sick of seeing women constantly insulted and degraded.

In the June issue of Essence, Diane Weathers, editor in chief of the magazine, takes a very serious swing at this media monster. Essence is the oldest magazine for black women in this country, and it is exciting to think of its taking on something as injurious to civilized male attitudes as hip-hop.

I also have heard from various sources that we may see conferences being held on women and the crisis in hip-hop and that protests in a number of places are in the planning.

Oh, happy day! Black women have been so important to so many things that have bettered our nation. If they move on it, they will bring this monster down.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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