Harriet Tubman Sex Tape? REALLY?

It’s been an eye-opening week in social media. A while ago I heard about the Russell Simmons and Jason Horton project titled ‘Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.’ By the time I went to find the video, it had been taken down. So feel free to hold the fact that I haven’t seen the video against me, but I don’t think it was necessary, and could have quite possibly been triggering.

I, nor anyone else, should not have to explain why there is a problem with a parody sex video of Harriet Tubman. It’s 2013. Are we really doing this? We are going to take a Black woman hero, one of the most revered figures in abolitionist history, hypersexualize her, and then put it on the internet?

I shouldn’t be surprised. And yet…

Blogger Prison Culture tweeted the following statement about the video:

“Araminta Ross became a “slave for hire” at the age of 5. She did domestic work, field work, cared for children. She once said that one of her mistresses would savagely whip her almost every day, first thing in the AM. As a result, she would put on “all the thick clothes she could” to protect her body from the blows. When she was teenager, she stood before an overseer who was in pursuit of another slave. He took a lead weight & crashed it on her head. She was deeply wounded. She said that the blow “broke her skull.” She was carried back bleeding. She had no bed. They lay her on the floor. She was sent back to her parents who thought she would die. She survived. She went on to become Harriet Tubman. She freed slaves daringly & without fear. This is the person who [Russell Simmons] laughed at.”

A couple of thoughts I have about the video:

I honestly don’t think what kind of sex Tubman was or was not having was relevant. The video is historically inaccurate, insensitive and in poor taste. The video both hypersexualizes Tubman and desexualizes her at the same time. And keep the context in mind, of course. Harriet Tubman was a slave. Which means that in addition to being beaten, she was also repeatedly raped and abused in other forms.

I did see a clip of the video here, and I don’t encourage you to watch it because A) I think it is a waste of time, and B) I don’t want to give the people involved with this video any views. But I will say that  in the skit, the filming of the movie was done in secret. The cameraman was hidden in a closet. So we have a historical figure who dealt with numerous accounts of abuse, dealing with… surprise! More abuse. Rape isn’t funny. Neither is racism. Black women’s lives and sexuality, past and present, still manage to be the butts of our jokes…

Kimberly Foster, founder of @ForHarriet had this to say to the star of the skit playing Tubman, Shanna Malcolm.

Here is a petition asking for the video to be removed (it already has) and for a public apology to be made (which has not happened yet).

EDIT: It was pointed out to me by a reader that Jason Horton did not write, create or produce the video. I wasn’t saying that he did, but I can see how it would be construed that way based on what I wrote. So to be clear, Jason Horton acted in the video, and that was the extent of his involvement. I apologize for any misunderstanding.


Why #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen Is So Important

Why #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen Is So Important

Right now on Twitter a well-known Black woman blogger @Karnythia has started a trend online with the hashtag #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen. I have seen related tweets coming from publications such as Al Jazeera and Colorlines.

Of course, there are the people who automatically jump to the conclusion that #Solidarity is about hating on White women who want equality for ~*everybody*~, and that people of color participating in the tag are just race-baiting. That’s a given. And I’m sure most of said people are not actually reading the hashtag, they are just responding to the name. For those who aren’t aware, it should feel like a punch to the gut. I promise you that being excluded from the mainstream feminist movement feels much worse.

To be clear though, this hashtag is about holding “allies” accountable. It should be self-explanatory! For too long, White, straight, cis, able-bodied women have been the face of feminism.

New York Times: The New Shades of Feminism?

New York Times: The New Shades of Feminism?

Read #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen to understand what marginalised people are trying to say. Feminism is supposed to be for people marginalized by patriarchy, but so far it only uplifts the women pictured above.

Here are some gems from #Solidarity

Click the link above for more!

Charlamagne Tha God vs. Kanye West

Charlamagne Tha God had some words to say about Kanye West‘s latest performance on SNL, and the messages that seemed to reverberate throughout West’s new album, Yeezus.

[Charlamagne: Kanye’s A Walking Contradiction Now]

Charlamagne says, “I just think it’s b******t when you get on Saturday Night Live and you have a sign behind you that says ‘Not For Sale’… You can’t denounce corporations when you’re in business with corporations! You’re in business with Nike, and you’re helping them sell sneakers. You’re in business with Def Jam… What exactly isn’t for sale Kanye?”

I normally disregard what Charlamagne has to say about… well, anything, but this is an interesting argument (that I disagree with) because it’s way more complicated than Charlamagne is making it out to be.

Yes, Kanye sells sneakers and records and he’s in the media even more now that he and his girlfriend Kim Kardashian has had a baby girl. But who is to say that Kanye cannot criticize the culture we live in without actively being a part of it? Charlamagne’s argument reminds me of people who are trapped in their circumstance… like people who buy from Walmart, knowing the evils that Walmart perpetuates, but cannot shop at alternative places because of cost, gas, lack of transportation or what have you. The system of capitalism (which I won’t get into right now in detail) is so intricate, that you cannot really partake in something that isn’t at least slightly problematic.

Kanye West

Kanye West

Of course, Kanye could refuse to sell sneakers and not make records and be a starving artist like he originally intended, but let’s be clear here- Kanye West, the brand, and Kanye Omari West, the person, are two completely different things. And the brand, not the person, is what is for sale.

I had the privilege of reading a fantastic article on FlavorWire by Tom Hawking about how Kanye West’s persona can be read as a caricature of what is expected of him as an infamous, rich, Black rapper. I happen to agree with the author: One could easily surmise from listening to Kanye’s lyrics in each of his albums that he has opinions on culture, religion, politics, racism, self-discovery and self-love. Examples include:

“So here go my single, dog, radio needs this / They think they can rap about anything except for Jesus / that means sex, guns, lies, videotapes / but if I rap about God, my record won’t get played, huh?” – Jesus Walks, The College Dropout

“They want her to live, and she’s trying / I’m arguing what kind of doctor can we fly in? / you know the best medicine goes to people that’s paid / if Magic Johnson had a cure for AIDS / and all the broke mother*****s passed away / you’re telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / right now she would be okay?” – Roses, Late Registration

“The system’s broken / the school’s closed, the prison’s open / we ain’t got nothing to lose / mother****** we rollin.” – Power, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

A huge flaw in Charlamagne’s thinking is that he doesn’t think Kanye can be critical and yet enjoy materialistic things. Kanye himself says he doesn’t come from the projects, but he didn’t always have money the way he does now. What exactly is the problem with enjoying the money you’ve earned yourself? Or enjoying a career that you’ve worked hard and consistently for, while also criticizing the industry and the things other people will do for said money? How come any musician that raps about women, money, nice cars and materialistic things have “sold out” cannot also rap about politics, racism or self?

Not all rap music is going to be about coming from the projects and selling drugs, just the way not all rap music is not going to be about platinum chains and product endorsements. The problem comes in when you automatically categorize certain topics under “good music” and “bad music.” There is a pretentiousness in “conscious” hip-hop that argues that “gangsta” rap or rapping about partaking in materialism has “killed” hip-hop and every rapper is apparently supposed to be like Common or Talib Kweli. Not every rapper wants to stick to that formula, and people say they’ve “sold out”. People become very invested in person’s character, not realizing that people change and grow. Producer of Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” Kanye West is not the same as “808s and Heartbreak” Kanye West, who is not the same as “Yeezus” Kanye West. Rapping about the same thing all the time would eventually get boring, and I personally would argue one of the best things about Kanye West is his adaptability. Kanye’s albums all sound different, yet you can tell each one is Kanye West. His style and influence is undeniable.

Let me stop while I’m ahead… What are your thoughts on Charlamagne’s comments?

Whitney: Victim Of The “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

It was not inevitable for everyone that Whitney Houston was going to die. Many of us expected her to make a comeback. For those people, her death came as a shock. Many of the people who were not surprised by Houston’s death used her drug addiction as an excuse. As often as I hear that Houston was talented, I hear that she was a crack-head, or that she was Bobby Brown’s punching bag.

Television shows covering Whitney’s death focused most of their energy on her marriage to Bobby Brown and drug use. There was very little discussion of what her life was like before she was apparently using. Never mind that Whitney, as a Black woman, was a successful pop star while most other Black singers were automatically sifted into the R&B or Soul categories. There was barely any mention of an accident she had as a child that could have very well severely damaged her vocal cords, or any of the political and charitable works she had done, like her Welcome Home Heroes concert for the soldiers who had fought in the Persian War in 1991 or her support of Nelson Mandela.

Houston’s drug addiction and domestic violence issues devalue her as an artist and person to many. To these people, she is not categorized as an artist with a drug addiction, or even a human with a drug problem. She is categorized strictly as a drug addict like many Black female entertainers before her, Dorothy Dandridge and Billie Holiday included.

Why is Whitney given a bad name for being a drug addict, but people still idealize Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious and John Lennon?

Whitney: Victim Of The “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

Kanye West’s Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Reality

By Keir Bristol

Kanye West’s fifth studio album was released last Monday- on the same day as Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. At this point I don’t know who sold more, but I do know that West has to be raking in the chips right now. I’m not a big fan of ‘Ye in terms of how he is depicted in the media (or on his personal Twitter account) but I cannot deny that he is a musical genius, and not only in the terms of rap and hip-hop.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

Enter My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. It’s a dark album that seems to be based more on West’s reality rather than Fantasy. You can tell that West’s production has truly developed since The College Dropout. The beats are more intricate- West uses piano and Bon Iver samples to spice up his signature auto-tune and sarcastic one-liners such as “No more drugs for me / p***y and religion is all I need.” It’s totally different from his other albums, but still clearly Kanye’s style- he’s a varied human being.

But all of the production doesn’t take away from the fact that in a shallow way, West seems to bare his soul on this album. It’s a “take me or leave me” vibe, in which he’s very open about his flaws, especially when it comes to his relationships with women. The second single, “Runaway,” is a perfect example- West seems to be afraid of commitment and yet is afraid of losing his current girl, because it doesn’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine. But just as quickly as he admits his flaws, he dismisses them in the same rush. And don’t expect any less misogyny on this album, either.

To take a break from the bleak reality of West’s love life, the star-studded record features from Bon Iver, Pusha T of Clipse, Nicki Minaj (who steals the show on “Monster”), Jay-Z, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Raekwon, Prince Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, Dwele and the RZA. West keeps good company.

West is also taking his artistic talents to other elements of his work as well. The alternative covers for the album, all done by George Condo, can be found here. Condo says that they are, “an attempt to bring depictions of religious figures to the modern world.” The official cover was rejected by some stores who were apparently offended due to sexual explicity…

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

“Runaway” has a 35-minute film, which also serves as the music video [watch “Runaway” here], not to mention the “moving painting” that West had put together for the lead single, “Power.”

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

Other stand-out tracks include “Who Will Survive In America,” which extensively samples Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment No. 1”, the rap-ballad “Blame Game” featuring John Legend, and the next single, “All of the Lights,” a song about exposing everything – even the ugly stuff – in life.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy secures any doubt that anyone may have had that West wasn’t original and that he couldn’t take some bits of everything and make them into coherent popular music. Even if you don’t buy the album, you need to at least listen to it.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights

By Keir Bristol

When I studied singing in high school, we were taught that when one’s voice goes vibrato, it meant one was running out of air. The singer’s voice was always expected to be smooth. When I first heard Antony Hegarty’s voice  (of Antony and the Johnsons), I noted that he took the vibrato technique to a new level. He made it work for him. He made it beautiful. Advocate.com describes his voice as a “mournful vibrato,” which is quite an accurate description. Imagine his voice as a richer, rippled version of his inspiration Nina Simone’s voice.

For those who aren’t familiar with Antony and the Johnsons, it’s a chamber-pop/cabaret band lead by Antony Hegarty. He is a singer with a rare quality- he has something that no one else can touch. I’m sure no one in the world has a voice as supernatural as his, and the composition of his albums are purely genius. Every song written with poetic lyrics, every instrument forming intricate melodies and harmonies. When it comes to Antony and the Johnsons, there is no such thing as filler; each song is connected AND can stand on its own if need be.

Antony and the Johnsons - Swanlights

Antony and the Johnsons - Swanlights

His latest disc, Swanlights does not disappoint. The bands’ instrumentation is more complex than that of 2009’s The Crying Light. It opens with “Everything is New,” which combines exquisite vocals with repetition, a technique Hegarty uses often. He starts out simple and quiet and builds as the song goes on, with only three words. The first single from the album, “Thank You For Your Love,” also utilizes repetition, but is one of the less impressive songs on the album.

The title track has Hegarty’s voice appear mangled in the beginning as pianos begin to twinkle in the background. As his voice grows clearer it begins to echo and layer over dark, stirring cellos. “Swanlights” is the most haunting of all of the tracks, but is still adorned with lyrics like fairy-tales.

“What I have seen / Faces in my dreams / Oh the Swanlights / The Swanlights // When I close my eyes / And dream Swans come / When in love I lean / On the Swanlight song // Oh it’s such a mystery to me / Oh it’s such a mystery to me…”

And then of course, there is the duet with Björk on “Flétta”. Technically, it’s a duet but Bjork definitely has the upper hand on this track. Hegarty barely whispers harmonies against Bjork’s dominating voice. Again, it starts slowly like soft rain, and then builds. It’s a beautiful track, and possibly a long-awaited one as well for fans of Antony and the Johnsons.

The album closes with “Christina’s Farm,” haunting and dark but still beautiful, borrowing a bit of the repetition from the opening track, “Everything is New.”

Swanlights is also a departure from The Crying Light in terms of subject. The Crying Light was an album that combined gender politics with green and environmental issues. Even all of these sensitive subjects can be transformed into extraordinary scores with Hegarty’s voice and his backing orchestra. Swanlights is more about the typical song topic; love. And yet, Hegarty can take a cliche and make it all his own as well. Every time one listens to the album, one will discover something new that they never noticed the first time around.

Lil Wayne – I Am Not A Human Being (Album Review)

By Keir Bristol

On Monday, September 27, Lil Wayne released his latest album, I Am Not A Human Being. I’m currently studying in London, so I forgot for a little while. But I remembered as I was writing my College Magazine column this week, so I decided to write a review as a bonus. There will be more of those in the future. Thank me later.

For the most part, I Am Not A Human Being is a hip-hop album, with the exception of the rock-influenced title track. The first single off of the album is “I’m Single,” which has been playing on the radio since the summer. I’m not a big fan of the rhyming in the song but the beat is solid and smooth. Definitely a slower summer banger. Mr. Carter also recently released his video for “I Am Not A Human Being” (watch it here). It’s one of the more interesting tracks on the album, because again, it’s the only rock influenced track. It sounds like a leftover from the controversial “Rebirth” album and certainly lives up to its name.

Lil Wayne recruited the Young Money crew on the album of course, so expect some hooks from Nicki Minaj (“What’s Wrong With Them”, “YM Anthem”) and raps and choruses from Drake (“With You”, “Right Above It”, “I’m Single”). Note: my favorite song off the album is “With You.” Producer StreetRunner samples a beautiful track by Valerie Simpson and Drake’s vocals on the track sound fantastic.

Also, look out for Jay Sean, the newest signee to Young Money Records on “That Ain’t Me;” does he rival Drake’s hooks? You be the judge. “Popular” featuring Lil Twist gets points off for opening with the infamous signature lines, “She got that good good, she’s Michael Jackson bad, I’m attracted to her, with her attractive ass.” Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the opening to “Every Girl (In The World)” off of the We Are Young Money compilation.

It seems to me that as Lil Wayne becomes more established as the “best rapper alive” (rivaled by Eminem, Jay-Z, and the ever-modest Kanye West) he gets lazier with his raps. His metaphors are what makes him stand out, but can also sometimes be his downfall. Sometimes he takes it too far. Example: “Shawty bad like a three-year-old. Keep playing and I’mma eat her like a pita roll.” Pita roll? That’s the best you’ve got, Weezy?

I know he can do better than what he offers on I Am Not A Human Being. And Wayne is hard-working, so I don’t think this has anything to do with his current jail-sentence. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good album. Just don’t expect it to be in the ranks with Tha Carter trilogy, although it might hold you over until the fourth installment is released. I will be interested to see what he does when he gets out (Free Weezy!)