Thank you, Ida Harris, for sharing yet another example of a difficult truth

I wasn’t ready for what I read this morning. The writer Ida Harris did everything right. When her date became physical without her permission, she gave non-verbal cues, when that didn’t work she said explicitly said “no,” when that didn’t work, she physically fled. None of that kept her safe. Discussions of consent are too often reduced to a woman’s ability to say no. That if she experiences unwanted sexual attention or touching, that it’s her fault.  This means by default that a man is entitled to her body. Even if and when she says no, it means that there is still another chance.  And if he doesn’t take no for an answer, well, it’s her fault for putting herself in that situation.

I had a family friend who said no to a man’s advances in a crowded bar where her boyfriend worked. She wasn’t “coy” or ambiguous about her no.  She clearly wasn’t interested. She walked away. She was shot dead in the street. Saying no does not keep you safe. There is never a guarantee that a man will honor your resistance. There is no cultural expectation for them to do so.

There were still people in comments sections who asked why she was out at that time. It is never a woman’s fault for going out, spending time with friends, or on a date that by all indications appears safe.  After immeasurable accounts of stories like this, too many people still blame women. Among the many truths and ultimately disturbing information Ms. Harris shares is this:

“We must also ask why we continue to court a tradition where boys will be boys and men will be men, no matter their indiscretions; while women are held to a five-star standard of awareness, action and responsibility. We are centuries invested in men’s entitlement and audacity, and their retarded understanding and disrespect for women’s bodily rights. We live in a society where patriarchy is well-established and chronically practiced.”

Think about the way we talk about sexuality. Men are taught to “score,” have “game” with the ultimate goal of “getting some pussy.” Her body parts are labeled as if they exist outside of her. She has to play defense. And if she loses, it’s her problem. A woman’s failure to scream and flee, even at her own peril, does not excuse what happens to her.

There are no new rules to consent. No has always meant no. The only difference now is that people are listening to our stories and violators are facing real consequences. We have to place the onus of ending sexual and violent assault squarely on the people who perpetrate these crimes.

Read Ida Harris’ essay here.


The only Kwanza(a) I acknowledge is Hall

Atlanta seal

I’m know I’m gonna catch hell for this. First of all, if you celebrate Kwanzaa, I’m not judging you. The Nzugo Saba are real and valuable. For me, it simply it never felt natural. Sure, I’ll go to a Kwanzaa social engagement, but I have no desire to purchase a kinara and do the whole lighting biz.

My reasons are many. Like most American holidays, Kwanzaa is rooted in myth. I’ll get to that in just a moment.

The Kwanza I actually do celebrate is Atlanta District 2 Councilman, Kwanza Hall. He never gave me a politician vibe, as he seems totally at ease at events throughout the city. I chatted with him as I sipped a beer at a 2015 A3C Festival gathering to promote use of the streetcar. I rooted for him when he first announced his later unsuccessful bid for mayor. I was also pleased when he introduced and later helped pass legislation to reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana under one ounce – the closest Atlanta has come to decriminalization. Most recently, I was happy to see his wife Natalie sworn in as Fulton County Commission, District 4.  All these things make me feel hopeful, but this is not a political endorsement.

If anything, it is a way to honor a Facebook status I posted last spring where I said, “Cheer for the guys you know.” It’s a way to acknowledge that the people closest to us are most worthy of our support and attention. In an attempt to look for some grand, shining leader, you miss the leader next door, or even the one in the mirror. As the expression goes, “heroes don’t always wear capes” and they most certainly don’t lead violent sexual assaults or remain silently complicit in the murder of others.

This is the legacy of Ron Everett, better known as Dr. Maulana Karenga. In 1965, Karenga founded a group called Us, a black nationalist group, who engaged in confrontation with the Black Panther Party. In 1969, at a UCLA Black Student Union meeting, after reports that BPP members spoke negatively of Karenga, tensions rose between the two groups, ending in a hail of gunfire, killing Bunchy Carter and John Huggins.

Lesser known, is Karenga’s torture of two women, Deborah Jones and Gail Davis, former members of his own group. There are multiple accounts of sexual assault and violent terror including soldering irons placed in the mouths of the women and one having her big toe squeezed in a vice grip. In 1971, Karenga spent four years in prison for the assaults. The myths created for him lead me and many others to believe he was imprisoned as part of an FBI takedown of black nationalist groups. We know now that the truth is just as ugly and has greater implications for the holiday and its leader as more people become aware.

Karenga’s long legacy of leadership (he is still the Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach) also reveals another sad truth. Too many black leaders’ conflicts, both violent and verbal, have ultimately devolved into a pissing contest to have one man emerge as the HNIC. In the search of a political messiah, the abuse of women was never a barrier to leadership, respect, money or historical honor. Women are treated at best as sacrificial lambs and at worst, collateral damage on a convoluted premise of black liberation. Black solidarity cannot come at the expense of women and if a movement excludes or devalues women, it is simply white patriarchy in blackface.

I also resent the notion that questioning the history of black leaders is somehow a rejection of black nationalism itself, an acceptance of white oppression, or the idea that anything other than monolithic, emphatic yesses are just “divisive” reasons why “we can’t have anything.”

The principles of Kwanzaa are worth celebrating daily and annually, but who among us is truly lacking, especially in Atlanta? The thriving black-owned businesses, black-led media, black cultural institutions, HBCUs and more are indicative of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we can uphold these principles and more while rejecting a “leader” with a history of violence and misogyny.  I know several people who celebrate, Kwanzaa, though most of my friends, family and colleagues don’t, which I don’t think is likely to change as more people learn about the founder’s past.

So if you’re celebrating Kwanzaa, Habari Gani, but as for me and my house, the only thing being lit will be my social media after this post.

Why Afropunk Atlanta was everything and yes, Solange killed it


Yes, Solange killed it, but Afropunk is so much more than a show.

In front of the entrance and on both sides of the main stage, there are signs in bold black and white that read: “No sexism. No racism. No ableism. No ageism. No homophobia. No fatphobia. No transphobia. No hatefulness.” Looks like a lot of rules for a celebration of freedom.

On the surface, this may not sound revolutionary until you consider how even the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. was long mired in the respectability politics of clean, heteronormative appearance and as recently as last spring, black girls at a charter school were punished simply for wearing their hair in braids.

See my full reflections on Afropunk Atlanta at Creative Loafing Atlanta here.

Note I took all photos except for the one of Solange.


(Photo: Shannon Barbour, Green Stage)
(Solange @saintrecords, Instagram)

20171015_230449(Photo of V. Her hair was in my peripheral vision as I watched Solange perform “Don’t Touch My Hair” I loved her Afro and freckles and she allowd me to take her photo: Shannon Barbour)


Jay, Bey, Trappin’ and Me

Several people have asked for my opinions on the most recent developments in hip hop culture, largely Jay Z, Beyoncé and the omnipresent ghetto vortex we call the trap. Here is what I see.

Jay and Bey

  • I like them. I like their music. They’re interesting.
  • I consume their music as art, not life instruction or even a real a report on the state of their union.
  • Lemonade, while culturally acclaimed, was largely seen among lots of black people as venting for “women,” while 4:44, though equally dope, has some people acting like it’s a new directive for all of black humanity.

Atlanta’s Pink Trap House and Trappin’ in General

  • I don’t have a problem with 2Chainz. He was nice when I met him.
  • I have some problems with the messages that he and his peers send through trap culture. Like the Pink Trap House in Atlanta.
  • If you’re happy to be trappin’ and getting white and exotic bitches, you hate yourself. You’re a cannibal. Nothing makes you more complicit with white supremacy than hating your origin in the form of the women who raised you while poisoning your community with cheap drugs. It’s the mass incarceration express and you’re the conductor.


  • If you are a woman who is vocal about gender inequality as you legally try to better yourself through career and education, you’re a “crazy feminist.” If you dare date or marry interracially or even post too many pics admiring Tommy from Power or President Grant from Scandal, you’re a bed wench. If you’re even a big fan of Scandal, you’re a bed wench.
  • I digress.
  • Women speaking up and speaking out is bitching.
  • Men speaking up and speaking out is revelation.

I have always been vocal about problems in hip hop culture because I understand hip hop culture. Since I was a child in the 80s watching boys breakdance in the playground rec center, to being a writer, music conference panelist and weekly hip hop trivia winner, I’ve been an active participant. Through hip hop I’ve found love of the people and the music while gaining professional opportunities.

Still, I must proceed with caution.  Don’t let the conversation become too unflattering. If you do, you are not a cultural critic, you’re a bitch.

Somehow, you cannot, like I do, simultaneously celebrate your colleagues and influences – who are overwhelmingly male – yet criticize the looming presence of misogyny, sexual assault and violence. If so, you have to consciously and subconsciously hate men on some level. For too many members of the hip hop loving public, support means blind allegiance, ego-stroking uplift and ass-kissing deference. You can speak out but carefully contextualize your conversation so as to not appear finger pointing and frequently pepper it with “I know not all men, but…”

The thin line between love and hate shows up in loving the people who make the music while genuinely hating the hell out of the negative shit they either directly or inadvertently perpetuate.

Please. If you’re a male who believes in fidelity, good parenting, self-respect, dignity and generational wealth, speak up. No one wants to listen to bitches like us.




Dear Dilla: Hip-hop will always love you


I can hardly believe it has been eight years since hip-hop lost James “J.Dilla” Yancey. February 7 would have been his 40th birthday.

Since his untimely passing from a rare blood disease, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and complications related to lupus, the posthumous tributes have been ongoing. They were never simply a trend, or a rallying cry to gather performers and fans.

It is literally impossible to pay homage to the late Golden Era to the mid 2000s hip-hop without honoring J.Dilla. I dare you to try. Not only did he largely construct the sounds of the A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Erykah Badu and Common, there are some pop songs – Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” and others, some of which he did not receive credit.

So while Dilla is gone from physical form, he will never be forgotten. To do so would be to forget who we are as MCs, writers, producers, DJs and individuals that keep powerful beats and rhymes in their everyday lives.

Photo: Dilla Day in the A, Friday November 22, 2013, with Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey

Welcome 2014!


Last year was the year of the selfie and I got some really good ones.

But more important than the mobile phone enabled exercises in mental masturbation, were the real connections with people. I was very fortunate to meet many folks I’ve admired in music, film, makeup artistry and other creative media.

So go ahead and touch someone (or yourself) as we reflect on 2013.

The highlights:

I moderated an International Music Conference panel discussion on publicity.

I did makeup on a film set for the first time. More to come…

I met Young Guru.

I wished Talib Kweli happy birthday.

I met a really nice guy with whom I have A LOT in common.

I talked to CeeLo again in a brief, but meaningful conversation.

I got a quick interview with Erykah Badu.

I got a good sit-down interview with MC Lyte.

I met people living in other countries that are better at keeping in touch with me than people a few neighborhoods over in ATL.

I was blessed with a new career opportunity very late in the year.

Finally, I took a selfie with Questlove.   Yes, ?uestlove.  Quest-freaking-love, the drummer of the Legendary Roots Crew that I’ve jammed to before Fallon, before he was named Time magazine’s coolest person of the year and long before the global acknowledgment his group are hip-hop’s preeminent, improvisational, badasses.

That, as the kids say, was everything.

Why gold-diggers make terrible friends

Some of the most easily accessible, yet badly distorted images are of the mainstream media concept of hip-hop. We see a mess of drama-filled relationships, catfights and of course good ol’ gold-diggers over a soundtrack of fully disposable beats.

Before you get fired up in the comments section, let me say clearly: this is not an anti-feminist rant. Feminism is about responsibility and the gold-digger chick is anything but. I’m not talking about the women and girls trapped in the horrors of sex trafficking, I’m talking about privileged (or semi-privileged, educated and or gainfully employed) women who make conscious decisions to manipulate men with their beauty and sexuality to acquire more privilege.

If you’ve had a gold-digger in your life, you probably met her through mutual friends, co-workers or other shared contacts. Early on, you likely mistook her laughter and exuberant energy as the signs of a kindred spirit. You hung out with her because she made you feel “special” for opening a window into her unbelievably awesome world. What you didn’t realize is that her life is a series of calculated, grimy, narcissistic, greed-driven pathologies hidden behind an expertly applied mask of high-end cosmetics.

Everyone is a pawn in her game. You’re no different. She’s your friend because you have something she wants: you work with celebrities, you’re in a well-paying, male-dominated career field where you interact frequently with your colleagues, or you have one or more handsome, straight, single male relatives with money. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you hang with her, she’ll keep you on the come up. She’s totally out for self.

If you’re blessed to have real friends in life, you know that the best moments don’t cost much. They happen over casual meals or coffee where you find peace and humor through the biggest issues and challenges.  The gold-digger is not interested in heart-to-heart talks unless she can make it all about her. Or she’ll pretend to listen intently just to find your weaknesses, of which she’ll remind you in a series of conveniently-timed backhanded compliments designed to make you second guess your success, attractiveness or social skills right before your next outing.

And to hell with your indie rock/underground hip-hop/new soul/art gallery/documentary film screenings – she only go if there are men – lots of them; preferably collectors or corporate types who are into the cultural scene. She’d rather go to parties filled with velvet ropes, red carpets and Bentley-driving ballers.

You’re the quintessential friend with benefits – you provide the benefits of accommodating her massive ego until she moves onto the next one. Quiet as kept, she hates you because she ain’t you. You earn a respectful living while she sold her body and soul to get what she’s got.

No new friends? Absolutely not. A vibrant life includes many opportunities for new friendships; just let the gold-diggers dig a ditch for themselves.

One time for your mind. When rappers could call out ratchetness without misogyny.