(FinalCall.com) – At Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., where being Black and female is something to celebrate, the students said “no” to rap artist Nelly’s bone marrow drive scheduled for April 2, after he said “no” to their demand that he come to a forum where students could question him about his latest video for his song, “Tip Drill.”
“We care about the cause and we understand that the need for bone marrow is so great within the minority community,” explained Asha Jennings to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is president of the Spelman Student Government Association and coordinator of the drive. “However, we can’t continue to support artists and images that exploit our women and put us out there as oversexed, non-intelligent human beings.”
The cancellation of the bone marrow drive was a shock to members of Nelly’s management group and foundation 4Sho4Kids. The foundation was started to find bone marrow and stem cell donors for Blacks after Nelly’s sister, Jackie Donahue, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Finding the right blood stem cell donor for her will greatly increase her chances for survival. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, only 23 percent of those registered are minorities.
“To cancel it because of this issue is a shame,” Juliette Harris told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. She is Nelly’s publicist with Alliance Management Group. “And to put him in this position is not right. There’s a work image and then there’s a human being who loves his sister and is trying to do a good thing.”
How low can you go?
Nelly’s new video is so explicit that it can only be shown on BET‘s “Uncut” in the middle of the night. The nearly nude women dance around to his song and one of the most perverse scenes involve Nelly swiping a credit card on a woman’s backside.
“The video is pretty outrageous,” Yemi Toure, an Atlanta-based cultural critic and syndicated columnist told The Final Call. “The very act of swiping a credit card on a woman is beyond what would be considered acceptable, even for BET. That’s why it can only be shown on BET at 3 a.m.”
“What is the message of the video? It’s too demeaning and too far down. Nelly should have come to the campus and explained this to the students. He should have heard what the women had to say,” the critic continued.
The students at Spelman did a courageous thing and ignored whatever backlash might have come from denying their classmates the opportunity to see the rap artist Nelly.
Earlier that week, abut 500 students from Spelman College, Morehouse College for Men and the other schools from the Atlanta University Center gathered for a forum to discuss rap lyrics, videos and the exploitation of women. The group is organizing students to respond to the misogynistic music by not buying the CDs or watching the videos of the artists that produce these songs. They also want students to write protest letters to the artists.
“There are a lot of Spelman women who are opposed to his presence because of the depiction of women in his latest video, which is considerably worse than any of his other videos have been,” Ms. Jennings told Atlanta’s “News 11 Alive.”
While many Spelman women may be opposed to Nelly’s lyrics, not all were convinced this was the best way to demonstrate that opposition.
“I didn’t agree with it since he wasn’t coming to promote himself,” Nzinga Fielder, a Spelman sophomore told The Final Call. “He wanted to get bone marrow donors for his sister. I didn’t think it was proper to protest this; she didn’t make the video.”
Ms. Fielder is the daughter of filmmaker Julie Dash. “People could have benefited from the event. I agree with them totally about his lyrics and the video. I just don’t think this was the appropriate time to do this.”
Rap lyrics gone wild
Rap lyrics have run amuck for years. They have incited the ire of everyone from Dr. C. DeLores Tucker, chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women, to Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President Al Gore to concerned parents to Congress. The uproar led to the warning labels of explicit music currently placed on CDs. Parents have a choice of getting the raw uncut version or the decent version for their children.
In February 1994, Dr. Tucker testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice, during which she explained that she is not against rap or hip hop music. According to sistaspace.com, she said: “However, we are against Gangster Rap and misogynist lyrics. As African-American women, we are especially aware of the social and economic conditions that have spawned some of this behavior.”
She added, “Placing profit ahead of social obligation, record companies routinely market music which glorifies violence, demean women, glamorize the usage of illegal drugs and even cross the line in being audio pornography.”
The women at Spelman have followed in that tradition and expressed their dismay at Nelly’s latest video.
“Nelly is reaping what he sowed. He made degrading images of Black women, so he should not be surprised if some strong Black women call him out about it,” said Mr. Toure. “I’m a strong supporter of their right to question Nelly about his lyrics.”
While the Spelman women may have said “no” to Nelly, they didn’t dismiss the significance of the bone marrow drive. Ms. Jennings explained to The Atlanta Journal Constitution that this was the video that “broke the camel’s back” and that the students want to hold a bone marrow drive at a later date.
“The last thing we wanted was for the drive not to happen, but to expect it to go on without any controversy was not realistic,” she said.
According to Mr. Toure, “The women are approaching the Red Cross about doing another bone marrow drive.”