(FinalCall.com) – Negative, buffoonish and demeaning portrayal and images of Blacks in the entertainment industry is nothing new. Whether it is sexually suggestive or violent lyrics in music, half-naked women gyrating in music videos or objectionable characters portrayed on the small and big screen, the image of Blacks in music, television and film is more of an issue today than it was years ago, say industry critics.
The few positive images seen or heard were rarely recognized or rewarded by mainstream awards shows, therefore shows like the annual NAACP Image Awards became a vehicle that allowed Black entertainers to be appreciated for their work. The 42nd NAACP Image Awards held this year March 4 in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium and broadcast on FOX are billed as, “A multi-cultural awards show from an African American point of view,” and also honor civil rights advocates, politicians, authors and community service activists.
However, the Image Awards have come under fire by some who criticize the show for, in particular, nominating music acts whose lyrics some found objectionable. Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., and the Enough Is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment recently criticized the NAACP awards show for nominating artists like Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Diddy Dirty Money, Kanye West and B.O.B., “whose adult and sexually explicit lyrics have shocked advocates fighting for decency in the music industry,” says the group’s press release. The artists mentioned by Enough Is Enough are nominated in several musical categories along with other artists like Herbie Hancock, John Legend and The Roots.
“The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the contributions of people of color in the arts, that’s what we are celebrating tonight and if you watch the broadcast you’ll see the true spirit of the NAACP shine through,” Chris Fleming, an NAACP spokesperson told The Final Call when asked about the criticism.
Why do awards shows, Black or otherwise, continue showcasing and rewarding artists who continue perpetuating the thug, gangster, video vixen, pimp, hustler, clown image and ultimately, who controls the images that are visually and mentally bombarding the entire world?
“It’s by design,” says acclaimed hip-hop artist Jasiri X. “You watch videos today, they’re reminiscent of the minstrel shows that you would see in the ’20s and ’30s and to me the only thing that has not changed from that time to now is who’s in control of the industry.”
Columnist, activist, author and lecturer Truth Minista Paul Scott agreed. Entertainment media moguls and large corporations know the potential of Black youth to be leaders and would “do anything to stop that,” including continuing the bombardment of negative music and images, he said.
“It is foolish to tell our young people to embrace knowledge but at the same time reward ignorance. We have to start rewarding knowledge and we have to have a zeal for knowledge,” added Mr. Scott.
Anytime you allow somebody else from outside your community or yourself to control your image, you’re going to get sort of a stereotypical view of what they think you are and what they think you represent, continued Jasiri X, who also serves as the student study group coordinator for the Nation of Islam in Pittsburg, Pa. Jasiri X says he has had a tremendous amount of success being a “conscious” rap artist because there is little competition in his arena.
Connie Muhammad, A.K.A. “Nutmeg,” a singer and hip-hop artist says the objectification of Black women as sex objects in entertainment is rooted in slavery and there is an intent today to show the Black woman as a slave and under the control of others. “I feel that the entertainment industry is heavily controlled, it’s not an atmosphere where artists can be free,” Sis. Connie told The Final Call.
“We have to reward those who aren’t afraid to speak truth to power and I think one of the people doing it right now on an international level is Jasiri X so I would like to see him get an award,” said Mr. Scott.
As a popular and successful “conscious” hip-hop artist, Jasiri X admits he has felt pressure to change his image. “There’s pressure now,” he laughs, but “I have a wonderful example that I’ve accepted as my example in the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and he’s never bowed to the pressure and I want to be like him when I grow up … I gain strength from him.”