Category Archives: Commentary
December 13, 2013
The ethnic cleansing of Black and Brown broadcasters off the airwaves this year claimed not only the careers of Luke Stewart, formerly of Washington, D.C.’s WPFW, Weyland Southon, formerly of the Bay Area’s KPFA, and myself, formerly of KPFA, but it also claimed one of its most talented producers, Dr. Jared Ball of WPFW.
His offense, which was very similar to my alleged offense against Pacifica, was that he made “disparaging remarks” against the station and network management, and it was determined that he would be suspended indefinitely from the airwaves of his Mid-Day Jazz and Justice weekly show. Known in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area as one of the most relevant and radical interviewers on the dial and for bringing on people and experts who are seldom if ever acknowledged for their contribution towards the self-determination of African people, Jared Ball will be missed on the airwaves of the DMV.
No matter what you do in the future, I salute you, Jared Ball, for your enormous contribution to our understanding of issues in our communities worldwide and to our understanding of how media can work in our interest or against us. The Block Report will continue to support you in your future endeavors that involve revolutionary media work.
Here is Jared Ball in his own words explaining his recent dismissal from WPFW, the D.C.-based Pacifica radio station.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people how you became interested in and later got into radio? When and where was this?
Jared Ball: I first became interested in radio while in college. I started and briefly worked with the sports “department” of our campus radio station. But before long I realized how difficult it is in settings like that to address political issues, so I moved on pretty fast. It wasn’t until I was coming home from graduate school in 2001 that I really began to think about the importance of radio and started to get involved in some local low-power radio projects in Washington, D.C.
I also still count the mixtape radio project we started, FreeMix Radio, that was meant to circumvent an absence on the dial of real Black radical thought and music. That was part of what I understood to be – potentially – the important function radio can still play in advancing elements of our struggle. Eventually, as part of a now defunct organizational effort, I got more involved in WPFW there and soon became a regular programmer.
M.O.I. JR: For out of towners, what is the history of WPFW in the DMV area? How long have you been with WPFW? How long have you been doing your Mid-Day Jazz and Justice show?
Jared Ball: I am far from an expert on the history of WPFW, but I can at least say that it has been on air in more or less its current form since 1977. It has been largely known as a jazz and broadly speaking a “Black music” station with a diverse and mostly “Left” programming body.
I, perhaps mistakenly, always associated with particular programming over the years, like that of Tom Porter, Bob Daughtry and later Damu Smith, so I always took the station to be a Black community and progressive station. That is not to say I was unaware or disinterested in other programming, but this was my focus and what always drew me to that station. I began doing partial production and small news reporting pieces for various programs somewhere around 2002-2003 and became more of a full-time regular programmer around late 2004-2005.
I was first on Decipher, the station’s nightly hip-hop block that many of us had pushed for for years; our show was The Blackademics. I then moved to early morning jazz once a week and eventually Mid-Day Jazz and Justice before finally settling on The Super Funky Soul Power Hour once I took over one of the time slots vacated by the late Ambrose Lane.
M.O.I. JR: When and what reason were you given about why you were recently dismissed from your show?
Jared Ball: Shortly after my show aired Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, I was called and told of my indefinite suspension by general manager Michelle Price, the interim program director Tony Bates, and Gloria Minott who I think at the time was the public affairs director. Officially, Ms. Price indicated that I had broken the zero tolerance policy on publicly criticizing the station and network management.
Though I’ve never been told precisely what I said that broke that policy, I am assuming it was during a 10-minute segment of the show in which I engaged in a “debate” with a friend over whether to keep my show on the air at WPFW given the decisions being made and the treatment I had received from the old and new management. I said that I have serious questions and concerns about all of Pacifica’s national public affairs programming being White, mostly male and mostly over 50 years of age. Those interested can hear the showhere and reach their own conclusions as to the legitimacy of the decision.
Officially, Ms. Price indicated that I had broken the zero tolerance policy on publicly criticizing the station and network management.
Unofficially there seems to be a continued move to purge the station of those who have been openly critical – on or off air – of management and network decision-making. Off-air, I had asked Ms. Price how the station and network arrived at these decisions, why other programmers – and yes, I included myself – were not selected, encouraged or supported in developing their shows to meet whatever the standards were or are.
I asked how could it be possible that a network claiming itself to be an alternative – one that will sell Malcolm X, John Henrik Clarke, the Black Panther Party and more during pledge-drives! – could not somehow find any representatives of the world’s majority population to serve as national public affairs programmers. Again, those interested can see here my comments to station management and my final statement on my time at WPFW and move toward developing their own conclusions.
M.O.I. JR: What has been going on recently at WPFW? How has that affected the whole Pacifica network?
Jared Ball: I cannot speak to everything that has been going on; I was never the most involved member of the station. However, over the last two years or so there has been a struggle over the financial, managerial and programmatic direction of the station. Program grid changes were imposed, well-respected programmers like Tom Porter were removed, the former interim program director, Bob Daughtry, was removed, they just fired another brilliant young Black engineer and musician, Luke Stewart – whose latest “offense” was letting air an imperfectly edited speech by Fred Hampton during an on-air commemoration of the great man – and many other issues that have led to terrible in-fighting, divisiveness and, speaking for myself, a sense of hostility and unease in the studio space itself.
How this has affected all of Pacifica I cannot say. It seems part of a process that impacted you and many other programmers, particularly at WBAI in New York. I would say, though, that this affects Pacifica in weakening further its D.C. affiliate, one that should be among the loudest, most diverse and highly political but one that has, as others have noted, been more interested in Black music than Black thought.
I also think this weakens the network, which I still contend would be better served by reducing more of the extravagant salaries executives and managers earn at the network and redistributing those funds throughout the network in order to develop more programming, investigative and radical journalism – all of which I think would increase our audience and impact on those audiences.
This is the only way I see to save the network: Get more radical, more diverse and more involved in producing news.
M.O.I. JR: Ethnically cleansing the airwaves seems to be a trend every few years at Pacifica. What do you think? What are some of the reasons being said behind closed doors for the recent dismissal of Black broadcasters on Pacifica like you and myself?
Jared Ball: I think this is part of a long-standing struggle with White liberalism. From Hubert Henry Harrison to Claudia Jones, to DuBois, King, Malcolm X and Kwame Ture, all – and more – have noted the shortcomings of the White “Left” in dealing with Black people and Black liberation. I also think this is an issue of ideology and politics.
The Black hired hands who carry out management policy at WPFW are there for their commercial and corporate capabilities, not their interest or ability to program the most forward, critically thinking and stylish content. I listen to all their favorites too: I learn a lot from Amy Goodman, Richard Wolff and Doug Henwood, Project Censored and Counterspin – I do appreciate their work.
I asked how could it be possible that a network claiming itself to be an alternative – one that will sell Malcolm X, John Henrik Clarke, the Black Panther Party and more during pledge-drives! – could not somehow find any representatives of the world’s majority population to serve as national public affairs programmers.
But as I have long argued – and demonstrated – they do not have strong track records of including Black, Brown, Indigenous thought, worldviews, perspectives or concerns. And as I have said to our management, I think my show was better than theirs. I think there are plenty of other – and far better than me – world’s majority programmers who could be cultivated into strong national public affairs hosts.
The issue is that Pacifica feels that only these and those like them are worthy of an audience, of network support and of real promotion. So there is simply not a lot of room for people critical of their dominance of public affairs and national slots or critical of the limitations of their perspectives and analyses.
Or if the goal, as it once was at WPFW, is to bring NPR and NPR-like programming and to think that mirroring that kind of programming will improve the economic state of the network, then it stands to reason that those critical of that approach will not find themselves welcomed – certainly not those of us who have publicly equated NPR with Fanon’s description of Radio Alger in colonial Algeria.
Those of us who prefer an approach born of what can broadly be described as the Black radical tradition, including those of us who bring music and particularly hip-hop from that perspective, are less likely to be welcomed. But really, it is just offensive to suggest that WPFW could not find one Black or Brown programmer to promote for the national grid or to air as prime drive time evening public affairs.
M.O.I. JR: How do you look at what just happened in your situation and relate it to emancipatory journalism? What does this incident say about the state of the unfiltered political Black male voice in the media?
Jared Ball: I, too need to be reminded that my initial interest in emancipatory journalism – a philosophy of journalism that presupposes an on-going colonialism and need for bottom-up, organizationally based journalistic practice – and it being applied to the tradition of the hip-hop mixtape, all derived from an assessment of our media environment that there is no other more viable outlet, on or offline, for that kind of work or expression.
Pacifica and the rest of the so-called “Left” or “alternative” media world have proven themselves in this regard – and long before my removal – to be insufficient at best. I have to also be reminded that the political function of media is to prevent unsanctioned change, which means that, prior to any revolutionary change, there will never be unfiltered Black – or otherwise – women or men in prominent spaces. I think we have to again conclude – or should have long concluded – that the “Left” has not produced such space either and begin again to move accordingly.
Those of us who prefer an approach born of what can broadly be described as the Black radical tradition, including those of us who bring music and particularly hip-hop from that perspective, are less likely to be welcomed.
M.O.I. JR: What is next for you? How do people stay up with your podcasts?
Jared Ball: I don’t know exactly what is next for me. All I know is that I will continue to produce interview and discussion segments – and more – for anyone to use in their media work and that can all be found atIMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ambrose Lane , Amy Goodman , associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University , Black and Brown broadcasters ,Black broadcasters on Pacifica , Black community and progressive station , Black liberation ,Black Panther Party ,Black people , Black radical thought and music , Black radical tradition , Bob Daughtry , broadcasters , Claudia Jones ,Damu Smith , Decipher ,dismissal from WPFW , Doug Henwood , Dr. Jared Ball , DuBois , economic state of the network •emancipatory journalism , Ethnic cleansing , Fred Hampton , Freemix Radio , general manager Michelle Price , Gloria Minott , hip-hop block , hip-hop mixtape , Hubert Henry Harrison , ideology and politics , interim program director Tony Bates , interview and discussion segments , investigative and radical journalism , Jared Ball , John Henrik Clarke , KPFA , Kwame Ture , low-power radio projects ,Luke Stewart , Malcolm X , Mid-Day Jazz and Justice , mixtape radio project , national public affairs hosts , national public affairs programmers , NPR , NPR-like programming , Pacifica , Pacifica network, Pacifica radio station , Pacifica’s national public affairs programming , political issues , Project Censored and Counterspin , publicly criticizing the station and network management , Radio Alger in colonial Algeria , revolutionary change , revolutionary media work , Richard Wolff ,self-determination of African people , The Blackademics , The Block Report , The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey ,The Super Funky Soul Power Hour , Tom Porter , Washington D.C , WBAI in New York ,Weyland Southon ,White liberalism ,White “Left” , WPFW ,“A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X” , “Black music” station , “disparaging remarks” , “I Mix What I Like: The Mixtape Manifesto” ,“Left” programming body
Just another historical example of what happened to Black community radio . . .
In case you were wondering . . . The Story of more than 50 years of service to the Black community of Boston. Thanks to Kathy Hughes and her Radio One empire, this happened all over the country.
Hundreds of stations bought up under the FCC minority purchase program and then sold to the big boys. What was left, used to leverage capital for the company any way that it could. But we hand out NAACP Image Award to persons who ravage our community in this way. We should be outraged, but instead, like in our politics, the opt for the available best. Unfortunately in radio, there is no such thing.
WILD-AM Now Serves A Very Different Audience
BOSTON — 1090 WILD-AM was the scrappy little engine that could. A small-budget radio station with big ideas with over 40 years on air, it earned a trusted place in the heart and soul of Boston’s inner city community. But now that’s all gone. The station serves a very different audience.
In the 1980s, WILD-AM was the hot spot. If you wanted to find out what was happening in the city, you’d tune in. If you needed to get information to the African-American inner city community, the red brick building on Warren Street across from Roxbury District Court is where you’d go, whether you were a concert promoter, community activist or politician.
“The Coach” Willie Maye was sports director and morning co-host at WILD for 22 years. He recalls the good old days.
“We made some great strides, everyone wanted to be part of it,” Maye said. “Here you had this little radio station that was a daytime radio station. And [we] really made some great things happen. I remember back in ’85, we won best morning show in Boston Magazine, which was huge.”
And just about everybody came through.
“Luther Vandross, I remember, came one of the coldest Veterans’ Days back in the ’80s,” Maye said. “The line went out the door, around the corner, up the hill, because everyone one to see the late, great Luther Vandross. And he was great.”
But that’s all changed now.
“Shows hardly come to town anymore because promoters don’t feel as though they have a way to get the word out to people to come to their shows. So you don’t see as many African-American concerts here in Boston anymore. And it’s been like that in a big, big way in the last five years or so,” Maye said.
Maye echoes what many in the city are saying — that the voice of the community is gone.
What’s lost, said “Coach,” is more than a brick and mortar building, more than a radio station with a great playlist. The loss of WILD is especially felt when it comes to news, entertainment and cultural events now that the station has been reprogrammed.
As of June 1, China Radio International is the new sound of WILD. The station is targeting “new Americans.”
One of the reasons WILD is no longer on the air is that the marketplace has changed — the competition is greater. What’s happened to WILD is not surprising to media observers like WBUR media analyst John Carroll.
“I think it’s a reflection of what’s happening in the radio market overall, a movement toward consolidation, a movement toward nationalization or internationalization, a movement away from local community presence on radio stations and more toward major conglomerates, which are much less expensive to operate,” Carroll said. “One of the issues is can anyone make the FCC care about this?”
The Federal Communications Commission said it is not aware of the change in programming at WILD.
Radio One, which holds the WILD license, has a local marketing agreement, or LMA, with Douglas Broadcasting, which is airing China Radio International. Radio One is not required to report that LMA to the FCC.
Douglas Broadcasting says the new programming at WILD is an experiment. The company president, Greg Douglas, said he has no plans to sell commercial time. He would not say whether his company is being paid by the Chinese government to broadcast the programming.
“I can’t believe that this is going under the radar,” said media historian Donna Halper, who has written a book about Boston radio.
“I get the sense that it kind of violates the spirit of the law and I’d be very curious as to whether someone ought not to look into it, because I can’t believe that this is what needs to be going on in the minority community in Boston,” she said.
Longtime Boston civic activist and former Boston NAACP President Louis Elisa is doing just that.
“It’s a whisper campaign unless someone gives it a voice,” Elisa said.
Elisa said there is a movement to take back what for years was a drum for Boston inner city community.
“I know that a number of people will be petitioning,” Elisa said. “Our local Congressman Capuano, as well as Congressman Markey to get some some support to say to the FCC, ‘We need the opportunity to acquire this station, and acquire its assets, in order to keep our community in the know.’ ”
It’s important, said Elisa, because communication is the key to survival of any society.
ourage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement—a groundbreaking legal history of the civil rights movement—written from a bottom-up perspective.
In this sweeping history of the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta–the South’s largest and most economically important city–from the 1940s through 1980, Tomiko Brown-Nagin shows that the movement featured a vast array of activists and many sophisticated approaches to activism. Long before “black power” emerged and gave black dissent from the mainstream civil rights agenda a new name, African Americans in Atlanta debated the meaning of equality and the steps necessary to obtain social and economic justice.
This groundbreaking book uncovers the activism of visionaries–both well-known legal figures and unsung citizens–from across the ideological spectrum who sought something different from, or more complicated than, “integration.” Local activists often played leading roles in carrying out the integrationist agenda of the NAACP, but some also pursued goals that differed markedly from those of the venerable civil rights organization. Brown-Nagin discusses debates over politics, housing, public accommodations, and schools. She documents how the bruising battle over school desegregation in the 1970s, which featured opposing camps of African Americans, had its roots in the years before Brown v. Board of Education.
Exploring the complex interplay between the local and national, between lawyers and communities, between elites and grassroots, and between middle-class and working-class African Americans,Courage to Dissent tells gripping stories about the long struggle for equality that speak to the nation’s current urban crisis. This remarkable book will transform our understanding of the Civil Rights era.
Courage to Dissent adds a remarkable array of figures to the pantheon of civil rights lawyers and activists—A.T. Walden, Len Holt, Howard Moore, Jr., Margie Pitts Hames, Ethel Mae Mathews—courageous citizens who complicate our understanding of the movement.
Dr. Gerald Horne joins “Commentaries On the Times Radio” with Playthell Benjamin l Premiere February 13, 2013
“Commentaries On the Times Radio” with Playthell Benjamin
In Conversation with Dr. Gerald Horne John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston
Gerald Horne is an African American historian who currently holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He received his PhD from Columbia University and a J.D. from theUniversity of California, Berkeley. He is a frequent contributor to Political Affairs magazine.
He is a prolific author, Horne has published on W. E. B. Du Bois and has written books on a wide range of neglected but by no means marginal or minor episodes of world history. He specializes in illuminating previously obscure or misrepresented struggles of humanity for social justice, in particular communist struggles and struggles against imperialism, colonialism, fascism and racism. Individuals whose lives his work has highlighted in their historical contexts have included the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter John Howard Lawson, Ferdinand Smith (Jamaican-born communist, sailor, labor leader), the perplexing Lawrence Dennis, an African-American fascist and racist who passed for white, and the feminist, anti-colonialist, internationalist intellectual Shirley Graham DuBois whose own career was overshadowed by that of her famous husband. While many of Horne’s books use a celebrated, intriguing or politically engaged individual as a prism to inspect the historical forces of their times, Horne has also produced broad canvas chronicles of infrequently examined periods and aspects of the history of white supremacy and imperialism such as the post-civil war involvement of the US ruling class—newly dispossessed of human chattels—with slavery in Brazil, which was not legally abolished until 1888, or the attempts by Japanese imperialists in the mid-20th century to appear as the leaders of a global war against white supremacy, thus allies and instruments of liberation for people of color oppressed by Anglo-American Empire.
Manning Marable said, “Gerald Horne is one of the most gifted and insightful historians on racial matters of his generation.”
PREMIERING Thursday, February 21, 2013 10 pm ET LIVE Joins TruthWorks Network
TruthWorks welcomes Playthell Benjamin with “Commentaries On the Times Radio” to our exciting Black Voice Collaborative line up.
This weekly program features the best of the writings of Playthell Benjamin with commentary from his renowned virtual magazine, “Commentaries On the Times”http://commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com/.
The program will broadcast Thursday, 10 pm ET. “Commentaries On the Times“, a compilation of many years of essays, commentary and analysis of world and domestic issues. They include commentary with carefully researched historical background of the issues of day, including Black history, art, music and current events and people.
Benjamin brings a scope of 40 years of outstanding journalism and broadcasting to TruthWorks. As a former pioneer in the development of Black Studies programs and pundit broadcasting, he comes to a microphone with tremendous knowledge, insight and passion. Of his products, he labels his wordsmith products as, “Praising Saints, Celebrating Heroes, Unmasking Charlatans, Defending the Defenseless and Chastising Scoundrels”. We expect that his show will be no less.
With a lively wit to compliment a broadly learned mind, Playthell is a great guest on television or radio and has shared the mike with some of the biggest host in television, including Geraldo Rivera and Bill Mahr, which can be soon viewed on You Tube. At Present he is completing two books :Quantum shift: Commentaries on the Obama Phenomenon and Jazz at Lincoln Center: Magic Moments In the House Of Swing, a collaboration with the renowned photographer Frank Stewart. Playthell has held a professorship in History/Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts and recently held an adjunct professorship in journalism at Long Island University.
His essays on music criticism have appeared in a wide variety of publications and his interest range from classical music to Jazz to Latin and Hip hop. He writes program notes for Jazz at Lincoln center concerts and is an accomplished Latin percussionist who can be viewed playing with the group Zon Del Barrio on You Tube.
A regular reader of ”Commentaries On the Times” recently commented on one of his essays, “READ the top notch researched work that Brother Playthell George Benjamin is providing for Us. It doesn’t get any better and knowledge is a beautiful thing to share with your family and friends! Several hundred articles await your READING COMPREHENSION and you get what I consider a full PHD worth of knowledge nuggets. Go get that information and become the intelligent person you’ve always wanted to be amongst your crew of friends. Speak with intelligence and knowledge to support your points of view. In spoken and written dialogue, The FACTS tell who you are and as my grandmother used to say, “All Things in Life Change, but Not The TRUTH!” Let’s tell Our Story! I salute YOU Brother Playthell George Benjamin for “Enlightening Us All With Your Knowledge” in so many fields of Interest”.
Playthell George Benjamin is the producer of “Commentaries On the Times”, which he writes and delivers on WBAI radio in New York City, and a producer with The Midnight Ravers, a long running show exploring the world of art and politics which has won several radio awards for excellence in programming. He is an award winning journalist who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in two different categories: Explanatory Journalism, Village Voice 1988, and Distinguished Commentary, New York Daily News1995. As part of the production team for The Midnight Ravers, Mr. Benjamin won a 2011 award for excellence in radio programming, given for The Curtis Mayfield Special.
Playthell has won several prizes ranging from The Unity Award presented by the School of communications at Lincoln University in Missouri for distinguished commentary on race relations; the Griot Prize for excellence in covering a story requiring an exploration of African American history and culture: “Who is Listening to LouisFarrakhan?” It was awarded by the New York chapter of the Association of Black Journalist in December 1989. In 1991 Mr. Benjamin won the NYABJ Magazine Awards for Feature Stories,and in 1996 he won the first Annual Tom Forcade Award “for honesty and accuracy in drug reporting” awarded by High Times magazine for his columns on drug use and abuse in the New York Daily News.
His book, “Witnessing the Motion of History” is expected to publish in the Summer of 2013. His e-magazine covering analysis, commentary and presentation of issues and events is available here: http://commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com/
On Christopher Doner, the former LAPD officer, he recently wrote,
A REAL LIFE DJANGO? As I write a black gunman is terrorizing the Los Angeles Police Department, wreaking murder and mayhem upon the cops and their loved ones. Judging from comments online a growing number of people are beginning to see him as a real life Django Unchained! The broadcast media has been treating him like the crazy white boys who are going off all over the place – the macho paranoids like Dirty Dick Popolovsky in Pittsburgh, or pootbutt nerds suffering from pant worm and need a gun to feel like a man. But Christopher Dosner is neither one. When I saw his military record and the fact that he was once a member of the LAPD, I decided to do some investigation, beginning with reading his “Manifesto,” then reading a variety of materials on him. It was a revelation. I think it is a representative anecdote on the state of racism, corruption and brutality in contemporary police community relations in the great American cities. Here is my take on the man and what motivated his murderous mission. See: More Dangerous than Django! And he’s All the Way Live!!!!
As a former pioneer in the development of Black Studies programs and pundit broadcasting, he comes to a microphone with tremendous knowledge, insight and passion. Of his essays and commentaries, he labels these tremendously illuminating wordsmith products as, –
“Praising Saints, Celebrating Heroes, Unmasking Charlatans, Defending the Defenseless and Chastising Scoundrels”.
. . . Commentaries on the Times Radio will be no less.
Commentaries On The Times Radio with Playthell Benjamin
Premiering Thursday, February 21, 2013 10 pm ET
Like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CommentariesOnTheTimesRadio
On the Web/Program Notes http://www.commentariesonthetimeradio.wordpress.com/
Monday, January 7, 2013
What We Can All Learn From Whores
(But first, a disclaimer: I don’t believe in “whores.” I don’t believe in assessing the character of a person based solely on their sexual behavior. I think all people make different sexual choices that, if they are practicing them with equally consenting, adult partners, are awesome for them. But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume whore = the agreed upon social norm that a woman who engages in sexual behavior including but not limited to; sex with a high number of partners, multiple partners #atthesamedamntime, leveraging sex for material goods, etc. is a hoe.)
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
ook a long time to assemble my thoughts on Shawty Lo’s new show and the outrage it’s inspired primarily because I was deeply conflicted. Shawty Lo’s recklessness is indefensible. I have no desire to defend the show or its right to be on the air. I don’t believe that the arrangement the rapper has with his 10 children’s mothers and 11 children is a justifiable alternative family structure. The discussion around the show, however, has been largely unproductive and intellectually lazy. Too many men and women missed the greater, ongoing tragedies in black communities that this show represents.
Prescriptions of marriage for all Black women who wish to have children are bullheadedly misguided. Marriage, across many segments of American society, is dying, and black folks aren’t going to revive it. Yet compassionate conservatives continue pushing it without acknowledging that this institution simply does not align with the lived experiences of most Americans. Now that white folks are doing it in larger numbers, cohabitation and unwedded co-parenting will be normalized, but it’s a shame that majority culture has to adopt a habit so it will not be seen as pathological among blacks. Out of Wedlock shamers feel emboldened because their ideologies are validated by majority culture. That will soon not be the case.
If teaching young Black couples the value of marriage were the answer to problem of abandoned children, these discussions wouldn’t be necessary. Blacks are extremely conservative when it comes to theoretical moral stances, but morals, standards, and ethics are not fixed. They are situational and contextual. They require continual evaluation. I’ve known many men and women who’ve expressed a belief in the value of marriage who went on to have children out of wedlock. Things happen. Life happens. Stern lectures and catchy slogans don’t displace real trials and tumult life brings.
Marriage fell out of favor in Black communities decades ago because of shifting economies and values, and the shift we’re seeing away from marriage largely reflects that in the whole of America. When black folks do it, it’s primitive behavior. When white folks do it, it’s cultural evolution.
We have yet to discuss real solutions. Pro-marriage advocates refuse to acknowledge that a likelihood to marry is tied closely to education. College-educated women marry later and stay married longer. We also know that better health outcomes and financial stability also accompany formal education. Why then would “personal responsibility” campaigns focus exclusively on fertility. If you want young Black women to lead more stable lives, encourage them to stay in school. Of course, acknowledging that fact requires reading beyond the headlines, and takes away the fun of slut-shaming. But that’s a real solution – not a hash tag. A diploma.
Then again, higher education has become increasingly unattainable for those without family and financial support, and those are the women most at risk. The education solution does not account for the women who will not ever earn a diploma. That means we must turn to the women themselves and the families they produce.
In order to progress past the hand wringing, black communities have to embrace and encourage supportive, non-traditional families. This is, however, difficult to do with a family that is the result of the kinds of coercive sexual relationships that produced Shawty Lo’s situation. The majority of the mothers met the rapper when while they were underage or barely legal. This man is a predator, and he created a family born not of consent and support but of the perceived limits of black women’s romantic options. Without a commitment or assurance of stability, the women had his children. It seems they settled for what was available to them rather than what they deserved. It’s a mindset not uncommon in women – onne that stems from internalizing constant degrading messages.
Our worlds are limited by constant attacks. I question the motives of the black women bloggers who’ve taken this as an opportunity to further degrade women who clearly cannot see how valuable, beautiful and capable they are. You cannot claim to care for black women, especially those at risk of exploitation, and hurl the same insults at them as everyone else. Quite frankly, if you don’t hesitate to refer to black women as livestock, you’re not really for us. If further stripping Black women of their humanity is a central component of your movement, I have no choice but to hope for its speedy demise.
We grossly underestimate the intelligence of the women who find themselves in less than ideal romantic and child-rearing entanglements. In reality, women must get creative in order to navigate the landmines of patriarchy. “Respectable” black women talk down to those they presume don’t know any better and do nothing but preach to the wannabe upper class choir.
Alternative families can be beautiful; however, ideally those family structures would be created with consent and support. Support is more than financial. We must demand men assume emotional responsibility for their children as well as financial culpability. This requires a fundamental reimagining of the foundational roles of fathers. The problem cannot rest solely at the feet of women who birth the children.
Shawty Lo and the mothers of his 11 children didn’t reveal to me anything I hadn’t seen or imagined. But they did force me to think through the ways we can improve the lives of the adults and kids caught up in less than ideal circumstances. Attempting to silence or erase them won’t fix anything for the countless other women who face similar challenges. Empower women to pursue higher education. Empower them to seek partners that will uplift them. Empower them to use birth control and condoms. We must remember that strong families cannot exist without strong women, and the work of building them never ends.
As the map above shows, if Republicans don’t hold Massachusetts, the prospect of seizing back the Senate majority looks decidedly daunting. The GOP would need to win all six tossup races just to gain a 50-50 tie in the Senate (assuming every state that is currently red or blue on our map stays that way). If President Obama wins reelection, 50-50 means Democrats would still control the upper chamber. (On the map, yellow states are “tossup” races, the light blue and red ones are “lean” Democratic and Republican contests, and the dark blue and red states are “solid” Democratic and Republican races.)
Yvette Carnell: What Black People Have in Common With Pavlov’s Drooling Dogs
Pavolov was a scientist who studied physiology, and this was Pavlov’s experiment:
Pavlov became interested in studying reflexes when he saw that the dogs drooled without the proper stimulus. Although no food was in sight, their saliva still dribbled. It turned out that the dogs were reacting to lab coats. Every time the dogs were served food, the person who served the food was wearing a lab coat. Therefore, the dogs reacted as if food was on its way whenever they saw a lab coat.
In a series of experiments, Pavlov then tried to figure out how these phenomena were linked. For example, he struck a bell when the dogs were fed. If the bell was sounded in close association with their meal, the dogs learnt to associate the sound of the bell with food.
Black people react to racism, or the mere suggestion of racism, the same way Pavlov’s dogs reacted to lab coats and bells. It is a learned response to a perceived threat, but it makes us weak prey to people who would much rather have us distracted than engaged. And this reflexiveness is damning us to permanent second class status, especially here in America.
Take for example the highly sensationalized reporting on Ron Paul’s 20 year old racist newsletters. Republicans didn’t even need to do any heavy lifting to get Ron Paul disqualified based on that inflammatory accusation. Why? When all they needed to do, all they did, was mention that Paul supposedly wrote racist newsletters two decades ago and, instinctively, black writers went in for the kill, and wasted their time and valuable platforms fighting a battle that wasn’t their own.