Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Black Media Stereotypes

Last Saturday in between the rain and the sun, The Harlem Book Fair was in effect. For the first time I was out there as a vendor selling my Hotness T-shirts and so I didn't get a chance to check out the panels. I'ma blog more on the Book fair itself in a day or so, but first I must post about one of the panels that I caught on C-Span on Sunday.

The panel Black Media and Black Stereotypes was moderated by Cathy Hughes (Radio One) and featured Roland Martin, Dick Gregory, William Rhoden and Juan Williams. I think Al Sharpton joined later but by then I was probably engrossed in something way more interesting like cutting my cuticles or cleaning my microwave. This panel was not only a snoozer but it was so rudimentary that it was offensive.

When asked what is Black media, Roland answered with the following observation: "I believe there are three types—Black Owned, Black Controlled and Black Targeted." Black Owned would be WLIB, Black Controlled would be Essence and Black Targeted would be The Source (when headed by Dave Mays & Benzino). He then went into this exegesis of sorts about The Washington Post and how he never wanted to work for them and Milton Coleman. Then seemingly out of nowhere both he and Cathy launched into this tirade about Janet Cooke who won a Pulitzer for a fabricated story she wrote for TWP and how "mainstream media types encourage this type of behavior." Oh, did I mention this Janet Cooke fiasco happened in 1981 and that coincidentally after everyone discovered what a big liar she was (allegedly she said she graduated from Vassar too), Janet claimed that the high-pressure environment of the Washington Post had corrupted her judgment?!? Okay, so many things can be said about this entire exchange. Like why are your references as to how yucky white media can be like 25 years old (dang isn’t that when MTV debuted?), or why is that when Black folks eff up at "mainstream" companies, it's the fault of the company and not the individual, or better yet how is it that in 2006 you still believe that mainstream outlets like the Post somehow compromise and tarnish the talents of Black journalists without even acknowledging the value and depth folks like Lola (NY Times), Greg (Village Voice) and Cheo (LA Times) have added to these outlets? Well my friends it only gets better.

Next up was William who couldn't stop waxing nostalgically about how great it was to play football at Morgan State and get a job at Ebony. It seemed that for him this was the epitome of Black Male success and at that time it probably was (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that no one on the panel was under 45 or female [Cathy moderated]). Again it's 2006 and you are talking about Ebony magazine as a model for what? You know I'm not going to say anything more about that moment. Especially since I had walked by the QBR booth right outside the Schomburg that very day and heard this sister ask who reads Ebony because her book was featured in this month's issue. I lie to you not, no one said a word. I heard crickets on 135th Street, yo! Startled, homegirl said something like well make sure you go to your doctor's office and check it out.

So back to the panel. After about 30 minutes of yapping, I was shocked that in their talk about Black Media no one mentioned, never mind discussed, online media and how digital platforms like Blogger, or this and Black sites like EUR and this one are impacting community, media and politics. Nope not a word. Then again there were no youngin's on the panel cause we all know X-ers like me only get asked to participate on hip-hop panels.

Juan Williams brought up a good point about the history of Black journalists being advocates and using the press to promote a specific point of view like DuBois did with his Crisis. He wondered where was the advocacy in Black media and how do Black journalists fit into niche media. This bright point never got a fair shake as Dick Gregory and Cathy Hughes somehow started talking about Marion Barry.

In what had to be the panel's finest moment, both Dick and Cathy ranted about how the gov't set up Barry and how the media twisted the story making a mountain out of a tiny snow hill. "Is he the only man in America that sniffs coke," one of them whined. Errr um, he was the dang mayor of DC and it was crack. And please break it down to me how the Post manipulated him to do a Pookie and light those rocks and get high? I'm starting to wonder if Dick is sniffing his leftover Bahamian Diet Mix powder. Jeesh! At this point I changed the channel and made myself a drink.

I turned back 30 mins later hoping that these cats were trying to redeem themselves. Unfortunately Dick was talking about how all of his children had attended Black colleges except for one and that "she's the craziest child in his family." Then of course Rhoden chimed in about how great his experience was at Morgan.

When so many Black and Latino children drop out of high school and decide not to go to college, what the hell is so fracking constructive about dissing Black kids like me who decide to go to a predominantly white college. This has got to be the funkiest crap I've heard in a longtime. I was pissed. Still am. And because I've already written a novel here, I won't go into detail about how much more advanced-- academically and socially I was than the chick I shadowed at Howard in '89. I had read the books they were reading as sophomores in my junior year at Hunter H.S. Now I'm not dissing Howard or Spelman or any of the other historically Black colleges, but I'm saying they were not for me and that was my choice. I don’t think I need to be dissed or feel ashamed for making that choice and if this is what Dick and the other cats on the panel think is the major problem facing Black journalists then I guess Darfur, AIDS and poverty aren’t the biggest issues for Black communities. It's old school ignorance.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad that TV One exists, but unfortunately the bulk of its programming is directed towards middle aged and middle class blacks. Certainly they deserve thier outlets too, yet the line up of TV One helps to illustrate the disconnect between generations. The hosts..Patti Labelle, Al Sharpton and Cathy Hughes are our parents and in some cases, our grand parents generation. For instance a money/wealth building show with Farrah Gray as host. A talk show with Hill Harper as host. These concepts look towards the future instead of looking back...as many shows on TV One.

I was glad to hear about TV One because everytime I even click PAST BET and catch even a glimpse of the god awful programming there, I want to jump through the set and choke some one. There are simply not enough words to describe how truly dreadful it is. So I guess TV One is a start. Will Mom and Pops listen to what we want to hear?


8/12/2006 6:40 PM

Blogger MahoganyGirl.com said...

Most of these old blacks in media are shook on online media. Its like when Hip Hop come around in the late 70's. They think if they ignore it.. It will go away but someone WHITE will probably come along like they always do and take it over. Blacks are scared of new technology sometimes. They think it will hurt their bottomline i.e. money but the internet will increase their money. That's my the Fox guy bought MySpace.

Nice blog BTW.

8/14/2006 6:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the old heads did not feel the need to discuss online outlets because quiet as its kept, on the large scheme of things many people, black people that is still do not own or have access to a computer. I like to have my facts straight before I relay statistics, but as recently as last year I learned that most blacks and hispanics don't own or (I don'tunderstand how) but they don't own or have access to a computer. I myself disputed this information, there are computers in the public library, schools, etc. so how could a person not have access to the internet? One girl in my class raised her hand and admitted that she did not have a personal e-mail account. She said that she had multiple responsibilities including three young children and could not go to a library where you had to be quiet and were only alotted a minimum amount of time on the computer. I was shocked. Many of us take for granted what we have and forget about the have nots, which now makes up a large part of the US population.

8/15/2006 7:47 PM

Blogger Hot Grrrl said...

African-Americans are (still) behind the curve when it comes to technology and online media. True! But I wasn't talking about a young single mom living in the inner city. I'm talking Cathy Hughes and the folks at QBR. There is no excuse for them not addressing this topic on a panel about Black media. No wonder when I look at this week's Business Week where they highlight successful entrepreneurs that are making money with their online platforms, it's no wonder I see nary a Black face. We are still crying about The Man!

8/16/2006 12:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey hot girl point taken, but just so you know, I wasn't talking about a young single mom either which goes to show the assumptions people make and run with. The "man" whoever that is, has nothing to do with it, as mentioned in your blog while many a celebrity is concerned about Africa, people are in dire poverty right here in the states, struggling and striving to feed their families leaving no time or resources for technical literacy, goodbye industrialism, welcome to Globalism and The New World Order.

8/16/2006 4:12 AM

Blogger Hot Grrrl said...

anonymous-- you say you weren't talking about a single mom but your exact example of someone with limited to no access was as follows: "One girl in my class raised her hand and admitted that she did not have a personal e-mail account. She said that she had multiple responsibilities including three young children."

8/16/2006 11:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing...I would imagine once we reach 60 or 70 years old, we are experiencing time in a different way. When you are 30, ten years ago is a third of your life and possibly the beginning of your entire adult life. So that time might seem VAST. But if you are 70, it could feel like yesterday. That is one way we as different generations can become disconnected not having empathy for what others are experiencing. If these folks were more in tune with others...there might have been a preface...such as..."this might seem like old news to the younger members of the audience BUT................

I am sure when I am 70 I will still be complaining about the change in direction of Rap/hip hop to being mass marketed and saturated with misogynistic and materialistic images. I can see myself still bringing up Ice T, Big Tymers and Ludacris and younger people asking "Who the hell is she talking about" :-)

8/16/2006 1:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous (Yvette)

I don't think it's "unfortunate" that TV One is directed towards "middle-aged and middle-class blacks" - in other words "family" programming.

These are the blacks that have been ignored by BET for the last 25 years. What's wrong with them having something to watch? There is a sorely ignored demographic that can relate to a Patti LaBelle or a Cathy Hughes - and they aren't being served by 99% of the networks out there.

8/16/2006 7:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous.....

Yes, I too like the idea of "family programming" for our community...yet "the family" is not just the older folks. Though I do like TV One, there are hours and hours of programming. It is a network and I have not seen one host under the age of 40. So I can certainly imagine Ms. Hughes and Co. at the Harlem Book Fair focusing on events that happened 20 years ago or overlooking convos about the internet revolution.

For Ms. Hughes and Co. to survive they will have to target a younger/broader audience because they are the ones who watch the BULK of TV programming.

8/17/2006 2:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Hughes has been in the DC/Maryland area for quite sometime. She started out with no resources and built an empire. I am certain her network will survive since 95.5% of minorities are left unsatisfied with the soft porn of BET.
The disconnect between generations is two-fold; ask any twenty something year old who Fannie Lou Hamer is and if its not in a rap song they are generally clueless. They only know Rosa Parks from the rap song by OutKast. One could blame this on the older generation and say they didn't teach, but picking up a book and reading to attain knowledge of self should not have to be taught.
Lastly, while we younger folks may not pick up Ebony, it should not be taken lightly. It has maintained longevity in the hands of the same black owner until his recent death...and many people probably including all of our mamas subscribe to Ebony/Jet.

-Nicole, this one is from me TAHANA, Duces!!! LOL!

8/17/2006 3:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis and coimmentary, Nic! As usual you are right on target. Surprising about that media panel...our generation needs to represent so these types of panels don't happen. I nominate you as the Harlem Book Fair's programming consultant!

And your piece on sistas in advertising was well-researched and razor sharp as well. Keep up the GREAT work!

Thembisa Mshaka, BET

8/18/2006 4:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Tahana

"if its not in a rap song they are generally clueless. They only know Rosa Parks from the rap song by OutKast. One could blame this on the older generation and say they didn't teach, but picking up a book and reading to attain knowledge of self should not have to be taught."

Sadly, I would say...everything needs to be taught. And I do mean everything, as we no longer live in communities or families where one might have knowledge passed on in other ways. I do think it is the fault of the generation of folks in thier 50's and 60's for not teaching my generation the basics, we in turn have not taught our children. My mother always talks about "common" sense, but how is it "common" if no one around you understands or knows it. I think my mother's generation felt there were something "everyone" knows...well she knew because she grew up in a close knit, hard working southern community with positive examples of behaviour all around. What of those of us who had none of those experiences???????
Now the older generation seems exasperated and annoyed by us and our children, but we came from where and from whom??????

8/18/2006 6:55 PM

Blogger Hot Grrrl said...

Anonymous @6:55pm- interesting point. The question then becomes can we learn without being taught (at least by others). What about the importance of self-determination? And lastly how relevant then is Black media if it only addresses a small percentage of our community?

8/23/2006 2:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Hot Grrrl,

From Yvette @ 6:55pm

Can we learn without being taught?

Wonderful question! I would say, of course it is possible. Certainly there are brilliant people whose acheivements are astounding considering thier environments. Yet for most folks sadly no. The majority of people need clear messages, examples and boundaries to learn. In this ongoing argument with GFs, I have one whom constantly brings up Ben Carson and his thriumph in life. Well in my opinion Ben Carson, with the complexity of pediatric neurosurgery, is a possibly a genius, certainly a rare, rare individual. Most of us need role models, teachers, leaders and prophets. I am sure you hear the complaint often in the black community. Where are our leaders? We need more role models? Lawdy, would somebody please tell us what to do! I think that is human nature. Certainly Warren Jeffs knows that.

I think self determination can be very powerful, but I see many people only exercising thier true power and will when threatened or somehow pushed to unbearable limits. I don't exclude myself from these groups of course.

The Black media needs to do more to address a broader range of folks. I know that TV One is trying and to that I say Hallelujah! Yet, hasn't anybody thought of a news and politics type show targeted to young people...maybe with Farai Chideya, Toure and that crazy, ultra conservative republican former black beauty chick. Is that really not a viable concept? The only time I ever get to see ineteresting folks like this is on the Bill Maher show.



9/01/2006 4:44 PM


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