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Wednesday
Jul112007

Our 100th Post- Open Letter To Corporate America- Just Pull Your Ads from " Hot Ghetto Mess" Already.


This marks our 100th post. For those of you who were with me at the beginning, you know I started this blog in a fit of outrage. Even back then I said I didn’t want to do this and was hoping someone else would take up the charge. I’m still waiting (hint, hint) I never imagined that almost three months later I’d still be doing this plus a call -in talk show.

Throughout this entire time, I have been amazed at what people will do if you JUST ASK. A lot of you come to the site despondent and wonder what can you do to battle the onslaught of negative portrayals of African Americans. All you have to do is open up your mouth and exercise your right as an American to speak! ( I really wish we would stop taking that simple freedom for granted. There is a reason why the First Amendment is the FIRST.)

I said back then that all we had to do was cut off the spigot of corporate dollars funding this foolishness. We don’t need Congress. We don’t have to wait for the NAACP or Rev. Al. We don’t need to have yet another meeting with media executives. We don’t have to form a committee or hold a convention.; we just need to open up our mouths and speak to the corporations that are funding the War on Black Women.

So again, thanks for coming to the site, commenting, sending me links and stories, and taking action when I have asked for help. I really can’t do this without you!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming …….(Sorry, it is another Loong post I promise I‘ll be cutting back next week).


Dear Corporate America,

I appreciate your desire to reach African American viewers, but let me assure you that subsidizing a show called “ Hot Ghetto Mess” is not the way to do it. You don’t want your corporate brand associated with a show called “Hot Ghetto Mess” or the website that is the genesis for the show. If you have not been to the Hot Ghetto Mess site, I think you need to do so quickly.

Now the name of the show alone should have alerted a marketing executive of average intelligence that there MIGHT be a problem, but we are going to assume that you were reassured that your company would be insulated from criticism by BET for sponsoring a show whose sole purpose is to hold ordinary Americans in contempt, African Americans in particular. I mean after all the show is on BLACK Entertainment Television, surely it couldn’t be racist. The website that the show is based on isn’t run by the Klan after all, as first believed, but by a privileged African American female attorney who used to work for Legal Services in DC, therefore, it must be okay.

I want to point out certain realities that BET has continued to ignore, at its own peril, but you would be wise to acknowledge.

1. BET is no longer the only game in town. In the beginning, BET was all there was. I remember Donnie Simpson and Video Soul back when BET had a soul. African American artists appeared on MTV about as often as a lunar eclipse and then for such a short time that if you blinked you might miss them. Bev Smith had Our Voices and there was BET News and Teen Summit . Every Christmas, the TV at my grandmother’s house ended up on the BET Christmas special.

We didn’t have YouTube, Nick at Nite, Grey’s Anatomy 20 years ago. Black celebrities were a rare species on MTV, now they’re everywhere; MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, ESPN. Hip Hop was a fringe musical genre, now it is dominating popular culture, I don’t even think we had Oprah back then. Times have changed. You don’t have to advertise on “Hot Ghetto Mess” in order to reach us.

2. BET, despite it’s name is not a Black company. It is owned, controlled and hands its revenue over to Viacom. I don’t care how many times Debra Lee and Reginald Hudlin try to shield their Viacom bosses from culpability, the last time I checked the executive management of Viacom was not African American. Our outrage would be the same even if they were.

3. The people who run BET are really bad managers, you shouldn’t trust your brand to them.
First BET placed sponsors advertising on a page with a huge blackface cartoon. Wasn’t there anyone within that organization that said “ Hmmm, I wonder if State Farm would have a problem with an ad for their “ 50 Million Pound Challenge” right next to the words “ Hot Ghetto Mess” and a big ol’ blackface cartoon?”

That didn’t happen because the corporate culture at BET still believes that they have a monopoly therefore are immune from outrage from the African American community. This is the same entity that didn’t figure out that building an entire brand on the backs of music videos and syndicated reruns of African American shows while jettisoning the few original shows they had wasn’t a good business model. This is the same organization that ignored widespread outrage from Black women about their after hours Hip Hop porn show, “Uncut. “

4. BET is DESPERATE to maintain the image that they are must-see-TV for Black America. That is just not the case. You need to dig behind whatever ratings or viewer numbers BET is claiming to have. Yes, the network MAY penetrate 84 million households, but is anyone over the age of 25 watching? I don’t know a person over the age of 25 that will admit to watching BET. In fact, just go up to a group of random Black people in your target demographic and say the name “BET”.

BET was so arrogant that African Americans didn’t have any other place to go that they slept for about 10 years while alternatives popped up all over the place and now SUDDENLY they realize that they have to do more than running music videos and reruns. They know many in their target audience have tuned them out so they decided to attempt the stunt of bringing HotGhettoMess.com to international television. This isn’t about social commentary, this is about BET trying to prove that they can out-Flava-of-Love VH1. They are willing to sacrifice your corporate image in the process.


I want to leave you with one final visual. Imagine the following caption:

“ Hot Ghetto Mess Brought to You By (___insert your company’s name here___) .
I can assure you that we are not going to go away and I have already prepared a graphic design, I just need to know which corporate names and logos to insert. I might even do my first YouTube PSA featuring the advertisers who decide to subsidize Hot Ghetto Mess. My portrait of Debbie “Antoinette” Lee took about 10 minutes. This send up of Russell"Palpatine" Simmons took about 25 minutes. Imagine what we could come up with over the next two weeks before the show airs.

We are just a tiny little blog. What are you going to do when the “usual cast of characters” finds out about this? Right now they have been occupied by the music festivals, awards shows, and conventions. Get out now while you still can. Hot Ghetto Mess is not worth the headache. Take this opportunity to demonstrate that you have standards and a corporate culture that does not celebrate holding people who look different in contempt for entertainment purposes.

BET can’t buffer your brand in this case because the network has squandered any moral authority by broadcasting cultural gems such as Uncut and living on a steady diet of violent, anti-woman, anti-education, anti-authority, pro-prison, pro-pimp, pro-drugs music videos. Didn’t it occur to them that music videos would be ubiquitous on the internet right now so viewers no longer have to watch BET to see their favorite artist? Didn’t someone at BET notice before now that African American viewers were going elsewhere? I mean they ARE in the television business.

In its desperate attempt to ward off irrelevance BET executives apparently do not mind taking your company down with them. This really isn't a tough call. So just do the right thing pull your ads from “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,

What About Our Daughters?
“Combating negative portrayals of African American women in popular culture”

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Tuesday
Jul102007

Hot Ghetto Mess = BET’s Hottentot Venus 2007


This is a long post, but if you don’t read anything else, Read the portion about the story of Hottentot Venus and the sordid history of human displays of Black people for entertainment. Hot Ghetto Mess, Flava of Love, I Love New York and Charm School are not new.

BET executives and the creator of the site Hot Ghetto Mess, have offered numerous justifications for why it is okay for them to air an African American freak show called “ Hot Ghetto Mess.”

Reginald Hudlin says that Hot Ghetto Mess is a parenting tool ."There is a generation of people who don't know how to talk to their kids in a way that doesn't turn them off," Hudlin said. "Now they're complaining because we want to successfully engage them.” Move over Dr. Spock, Reggie Hudlin is handing out parenting advice.

The creator of the website and show Jam Donaldson, an attorney ( Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston and Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher would be sooo proud) said “I will say again, to all of you who are angry at me for airing our dirty laundry—good I’m glad you’re angry.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

For the record, (Jam Donaldson) has no issues with the logo. "It's hardcore and in your face," she said. "You can't mince words with that logo." In an industry where cultivating controversy is often synonymous with grass-roots marketing, Donaldson believes "Mess" has a built-in advantage in the crowded cable marketplace.

"If it happens to be controversial, that's fine," she said. "If it makes it more marketable, that's fine, too. 'Fahrenheit 9/11' was controversial, too, but (Michael Moore's) message got out there."


Didn't I tell y’all this is ALL about money. Helping parents communicate with children my EYE!
.
If non-Black people were putting on an African American freak show, there wouldn’t be any question that a large American corporation would run in the opposite direction. For all those touting the utility of holding African Americans up for scorn and ridicule in the name of entertainment, I ask you to consider the sordid and tragic history of people of color being put on display (literally) for entertainment purposes:

The tradition of exhibiting people of color in Western societies has existed since the earliest encounters between Europeans and indigenous populations in the New World and in Africa. Indeed, on his return to Spain after his first voyage to the New World in 1492, Columbus brought several Arawaks to Queen Isabella's court, where one of them remained on display for two years. Exhibiting non-white bodies as a popular practice reached its apogee in the nineteenth century in both Europe and in USA when freak shows--the exhibition of native peoples for public entertainment in circuses, zoos, and museums--became fairly common. In USA, in particular, the spectacle of "freaks," "natives," and "savages" became a profitable industry at this time, as epitomized in popular traveling shows like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Barnum and Bailey's Circus. World Expositions were also popular for the display of native bodies. During the expositions "natives" performed various ceremonies, rites, dances, and otherwise went about their (supposed) daily routines (even though they were on the exposition grounds). In other words, cultural "others" were employed to perform their "cultural otherness" for an Anglo-American and European audience. Up to the mid-twentieth century displays of this sort continued. Emory University.


One of the most famous displays of an African woman who was displayed because she looked different is Hottentot Venus . This story will either break your heart or tick you off. In 1810, Saartjie Baartman was brought to Europe from South Africa to be displayed as a sexual freak and example of the inferiority of the black race. She had large buttocks, a condition known as steatopygia, and visitors were permitted to touch them for extra payment.

The first time Saartjie Baartman was dragged out to squat before the mob at 225 Piccadilly, the show's promoters billed her genitals as resembling the skin that hangs from a turkey's throat. For several years, working-class Londoners crowded in to shout vulgarities at the protruding buttocks and large vulva of the unfortunate woman made famous across Europe as the "Hottentot Venus". The aristocracy were no less fascinated at what they saw as a sexual freak, but they had private showings.

Four years after her arrival in London, she was moved to Paris - probably sold - where she fell under the control of a "showman of wild animals" at a travelling circus. When she was not being paraded for the mob, Baartman was displayed at society functions. It was at a ball for France's new establishment - where she arrived dressed in nothing but a few feathers - that Napoleon's surgeon general, George Cuvier, spotted her and claimed a scientific interest. Over the following year she was repeatedly studied by doctors and anthropologists, who invariably concluded that she was evidence of the superiority of the white race. The Guardian


When she DIED they dissected her body and submerged her labia in wax for preservation! Her remains were not returned to her native country by the French until 2002!

Black People, Hot Ghetto Mess IS our Hottentot Venus. This woman was a slave and treated literally like an animal, even in DEATH she didn’t escape. We are not going to sit by and let BET do this to us in 2007. Jan Donaldson, Reginald Hudlin, and Debra Lee are not better than the people who dragged Hottentot Venus all over Europe and England.

Jan Donaldson says that she is GLAD that we are mad and that she is going to “air our dirty laundry.“ Whose laundry and for what purpose? BET has decided that it is going to strip African Americans naked and put us in a cage and plant us in the middle of international television.

Don’t let them divide us by saying that because most of their subjects will be poor or uneducated African Americans, those Black folks DESERVE to be laughed at. I don’t have a problem with criticism. I throw my own share of jabs on this blog, but you can’t run around throwing images on international television and saying to hell with the consequences. Who made Jan Donaldson , Reginald Hudlin and Debra Lee more important than the rest of us?

Donaldson, the creator of the show, recognizes that this type of criticism requires an nuanced treatment. Who is going to translate this for all of the other non-black people who are going to see this show and NOT get our inside joke? Who is going to place the show Hot Ghetto Mess into context for viewers? BET? HA! This is the same network that brought us Uncut.

Read the story of Hottentot Venus and tell me how Hot Ghetto Mess is different? After you catch your breath, use your outrage and jot a letter or e-mail to your Congressional representatives asking them to stop requiring cable subscribers to subsidize BET. They are unworthy of our dollars.

When Hot Ghetto Mess- Hottentot Venus 2007 airs on July 25th, I will be watching. Any company that advertises on the show including check cashing places, liquor companies, and psychic hotlines is basically telling Black people that they support and encourage the display of African Americans who are “different” as a form of entertainment in and of itself. That is shameful. It is as shameful as what the French and English did to Hottentot Venus.

So save your quivers. BET has no conscience so speaking to them is futile. Save your energy for July 26th. In the meantime research “cable choice” or “a la carte” cable if you would like to have that option, you need to speak up because BET is running around implying that if they went away Black people would be upset about it. If “Hot Ghetto Mess” is their idea of entertainment “diversity,” I say good riddance! Contact the Chair of the FCC and tell him you don't appreciate BET's idea of DIVERSITY!

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Tuesday
Jul102007

Hate BET? - Think About Supporting "Cable Choice"

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for the shout out! Somebody likes my limited graphic design abilities.

Sorry, this was going to be another LOOOOONG post. So I actually posted my full letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin over at The War On Black Women.

I've been hemming and hawing about whether to encourage people to support cable choice or a la carte cable. After reading the response of the creator of "Hot Ghetto Mess" to our criticism, I've decided that THIS level of arrogance must be STOPPED. To hear Debra Lee of BET tell it, cable choice or a la carte cable would place BET in serious peril financially ( I think she's lying, but thanks for the heads up Debbie Antoinette!)

What the heck is Cable Choice/ a la carte cable?
Basically ( pardon the pun), what a la carte cable means is that you would pay individually for the channels you actually watch as opposed to paying for one hundred channels when the average person only watches 17.

Those of you who keep e-mailing me saying you don't WATCH BET, you're still paying BET whether you watch them or not. So that's why they don't care if people say they are going to "boycott BET" you can't boycott BET unless you boycott cable in its entirety. BET gets paid whether you watch or not because they get a cut of your subscriber fee.

Although BET routinely runs around touting that they are beamed into 84 million households, they know that only a fraction of that 84 million would pay to specifically view BET. Some figures I have read indicate that BET receives 80% of its revenue from compulsory subscriber fees. Can you say OUCH if consumers had to actually choose to invite BET into their homes? Whether you agree with a la carte pricing or not, you should know that BET is representing that cable would become less DIVERSE if people actually got to choose what they could watch on cable.
Last week the NAACP, in between preparing to bury the "N-word" and selecting the menu for the banquets at their national convention, decided to send a letter to the Chair of the FCC in defense of BET and against cable choice In defense of the NAACP, they don't list BET by name, but who the heck else are they talking about? Here is the link. Here are the letters of other "civil rights" organizations carrying BET's water.

I've decided to write a letter explaining why in the case of BET, cable choice would be a wonderful thing. If you really are sick of BET and would just as soon have it land in the dust bin of history, you can write a letter too. Legislation is currently pending. If you want to send a letter to Chairman Martin about BET's Programming and your desire NOT to have to pay for it out of your cable bill, you can contact Chairman Martin here.

If you want to see the text of my letter to the Chairman, you can go here.

If you want to read about BET's foolishness, you can go here, here, here and here.

In addition to calling Debbie Lee on her elitist multimedia crack peddling, we also throw the occasional jab at Hip Hop, the Russell Simmons School of Obfuscation and Redirection, and Al Sharpton for exploiting the War on Black Women bumrush the closest cable TV camera.

Stroll through our greatest hits : Should Hip Hop be Eradicated?,?, DL Hughley is Wrong: White Folks May Have a Point, Where in the World is Rev. Al- Sharpton Watch Day 01, Sharpton Watch is Over!, OH Snap: Video of protesters confronting Dieon Sanders and Dl Hughley in Ft. Worth. and my inaugural post: After Imus: Now What.

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Monday
Jul092007

Here We Go Ho' Ho' Again- Sharpton Calls out TMZ For Calling Beyonce "Roboho" - TMZ Responds That They Call lots of Women Whores

Y'all remember the "roboho" incident following the BET Music Awards. Well Rev Al and his non-news-reading staffers finally got around to commenting on it. He also took the opportunity to announce that he is going on a 20-city anti "Ho" campaign. I wish he would call out BET about Hot Ghetto Mess, but y'all know my feelings on Rev. Al. You know, let me send his people an e-mail right now.

Anyway, TMZ responded that they call everyone a whore in one form of another. As usual, the TMZ comments are chock full of racist rants.

Read it and weep.

By the way. Thanks to all of you who have purchased a T-shirt to help support the site. I only make $1 on each sale, but every little bit counts. I get a dollar whether you purchase a button or a $18 hoodie. I've added some less expensive stickers and magnets to allow people a less expensive way to support the site. We have two designs, the "Stop Funding Foolishness" design and the " Defund the War on Black Women" design. Again I thank you and let me know how CafePress treats y'all. Since people appear to like the shirts, I am considering printing them up myself, but I don't know if I am ready to go into the T-shirt business yet. Who am I kidding. I am sooo not customer service oriented. CafePress will do just fine.

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Sunday
Jul082007

BET Programming Chief Unrepentant about “Hot Ghetto Mess” - "It's so doggone goood-!"- Ever Heard of Shirley Q. Liquor?


This is a LOOONG Post, but if you don't do anything else, scroll to the end to look at the links about Shirley Q. Liquor. I learn something new everyday.

So what is the big freaking deal with “Hot Ghetto Mess“? The tag line DOES say “ We got to do better!” So that makes everything okay. RIGHT? UM NOOO. According to Reginald Hudlin, he's seen the rough cuts of "Hot Ghetto Mess" and it is "It's SO DOGGONE GOOD."

Don’t let them fool you into thinking that something called “Hot Ghetto Mess” ,whose producers have been running all over the internet begging for people to send them photos of the most outrageous foolishness, is intended to do good. When in the recent history of BET has that network given even the slightest indication that they care about the average Black person? Exactly! They don’t care about Black people so why on earth would you trust that they have good intentions with a show called “Hot Ghetto Mess.”

I reject the argument that people can do anything that they want as long as they had GOOD INTENTIONS. “Oops! Sorry I hit you with my car. I didn’t intend to.” Come on! BET has one intention according to Debra Lee, to make money. Now there are lots of ways BET could make lots of money, but the ways that don’t require pimping out their people require too much work.

CONTEXT MATTERS. The point is that any redeeming value that a show called “ Hot ghetto Mess” may have is far outweighed by the certainty that any “positive” message will be lost in translation. This is not going to be Extreme Makeover: Hood Edition. This is going to be like watching a car wreck according to BET.

Mr Hudlin and Ms. Lee are both rich Harvard graduates who have the money and power to insulate themselves from the consequences of shows like “ Hot Ghetto Mess.” They can sit back and coo and laugh and dismiss the plebeians. “Let them eat cake!” “ It’s so doggone gooood!”


THE REAL DEAL
This is all a desperate attempt to catch up with their network cousin, VH1, home of Flavor of Love, I love New York, and Charm School. Faced with the frightening possibility that the top rated shows for African Americans were all on another network, BET has attempted to one-up VH1 by racing farther and faster to the bottom. I mean BET touts the face that it reaches 84 million households, despite how many people in those 84 million households actually WATCH! It is not a good thing if ratings indicate that Black folks ain’t watching Black Entertainment Television.

Again, I am going to post some additional links to sites that provide the history of blackface and the affect on African Americans even 150 years later. Does anyone have a problem with BET deciding that offering up Black folks as sacrificial lambs to pad their bottom line?

About Face: The HIstory of Blacking Up
, The Guardian

Blackface is "a form of racist caricature invented by white Americans in the minstrel-show days of the 1800s," says American academic John Strausbaugh in his book, Black Like You. Blackface minstrelsy became one of the US's most popular musical styles. In this white imitation of black characters black people were portrayed as stupid, superstitious, lying, lazy and lascivious.

"It was a deliberate attempt to suggest that black people had no humanity," says Caryl Phillips, "When you're in blackface you can basically only smile or cry. You're not able to get beyond the blackface mask to display the full range of human emotions, and that suited exactly the prevailing idea in America at the time. It played absolutely into the idea of white racial superiority."

Do you REALLY think "Hot Ghetto Mess" is going to stay confined to the television set. Come on! We'll be seeing "Hot Ghetto Mess" parties this fall on most university campuses. Count on it. The black folks put it on TV so it MUST be okay. When Imus returns next fall to his radio show is he free to refer to folks as a " Hot Ghetto Mess" Will we be so caviler once our inside joke gets usurped by other folks?

Blackface Makes its Way to College Campuses, Daily Orange.com

Gaston Pastor Says Blackface Performance at Church Wasn't Racist, Gaston Gazette

Cultural Sensitivity: US, Japan, and Korea, Jesse Bluejay - You have got to see these pictures of people in Japan and Korea in blackface. I remind you that BET just launched BET Japan.

Shirley Q. Liquor, After Imus: A Black Face Comic Who Sings "12 Days of Kwanzaa", Rolling Stone, You have GOT to read this one. Here is a taste:
"He's a fat, gay forty-five-year-old white man, a part-time nurse, who lives alone with two cats and who believes he's on a mission from God. Once a month, Chuck Knipp (pronounced with a hard K, like "Knievel") transforms himself into a living taboo. First, he puts on a giant housedress and a pink, curly wig. Then he smears his doughy face and neck with chocolate-brown foundation."

Knipp plays Shirley Q Liquor.
"A welfare mother with nineteen kids who guzzles malt liquor, drives a Caddy and says in an "ignunt" Gulf Coast black dialect, "I'm gonna burn me up some chitlins and put some ketchup on there and aks Jesus to forgive my sins." Shirley also shops at "Kmark," eats "Egg McMuffmans," visits her "gynechiatrist" and just loves "homosexicals."


White folks love him. He's being hired to perform for lots of famous white people at their birthday parties and socials. Too many to name here. read the article. He is starting to "wonder" if what he is doing is hurtful

"Wealthy white people are starting to hire me for private parties, where I play the raisin in a bowl of oatmeal," he says. "From the way they interact with me, I can see that my being there as Shirley makes them feel it's acceptable to openly mock black people in a way they otherwise would not, and that does cause me to have second thoughts. If what I'm doing is truly hurtful, then I need to stop."


I can understand his confusion. Its hard for him to know what is offensive when we are cranking it out ourselves and laughing at it.

Still harmless and funny? I've got money that says " Hot Ghetto Mess" parties will be all the rage this fall on college campuses.

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