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HotGhettoMess.Com - Should Child Abuse and Neglect be Couched as a Form of Entertainment?

Mark this down as reason number 1001 for why a reputable corporation should have nothing to do with BET's upcoming show, " Hot Ghetto Mess."

I am convinced that these corporations have no idea that the website that is the basis of the show contains rampant nudity and pictures of very young children in abusive and neglectful conditions. Child abuse and neglect should not be a form of entertainment. I am wondering how BET is explaining this sponsors. I really wish a reporter would ask BET about these very young children. According to the NY Post:

At least one gallery of photos on the site shows toddlers and infants
photographed holding bottles of beer or with cigars in their mouths.

A comment over at Racialicious also noted the toddlers appearing on the site.

Some of the photos on the “Just Sad” page (which focuses on children and youth)
are extremely disturbing and inappropriate, and many depict blatant child abuse
and neglect. One photo (two men posing a clothed female infant in a really disturbing position) could even meet the legal definition of child pornography. I won’t link the page because it is too f**ked up, but click in the “Just Sad” tab in the left sidebar to see for yourself.

Seriously Debra Lee, Reginald Hudson, and Viacom WHY would you bring a site that exploits Black toddlers and in some cases posts photographs displaying these children in a compromising position? Why would you allow one of your advertisers associate their brand directly or indirectly with a site displaying very young African American children and then laugh about it on BET.com saying that your show is "a car crash you can't look away from?"

Will a reporter ask BET this question? Just end this foolishness. Surely even check cashing companies, liquor distributors or psychic hotlines don't want to associate themselves with this foolishness. What companies are going to subsidize this?

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My Campaign Against " Hot Ghetto Mess" - In MY OWN WORDS!

Hmm. Well, yesterday was interesting! I guess people know BET is going to try to air “ Hot Ghetto Mess” now.

I am going to go ahead and give my own version of this story because some things are getting lost in translation so I’ll give you a brief firsthand account.

This video of DL Hughley attacking the Rutgers basketball team is what precipitated our campaign against “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Didn’t know about Hughley’s comments on the Tonight Show? Join the club. Hughley made these comments mere days after Don Imus was fired, in a forum, The Tonight Show, whose audiences dwarfs Imus’, but there was absolutely NO reaction from the media outlets who had mere days before been rabid about Imus. There was also NO outcry from a single civil rights group. We did our best to highlight what he said, but for the most part, the usual suspects have ignored Hughley's comments.

To reward Hughley for his attack on these young Black women, BET decided to give him his own show on Black Entertainment Television called “ Socially Offensive Behavior.” THAT is why I was on BET, to try to figure out who was supporting Hughley’s show. I actually stumbled across “Hot Ghetto Mess” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I saw that blackface cartoon staring back at me. If you really want to hear how hard seeing the cartoon affected me, go listen to our archived podcast the following day. I was so angry, I had a case of indignation induced insomnia.

Why did you start this site?
I started this site after watching Oprah’s town hall meeting. Diane Weathers was just so frustrated and so was I. I remember her saying that African American women needed to take the lead to combat negative portrayals in popular culture, Hip Hop in particular. I didn’t find any one site or organization whose sole focus was on the portrayal of African American women in popular culture. So I actually started the blog in hopes that someone would see it and contact me so I could just direct people to that site. I wanted to feature people who were fighting negative images of Black women. People kept asking why people hadn’t spoken out about Rap music and its videos. I was like “ WE HAVE! FOR YEARS!”. People just hadn’t been paying attention. That is why we have “ Featured Activism of the Day” posts.

What is your goal?
My ultimate goal is that people who want to see and listen to content that I think degrades African American women are the ones who pay for it. I merely request that large corporations who want me to utilize their products and services don’t turn around and use my money to promote images that I believe harm African American women.

Have you spoken to Jamila?
No, but I did issue her an invitation to appear on our podcast, “The Black Women‘s Round Table.” We’re both lawyers so it would be an interesting conversation.

What do you think about the website Hot Ghetto Mess that is the basis for the BET show?
I get Jamila’s original point. I too am horrified at times at the lifestyle choices people seek to promote. Clearly many of the people who ended up on the site wanted some attention because many of them posed for the original photo. I am sure, however, that many of them were unaware that they would end up being beamed around the world.

I find portions of her site disturbing. I think the photos of small children in compromising positions ( in my opinion) disgusting. I find her depictions of, at the least, child neglect, at the most, child abuse, exploitive. In a word, Jamila lost her way and went from social commentary to exploitation, and she is doing very well apparently.

What do you think about bringing the website to BET?

Even Jamila has admitted that BET just doesn’t get it. I can’t imagine why she would trust them to produce social commentary.

What do you think about BET?
I think BET is Viacom’s “ Hot Ghetto Mess“. I find it ridiculous that Reginald Hudlin is trying to shield Viacom by saying that Viacom takes hundreds of millions of dollars from BET, but does not care where the money came from.

I find it ridiculous that Hudlin is trying to pass this off as “tough love” or BET’s attempt to demonstrate concern for the state of Black America. Who helped push us here? Despite Hudlin’s comments about the public service that “Hot Ghetto Mess” will perform, the BET.com pages promoting the show and soliciting videos say otherwise. The promotional page describes the show as a “ car wreck you can’t look away from.” When did causing car wrecks become a public service? The site soliciting videos for BET’s show doesn’t say it’s a social commentary.

So who did BET lie to? Reporters, asking questions after the controversy emerged or the people who sent them videos and photographs?

In addition, producers for the show who went around soliciting videos on the internet certainly didn’t portray it as a social commentary show. They went looking for the very worst of African American culture so they could beam it to the world, encouraging people to go looking for foolishness.

Why did you call for a boycott?
First, we didn’t even have to get that far with the corporations. When I just said that I wanted to let them know that their ads were appearing on a page with a blackface cartoon, they gasped ( literally). I didn’t even have to get to a request. They moved without any request once they became aware of what was happening.

This just proves my point. People have been railing at BET and the entertainment industry for YEARS, but in less than 8 hours I forced BET to remove ALL of the advertising from the pages promoting Hot Ghetto Mess on BET.com, and as an added bonus, “Socially Offensive Behavior.”

At the end of the day, if you want the entertainment industry to change, stop writing letters to BET and entertainment companies. They don’t care what we think. If you want to change what is on television and radio, call an advertiser. I promise you that the entertainment companies listen to their advertisers. So that is why our motto is “ Stop Funding Foolishness.”

I'll have more to say this evening.

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What Can YOU Do About "Hot Ghetto Mess"??

People have been commenting and e-mailing asking what they can do about Hot Ghetto Mess.

1. Mark July 26, 2007 on your calendar. If you've got some vacation to burn, take the day off.On July 26th, we will know which corporations are so morally bankrupt and obtuse that they would associate themselves with something called “ Hot Ghetto Mess.” BET is being tight lipped about which companies are foolish enough to sponsor this nonsense, but we’ll know on July26th for sure. I know for a fact that State Farm and the Home Depot said "no way."

2.You can call 1-888-CALL-FCC ( 1-888-225-5332) or you can contact the FCC online and tell them that you support something called cable choice. Currently every cable subscriber pays BET a fee whether you watch BET or not. Pull out your telephone book and look up the number for your United States Senators and United States Representative and let them know that you don’t want to subsidize BET’s programming anymore and would like to support a la carte cable. There is currently legislation pending that would allow you to only pay for the cable channels you actually want coming into your home. Right now it is all or nothing. There are some who say cable choice would spell the end of BET and cable programming diversity, but I say that if "Hot Ghetto Mess" is their idea of programming diversity. Good riddance!

3. Read some of our archived posts. We don’t just throw jabs at BET. We’ve targeted Iberia Airlines, DL Hughley, Akon, Russell Simmons, Michael Erick Dyson, the NAACP and other "civil rights" organizations , and our favorite Rev. Al. Some our noteworthy posts include the “First Amendment Hypocrites” parts I,II, III, and IV; “Should Hip Hop Be Eradicated?”; “ The End of Sharpton Watch”; and “ DL Hughley is Wrong”; and “Russell Simmons Says Rappers are like Jesus!” (Yes, he really did!) and " Russell Simmons Throws a Hissy Fit on NPR when Questioned about Misogyny in Music" We also feature grassroots organizations who are fighting in their own communities in combating the War on Black Women. Folks in Chicago and Minnesota and California and all over the world.

4. Keep watching this site. We post everyday and are monitoring the situation. We’ll be the first to let you know just which corporations are funding the War on Black Women. You can also catch us live each Saturday on our call-in talk show. If you have I-tunes, You can subscribe to the pod cast. Its called “ The Black Women’s Round Table” you can type it in the search box on I-tunes. Sometimes the words on this page don't quite relay the exact sentiment, but I think my intentions and feelings translate more accurately on the podcast.

You are not helpless. BET is not invincible. Change Begins with YOU. A single telephone call can make the difference.

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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.


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

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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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