paris, je t’aime pas

November 26, 2007

“smile.”

that was the first thing anyone said to me today. from the bus driver on my route to work, an older black gentleman. i wasn’t scowling or frowning, wasn’t in a funk, but i did have my monday morning face on. i couldn’t help returning his grin, though. a beautiful greeting from a beautiful man to start my day. his words put me in a good mood. i couldn’t help feeling positive and looking forward to the day, rain and all.

i kept on smiling all morning. until i came across this.

that stopped me. messed with my high. reminded me that the world was a sick, twisted, messed-up place. i don’t even know what to say anymore.

there’s so much to protest, scream, and cry about.

i’m fighting to hold on to those rare moments of positivity, despite everything else. i get depressed too easily. i get angry too easily. i don’t feel happy enough.

at least it was a beautiful morning.

for your consideration…

October 3, 2007

all this drama with hip hop karaoke has been interesting, irritating, and highly emotionally draining. The conversations, questions, attacks, and responses that i’ve been receiving in my personal life have tested me. it’s really simple in my head – i will never ever ever condone a white person saying nigger under any circumstances, and because (as i have said earlier) there is complicity in inaction, i refuse to be a passive observer.

this post is about how-i-feel. it’s a condensation of what i’ve taken away from the conversations i have been having around this incident.

  1. is this a manifestation of the New Racism? are white kids reclaiming the racial superiority they might subconsciously believe their parents gave up during the era of political correctness and affirmative action? maybe those white kids don’t carry the guilt their parents felt.
  2. what’s wrong with hip hop? as a music form which is has made itself accessible to everyone regardless of race, identifying as a head has non-blacks entitled to all the trimmings. do we need to hold black rappers and songwriters responsible for giving white kids an excuse they could use?
  3. fuck where you’re from, is this about where you’re at? there’s been geographical differences in people’s responses too. when i told my friends what went down, those from the states and the uk had the same response: “what the fuck?!” those from toronto came at me with “well, what did you expect?” i didn’t expect this. racial politics in toronto are twisted, convoluted, insidious, and straight-up fucked. and no-one steps up.
  4. what about gender? i doubt i would have received the emails i did from the organisers (both male and female) had i been a black male. this is all speculation, but i think it would have been way more likely that had i been male, the incident would have been handled differently. especially had i been an over-six-foot, two-hundred pound plus, dark-skinned, dreadheaded, militant looking mother fucker. but shit, i’m only five-three, and very definitely female. (i was even told by a friend: “damn, i wish you had been a guy, then you could have decked them”)
  5. am i overreacting? maybe i’m not. validation and self-righteousness have been really easy for me to find among all this. maybe i should just shutdafuckup. but hell no. so my kids can go through this?
  6. hey, where’s my money? there’s a belief among non-black heads that they’ve paid their dues, and have therefore earned the right to do what they want. it makes me want to scream: paid your dues to whom?! i’d love to meet these so-called dues-collectors.
  7. whose word is it anyway?

i’m tired of all this, of being looked at as the AngryBlackWoman, of being restricted, of the ignorance, of being ignorant, of keeping my temper in check.

but on a lighter note:

Prince Reggie K: I’m a martyr. I’m a martyr for hip hop.
Journalist: Martyrs are usually dead.
Prince Reggie K: Well, I’m a little dead inside.

that skit just kills me.

really?!

September 25, 2007

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Abdominal
To: Me
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

“…after Wrong got off the stage, the emcee, abdominal, mentioned something about it being the longest set ever, and for the sake of the jewish new year, would people please refrain from using the n-word?what. the. fuck?”

Hey _____, I know you wrote this blog a while ago, but I just saw it today for the first time. I’m only going to comment on the bit above calling me out, as I know there has already been much heated discussion on the blog in its entirety. So, as far as the quote above, quite frankly it’s not at all what I said that night. At no point did I say anything to the effect of, “don’t use the n-word BECAUSE it’s Jewish New Years”. I said, “Rule #1 is no use of the n-word. Tonight, in honour of Jewish New Year I would ask you to replace it with Jewish”. Normally I would say the usual, “either blank it out, or use brother”, but I thought it would just be a funny twist to use ‘Jewish’ that night instead, ‘cuz it happened to be Rosh Shashana (+ I hoped that twist would help people remember the policy). Obviously it didn’t work in the case of ‘Wrong’. Now, like I said, I’m not going to really comment on the larger discussion, as I think it’d kinda been done to death at this point. All I will say is, I’m not making excuses for what happened. It was wrong. And it highlighted that we do need to have a more concrete policy in place to handle these sort of situations. In retrospect, I agree we should have cut dude off immediately. And on my part, I should have been repeating the ‘no n-word’ policy more frequently throughout the night, rather than just at the beginning (although, in my defence, it was my first time hosting HHK…I’ll know better for next time).

All that said though, at the end of the day we can cut people off left, right, & center, & I can give warnings ’til I’m blue in the face, but I guarantee this sort of thing will still happen again. Ultimately, the word IS in many of the songs. And obviously we can’t control what comes out of people’s mouths. Again, I’m not defending dude, but I honestly don’t think he was some sort of rampant racist with a hidden agenda. He was a drunk idiot who didn’t hear/listen to my warning, & he just did the song as he knew it (complete with n-words). So like I said, in the future we CAN work on improving how we handle these type of scenarios, but I would still say that if you know you’re going to be offended by this sort of situation, don’t come back to HHK…and I don’t mean that in a harsh way. I’m just being realistic. Inevitably with the word present in the songs, these kind of slip-ups WILL unfortunately occur from time to time. I’m sorry that some people are insensitive idiots, but luckily they’re in the minority. They shouldn’t jeopardize what is otherwise one of the most tolerant, positive parties going in the city right now. Thanks for your time, Abs.

***

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Me
To: Abdominal
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

Abs,

Thank you for getting back to me.

I really don’t know how to respond to you without getting aggressive at some of the ignorance you’ve demonstrated in your email, and so I won’t.

I’ve mentioned to Dalia that I would be willing to work with you guys to develop a policy to ensure that this NEVER happens again, as I believe that it is inexcusable and reprehensible. But mistakes get made, and in the name of progress and understanding, I believe that it is more productive to work together on making sure that this situation does not come up again. My offer still stands.

Thank you for your time.

***

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Abdominal
To: Me
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

Wow…_____ all I can say is, if you’re going to call me ignorant, expect aggression in return. I thought I was pretty civil/rational in my e-mail to you. Guess I’ll see you at the pending sit-down & you can tell me where you thought I wasn’t.

****

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Me
To: Abdominal
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

Abs,

This is the statement that got me:

“So like I said, in the future we CAN work on improving how we handle these type of scenarios, but I would still say that if you know you’re going to be offended by this sort of situation, don’t come back to HHK…and I don’t mean that in a harsh way. I’m just being realistic. Inevitably with the word present in the songs, these kind of slip-ups WILL unfortunately occur from time to time. I’m sorry that some people are insensitive idiots, but luckily they’re in the minority. They shouldn’t jeopardize what is otherwise one of the most tolerant, positive parties going in the city right now.”

I have no desire to mudsling when we meet collectively, and don’t really feel the need to go over everything with you guys – I fully intend on simply developing an action plan that can be put into place effectively, because once people start talking about their feelings, it clouds progress.

Having said that, I’m down to explain to you on a personal tip where I’m coming from on all this, and why I found your email offensive. My evening phone number’s xxx.xxx.xxxx.

***

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Abdominal
To: Me
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

Was it specifically the “…don’t come back to HHK…” part? ‘Cuz if so, I genuinely didn’t mean that in any sort of ‘mudslinging’ way (hence the, “I don’t mean that in a harsh way” part which I wrote right after). I was just saying that I do think that this is sadly an unavoidable situation. All we can do is try our best to reduce the amount of times it happens (with more frequent, & harsher warnings) & deal with offenders more strictly (ie. immediate cut-offs). But I still believe that even with all that in place, there will still inevitably be the odd slip-up. At this point we’re not considering shutting down what is otherwise a positive, tolerant night because of a few (& luckily it is very few) bad apples. So all I meant was if that’s still unacceptable to you, you may want to consider not attending. I hope that clears things up somewhat from my end. Thanks for getting back to me, A.

***

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007
From: Me
To: Abdominal
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

I would like to clarify that at no point have I called anyone “racist”. I believe you guys (the organisers) made a mistake that stems out of ignorance and a misunderstanding of your role in a borrowed culture. I don’t hold you (the organisers) responsible for what someone said, but I do hold you individually responsible for the fact that he was allowed to continue, seeing as you (the organisers) were responsible for giving him a stage and a microphone.

I have also not asked for the night to be shut down. I still have no idea whether I will ever attend again, nor a desire to. But I don’t think my presence/absence is important. What I do think is important is that you (the organisers) take responsibility for your actions, and have a concrete plan in place to prevent this from happening. And to be completely honest, I don’t think you’re aware enough of the implications, consequences and weight of your (in)actions to be able to shoulder that responsibility. I say that simply because I get the impression that you (the organisers) went on the defensive, and no one stepped up in a responsible, progressive, and constructive fashion.

***

Date: Tues, 25 Sep 2007
From: Abdominal
To: Me
Subject: Re: Misquoted…

I never said you called anybody racist. I do take issue with you calling me ignorant & claiming I’m part of a borrowed culture though. Obviously hip-hop was created by inner-city blacks, & to a certain extent latinos. But it’s clearly grown to become a worldwide culture, lived & shared by many. If you listen to any of the hip-hop pioneers (Herc, Bam etc.) you’ll hear them speak repeatedly about how hip-hop was designed to be inclusive, & for everyone, regardless of race, class etc. I’m a middle class Jewish kid. But I’m also someone who’s been a fan of hip-hop for 20 years. I’ve been participating in it for 14. I’ve invested more of my life into this culture than anything else I’ve ever done. To use a tired, but accurate cliche…I’ve paid my dues. So quite frankly, for you to tell me that hip-hop is a “borrowed culture” for me is nonsense.

All that said, i still agree with you that we need to tighten up our response mechanisms for when a situation like this arises again. Looks like we’re getting together Sat., so hopefully that will happen then.

***

I can’t engage in this email exchange anymore.

My original email to you was not intended to get me or anyone involved in hip hop karaoke “off the hook”. I was trying to explain the history of the night and how we have been dealing with the issue of the N word in the past and what happened last night. It is too bad that this was your first time coming to HHK, like I said in my email to you, we haven’t had a situation like this before, some people slip up and are corrected or correct themselves but last night was a different issue.

I don’t remember saying “we will. as soon as he’s done,” when you came up. I don’t actually remember saying anything. I remember you saying “are you guys serious” and walking away motioning to cut him off…I missed the beginning and most of the song, by the time I got on the turntables and when you came up it was the last verse. I don’t even know what we were thinking by that time, honestly, we were both frozen and didn’t know what to do, cut him off after he’d already rapped most of the song and cause a huge commotion on stage and from the crowd or deal with it after and correct it for next time? We should have cut it off from the beginning when he began the intro, that was our mistake.

This was our 8th hip hop karaoke, we have had amazing performances and fantastic people from all walks of life have come through and understand the no N word policy and have been completely respectful and supportive of each other and what we are doing. It is certainly not some free for all as you mention in your blog. We love the night and all those who come out also love the night and want to see it really take off and improve as much as possible. I’m sure S. can attest to that.

This is the first negative response to the HHK and like I said this is one incident that has happened in hundreds of performances, it’s really sad that you feel and are judging us and the whole night based upon one persons actions and our lack of reaction at the time. I spoke with the person in question and he understands our position and our policy and I am telling you we will be enforcing this rule as best we can in the future.

Some serious thought was put into hip hop karaoke and it is an incredible amount of work to pull off the night. We have tried to convey our policy throughout the evening on the mic and we have replaced every N bomb we can find in the lyrics sheets, I’m sure some need fixing but the majority of the 300 plus lyrics have been replaced with another word. We have even gone as far as to not include tracks that we feel are blatantly offensive. I’m sure your blog/review of the night will incite some major discussion regarding what happened at hip hop karaoke, our response and on the topic of censorship, the N word and hip hop in general.

On that note, we are apologizing not just to you but to all that were offended by the use of the N word during “Truimph” and our lack of assertiveness in dealing with the situation from the get-go.

I’m sorry you feel that you can’t come to HHK again and that you felt excluded, unwanted and disrespected, that is the exact and complete opposite of what we are attempting to do and what the night is supposed to be about and what we are about. I’m not trying to sway your opinion or talk shit, I can tell you have already made your mind up but just know that we are taking your concern to heart, mistakes happen and we will do our best to not let this happen again. After all our years of being a part of hip hop and the music scene in general, the last thing we want is for you or anyone else to think they we don’t take this shit seriously.

Please feel free to repost this response on your blog and let me know where I can find your blog and I can direct people to it.

Dalia

everything but the burden, eh?

September 14, 2007

just got in from hip hop karaoke in toronto. exactly what the name is – karaoke for hip hop. the idea sounds like a hoot, a celebration of rap’s most fun songs performed in loving tribute by people who would never otherwise bust a rhyme. 70s and 80s kids reminiscing, nobody’s up on a stage without a grin on their face. this is what their teenage bedroom rehearsals have been preparing them for.

but we have a problem.

apparently, there’s a no n-word policy. which, for the short while i was there was not enforced. i’m not comfortable in a space where a white guy on stage with a microphone can intro with “aight my niggers and nigerettes?” (it caught me so off-guard, i swear i thought he said nicorette, and was confused for a split-second as to why he would advertise his gum). then, to make things worse, this cat (we’ll call him Wrong) chose to perform to wu tang’s triumph. i counted three lurid “niggers” (there’s actually six occurrences in the song).

i really thought this night was all about the love of hip hop, a tongue-in-cheek tribute. i’m not condoning the use of the n-word in hip hop, and there’s been enough discussed about the social value of the word. but i didn’t feel comfortable in that space.i felt excluded, disrespected, and unwanted.

i started grabbing my stuff to leave, and stopped by the dj box; Wrong was still performing.

“you need to cut this guy off right now,” were my exact words to dj dalia, one of the organisers.

“we will. as soon as he’s done,” was her reply.

“not good enough. unplug his mic. now.” was my response. that didn’t happen, and Wrong finished his track.

i was vexed. i still am, and i don’t know how to process it. so many questions go through my mind: is this what white kids do when nobody calls them on it? are people still raising their children to be unaware? what the fuck was going through that guy’s head? why didn’t the organisers stop it? and why the hell didn’t everyone walk out?

there’s complicity in inaction.

after Wrong got off the stage, the emcee, abdominal, mentioned something about it being the longest set ever, and for the sake of the jewish new year, would people please refrain from using the n-word?

what. the. fuck?

i’d love to know the reason for not unplugging Wrong’s mic. i’d love to know why the dj just didn’t stop the track. (for those keeping track, at least three people were in a position to stop Wrong. none of them were black). i’d love to know why people should please not use the n-word on jewish holidays – is the rest of the year all right?

but most of all, i’d love to know why the crowd stayed.

so it’s february 1. day one of black history month. 28 days of blackness, where people pay lip service to the history of africans, african-canadians, and african-americans. four weeks of hip hop jams, showy-yet-substanceless speeches and spoken word. at least we’re past the afro-centricity fad.

what’s the point? what purpose does black history month serve anymore? i believe that this should be revisited. i’m not debating nor denying the need for a black history month, i’m just bewildered at what it’s become.

black history month (extended from the original week) was created to set aside a time in the year where the stories of african-americans would be heard. these stories weren’t present to the extent they should have been in the public sphere. they still aren’t, but rather than focus on one month of the year, shouldn’t february be used to gain momentum for black history initiatives throughout the year?

black history month has become a stereotype unto itself. the events organised in february are predictable, no longer original and superficial. in toronto, we’ll talk about the underground railroad, possibly have a documentary film screening or photo exhibit on the topic. we’ll have spoken word evenings, where the theme will be “being black is hard”. hip hop jams. there’ll be focus on black arts – namely jazz, blues, reggae, dancehall and hip hop. we’ll remind everyone that picasso wasn’t an originator, but a biter of african art. we’ll also have some authentic african-derived dance performances. hopefully, if someone’s politically motivated, we’ll have a rally, maybe centred around the proposed evictions. but this being Canada in february, doubtful the turnout will be that great.

will we talk about one of the most important events in african-canadian history – africville – i wonder? will we talk about the social issues dealt with by canadian blacks? will we talk about the incredible diverseness of the african-canadian diaspora? will we talk about the needs of black youth, and then do something about them? and will we not make this the only time of the year when we focus on black cultural producers? will we showcase innovators, rather than presenting the same old roster of black public figures?

i think these questions need to be asked by community leaders and event organisers, who may be too caught up in delivering an event, and have forgotten the reason for the need for a black history month.

i’m tired of seeing dancers perform traditional african tribal dances. i’m tired of hearing the same poets talking about their blackness, women and music. i’m offended by the harbourfront’s superficial and for-entertainment-purposes-only celebration of blackness.

please god, not another year of this.

No stoning, Canada migrants told
Don’t stone women to death, burn them or circumcise them, immigrants wishing to live in the town of Herouxville in Quebec, Canada, have been told.

so much for tolerance. so much for the pretext of tolerance. i am offended, and you should be too, if you have one shred of decency. what does it say about us as Canadians, if events like this can happen?

blown out of proportion? please. let’s not get into the trivialization of racial politics right now. what happened in Herouxville was called “an isolated incident”, but i’m interested in the repercussions.

nobody knew where Herouxville was last week, and frankly, the only reason people should know its location is to avoid it.

brazen

brazen’s world

February 1, 2007

i’m a twenty-something living in toronto.

i’m doing this because i need an outlet. this is where i vomit up what i’m feeling in response to things i go through and things i see, read and hear. i need to do this. i need to say what’s on my mind. and you need to hear it. but you don’t want to.

i’ll say what i want.

brazen

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