From the Director
I grew up in a working class black community where everyone's mother, father, aunt and uncle read books (or wanted to read), talked to each other about what was happening in the world and cared about their community. I'm not talking about an ideal neighborhood - far from it. Most of the those adults worked hard for little or no pay, struggled to support their families, were poorly educated and dealt with the meanest forms of racism everyday. It affected them. As hard as it was, they weren't weak, but strong. And no matter what was happening to them, the thing that my community never forgave was 'not knowing.'
There was a time when if you acted like you wanted to know something and that you should know things important to you, racists and self-haters would get angry, try to hurt you and say "You think you're too good." They might take away your job, hurt you and your family and destroy your reason for living. Everyone took great pride in making sure they knew about things. You couldn't touch my neighborhood when they could finally, openly reveal how much they knew. No one could make you not read, not think, not question, not discuss, and not speak up. There were still consequences when you were informed, but we knew that at the very least, the one thing we could do was to know what in the hell was going on. Fighting to know and control your life was the beginning of everything. I want that community back. I think Hiphop is that community.
Founding Director, Hiphop Archive and Research Institute
Statement from the HHA Director:
Women In Hiphop - March 2012
Women's History month is the perfect time to reflect on the fact that many women unapologetically support both Hiphop and feminism. When I teach college courses on language use and identity, I ask all of my students to write the words they hear and use to describe women in their communities and on their campus. I also ask them to list the words used to refer to men. The young men and women don't have any problem doing this assignment, and they often chuckle as they do it. When they have completed their task, I compile the names and write the male and female lists on the board. Sometimes there is embarrassed laughter and excuses as I write male terminology and female terminology. However, the laughter stops cold when the reality of the list becomes clear. There are four times more names for women than men on the list. Moreover, women are overwhelmingly referred to as sexual body parts, according to disposition/attitude and with violent references. The overall problem is much bigger than Hiphop!
When it comes to the topic of women and sexuality, Hiphop is often criticized and attacked for being misogynist and irresponsible. Yet, as this issue demonstrates, many people take responsibility for these issues and their work is often ignored. Perhaps we need to approach this from another perspective. We are trying to teach young men and women to respect themselves and each other in a world that is working against us. We must continue to critique the pandering to the lowest level of heterosexism that goes on in Hiphop, but we must not forget the larger picture. Even the most outrageously sexist MC - and booty-shaking woman - wants to be safe and respected. Many young women cannot walk the streets safely in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Rape remains a growing problem in the U.S. and many parts of the world. The transmission of HIV/AIDS remains a problem in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Violence against women remains a problem everywhere!
Many Hiphop artists promote and support initiatives that address these problems and help our communities. We applaud these efforts and want even more support, more initiatives, more education, and more people to step forward. Everyone needs to be in this fight - not just us! We want control of our bodies and we want to learn more about how to take care of ourselves in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual health. We want the thoughtful, friendly and fiery critiques, debates and discussions to continue because it makes us stronger and more knowledgeable. We want an end to crimes against women! The women who support Hiphop are our sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and relatives. No disrespect, but instead of fixating on our bodies, fixate on what it may take for us to have a healthy, secure and fulfilling life. Fixate on how powerful our communities would be if we change how women are treated and represented in society.