NAACP Youth & College Division Says STOP to Demeaning Rap Lyrics

Article excerpt

Don Imus' career as a radio talk show host may be over in the wake of racist and sexist comments he made in April about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. But for the NAACP, the conversation is only beginning.

"All of us kind of had a moment where we said, "That could've been me,'" recalls Erica McLaughlin, a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, about Imus' calling the players "nappy-headed hos."

At an April 23 news conference, the NAACP's Youth & College Division launched its STOP Campaign. The campaign is a long-term project to encourage entertainment industry executives and artists to substitute more positive images and language about African Americans, especially women, in music, television and other media.

"It's not about censorship," says Stefanie Brown, national director of the Youth & College Division. "It's about responsibility about what we put out and what we accept as a community."

Moya Bailey, who participated in a similar drive by Essence magazine called 'Take Back the Music" at Spelman College in 2005, agrees.

"We have the right to critique what [artists] want to say and the right not to support it financially," says Bailey.

Among the STOP Campaign's goals are devising guidelines through a national advisory committee composed of industry, artistic and community representatives to reduce the circulation of demeaning words and images. Possible protocols could include restricting offensive songs or videos to later hours when children and teenagers are less likely to tune in.

The campaign also urges local units to push for similar relationships with media in their areas. It additionally calls for community education to get people talking about why these lyrics and images can be so offensive and what can be done about the issue.

"The units can have the most impact right there at home," McLaughlin observes.

Local chapters are collecting signatures of STOP pledge cards, which symbolize individual promises to stop using offensive language. They hope to have 20,000 signatories by next April, a year after the campaign began.

As Brown puts it, the Imus controversy "caused a season of openness for this discussion to take place."

The NAACP has been fighting negative portrayals of African Americans in popular culture for decades. In 1915, it protested screenings of the racist film Birth of a Nation. The Hollywood Bureau has been exhorting the entertainment industry to put positive images and more people of color in front of and behind the camera since the 1940s. And in the 1990s, the late C. DeLores Tucker, a trustee of the NAACP Special Contribution Fund, bought stock in Time Warner so that she could protest the offensive lyrics of some of its rap artists at shareholders' meetings. …