Thursday, June 10, 2010

Celebrating Hip Hop & Sexuality Messaging

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

It’s not often that we celebrate what goes on in Hip Hop. Speaking solely for myself (and maybe for some of my homies) watching the BET Awards is really about who can have the more witty commentary about how to diss the show. As someone who used to identify as a “Hip-Hop feminist,” and still identifies as a “Hip-Hop activist” I still understand the importance and need of the community and its cultural practices and artifacts. For that reason, I’d like to focus on and celebrate some amazing songs that really do connect for me and that I use in my classroom when discussing sexuality and sex.

One of the first songs I began to really use in my classroom was by the group Dead Prez. This song was only one I enjoyed in my personal life and when I introduced it to my students when I began to teach their response was extremely favorable. The next time the song came back into my working-professional life was when I was doing interviews with Puerto Rican men living in the US between the ages of 18-30 and asked them what cultural images, artifacts, songs, poems, narratives, etc. One of them shared that the way they learned about intimate sexual relationships that they defined as “healthy” was through the Dead Prez song “Mind Sex.” If you are not familiar with the song take some time to check it out below. I’d suggest you listen to the song first then watch the video to see the difference:

This video gives a different impression versus just listening to the song. In the video there is more of a “why would I not have sex with you on a regular basis? Oh because I’m incarcerated.” However, I can still find ways to use this video and song as a way to teach abstinence in the classroom. I really adore the line: “for me making love is just as much mental. I like to know what I’m gettin’ into.”

Needless to say, when I heard that Dead Prez has a new single out that was released just in time for Mother’s Day I had to check it out. The song “The Beauty Within” is along the same lines of affirming and supportive lyrical content and delivery, yet the focus is on body image and beauty. Although this is another heterosexist example where a Black man is speaking just to Black women, I find it extremely affirming. The line: “real Black girl I salute your existence” alone gives me chills. I mean when was the last time someone, anyone, saluted your existence? Check out the song below:

I’m also loving all over again Blackalicious’ (they existed BEFORE Beyonce and her “Bootylicious” song) song “Purest Love.” I like the entire Blazing Arrow album, yet these lyrics really bring it home for me: “The two realest cats I know? My two older brothers/The most beautiful woman in the galaxy? My mother/The strongest black women raising kids alone? My sisters/The best part of my future is my present love interest/The most important time? Right now and ever after/The greatest expression is love, happiness, and laughter.”

Then there are the amazing forms of media and music surrounding “safer” sexual activities by young men of Color. My homegirl and sister sexologist Mariotta Gary-Smith, whom I’ve mentioned before, shared a video early this week. Mariotta wrote:

My co-worker, Solamon Ibe, works with young men around safe sex, responsibility and decision making skills. Here's their video. Good work, Solamon!

The video synopsis reads: “A6 (African American Aids Awareness Action Alliance) and The Jefferson Young Men's Academy along with 503tv brings you a fun yet educational video about the importance of safe sex.” Check the video out below.

One of the things I love about this video is that it centers boys of Color. Far too often people think they are working with young men of Color, but really they are not. It is actually pretty scary what some men think they know about sexuality, birth control, contraception, and sex in general. This is a fabulous video of using Hip Hop and creating social change among young people of Color around sexuality and sexual health.

What other examples can you think of to add to the list?

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