On Friday the 13th, as the Don Imus controversy escalated, staff members and employees of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition were forced to evacuate their South Side headquarters when police officials were informed of a bomb threat shortly before 1 p.m. Members of the Chicago Police Department’s bomb squad used their trained dogs to search the building located at 930 E. 50th St.
When Radio/TV personality Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” on April 5, the outrage around the country grew until CBS and MSNBC decided to fire him.
Although Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton took quite a lot of heat from various people over their calls for Imus’ firing, the issue of racism in the media, including hip-hop and rap artists, has been put on the table for everyone to look at and discuss. This week on Monday and Tuesday, Oprah devoted two days to a town hall discussion with such notables as Bruce Gordon, CBS Board of Directors and former NAACP president; Diane Weathers, former editor in chief of Essence Magazine; Stanley Crouch, syndicated columnist with the New York Daily News; Rev. Al Sharpton; music mogul Russell Simmons; Grammy Rapper Common; and Grammy Award-winner India Arie. Arie’s anthem, “I Am Not My Hair,” has inspired many women.
During Rev. Jackson’s regular Saturday morning meeting, he stated how on Thursday, he, along with Rev. Sharpton, and representatives of SCLC, NAACP, the Congressional Caucus and other leaders met with the head of NBC and CBS, and at the end of the day, Imus’ fate was sealed.
Jackson said, “The question is, why did he stay on so long? This is not the first time he’s made these racially degrading statements. Why was there such tolerance-they keep comparing him with the Rappers. Imus was on the radio 1,040 hours a year. He was on TV 800 hours a year, expressing a point of view. From three o’clock to 11, there is not a single black or Latino hosting a single network show or cable show. Fifteen years ago there was Arsenio Hall. Now there is nobody. The Sunday news shows look like the Apartheid Hour. Desegregating the media is a big part of this whole agenda.
“The idea that somehow the rappers started this-the rappers didn’t start it, but they should stop it. Before the rappers came a song by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones called “Some Girls” where talks about some girls want my money, white girls are pretty funny, sometimes they drive me mad, black girls want to ‘f’ all night, I don’t have that much jam. That preceded the rap era.” (In the 1970s and ’80s, Rev. Jackson took the Rolling Stones to task about these lyrics.)
C. Delores Tucker, politician and civil rights activist took a stance against hip hop music early on and was maligned, insulted and called terrible names in some rap music. Ms. Tucker fought against hip-hop and sexually explicit lyrics in rap until her death on Oct. 12, 2005.
Rev. Jackson has called to action all women, saying they must organize against this degradation.
“We must march until we have dignity and respect. It must not stop with Imus,” Jackson said. He noted that Imus had referred to Hillary Clinton as a “B–h” when she addressed an audience three weeks ago in Selma, Ala., stating, “Next she will be wearing corn-rows and wearing gold teeth.” Imus also stated that Venus and Serena Williams should be in National Geographic rather than Playboy magazine. On Sunday, April 15, 60 Minutes ran an old interview from 10 years ago, where he was asked by Mike Wallace why he had stated that his producer was there to tell “nigger” jokes. He at first denied it, until they verified it.
Following his regular meeting, Jackson held a press conference to answer questions from various media outlets.
Responding to a question about the bomb threats, Jackson said, “Behind violent language always come violent threats and then violent actions. The girls at Rutgers have been threatened. I’m going to have to get another telephone number because of threats over the telephone and threats at my home. I’m convinced there was connection with evacuating the building and telephone threats, threats at home. There have been name-calling, threats, imitating Imus. I don’t think Imus would support that. I think his wife has appealed that it not happen, but it is happening.
This reporter asked, “Do you think diversionary methods are being used for everyone to now focus on you and Rev. Sharpton?”
Jackson replied, “It is diversionary that even in our imperfection we have the right to stand for dignity and against degradation. We have an obligation to clean up our scars. The only people who have clean uniforms are those who didn’t get on the field. On the playing field, you get grass stains and you get bloody and you slip up sometimes, but you can’t give up because you’re on the ground. Captains don’t stay on the ground. We’re going to keep our focus on the responsibility of those who have the power. The thing about Imus, it was not a slip. It was a lineage of statements.”