Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye West speaks out + More relief info

WestA number of bloggers (Rod 2.0, Scott Poulson-Bryant, etc.) covered handsome, dapper rap impresario Kanye West's recent statements on his MTV special "All Eyes on Kanye West" against homophobia. Specifically, he talked about how "gay" had become an antonym for hiphop, and said that while hiphop had once been about "speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers...everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people." He continued: "Not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates. And I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, 'Yo, stop it.'"

I applaud West for making these comments, and feel that even if they were primarily meant to help market his new CD, which is set to pop off at Number 1 on the Billboardcharts, and to buttress his heterosexuality, countering the idea embedded in his song "Mama's Boy" that he was a mama's boy and possibly gay, the gesture, which is all too rare in contemporary hiphop, was still an important and necessary one. In his overt anti-homophobic stance, he joins fellow Chicagoan Common, who, after issuing one of the more virulently anti-gay CDs I can remember, later changed his tune.

But I think West wasn't being cynical; while his whining about a lack of attention and praise has rankled me in the past, I do think he's a talented and skilled musician, and even the comments above include a broader commentary about discrimination, which he demonstrated on last night's NBC Concert for Hurricane Katrina Relief, when he broke away from scripted comments and channeled the rage that millions of Americans--especially Black Americans--feel about the horrors we've been viewing on TV. But in fact, he went further: he managed to connect the War in Iraq to the bureaucratic and logistical disaster that worsened the situation on the Gulf Coast, and to indict his own materialism (and by implication, Secretary of State Condoleezza's scandalous recreation and shopping spree in New York after the cataclysm in Louisiana, Mississippi and her home state of Alabama had already occurred.)

The network was unable to censor his live comments, which directly indicted the President of the United States, on the East Coast, but did censor them on the later West Coast feed.
Meyers and West
Courtesy of Crooks & Liars: Quicktime Link Windows Media Link

The transcript (courtesy of Crooks & Liars):
"I hate the way they portray us in the media.

"If you see a black family it says they are looting if you see a white family it says they are looking for food.

"And you know that it’s been 5 days because most of the people are black and even for me to complain … I would be a hypocrite because I would turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before giving a donation and so right now I’m calling my business manager what is the biggest amount I can give.

"And just to imagine if I was down there, those are my people down there. So anybody out there who wants to help with the set up, the way that America is set up to help … The poor, the black people, the less well off as slow as possible. I mean, Red Cross is doing everything they can.

"We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war now fighting another way and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us."
(Mike Meyers tries to get back on prompter, reads from script and then camera cuts back to Kanye. He pauses before Kanye West continues.
"George Bush doesn’t care about black people."
The cameras then abruptly switched to actor Chris Tucker.

God Bless Kanye West for his courage and for using this brief platform to speak truth, impromptu and unyielding, directly to power!


From Jamie Schweser, courtesy of the incomparable Tisa B.:

The NAACP has been trying to send buses into the Gulf states to help with
evacuation efforts. Their buses were reportedly turned back for lack of
proper permits. They've opened an emergency command center in Biloxi, MS,
and have other resources available. They are also partnered with
(see below).

Donate money to displaced black college students via the United Negro
College Fund. The academic year won't be starting for many students from
affected areas.

Here is a one-page list of non-profits to which you can donate money to help
with emergency evacuation, children and families, and rebuilding efforts:

The Sparkplug Foundation has a great list of funding and volunteering
options with organizations that doing grassroots relief work that focuses
on people of color and poor people, especially groups that are run by, or
accountable to people of color and economically devastated communities:

Tides Foundation has a Rapid Response Disaster Relief Fund that specializes
in relief projects that serve those most in need and most forgotten or
disenfranchised from traditional relief organizations:

The League of Pissed Off Voters has a New Orleans Fund, of which 100% of
the money donated goes to their work of building a team of media,
organizing and advocacy-savvy Nawleans refugees who are ready to write
op-eds, fight, advocate, support their displaced neighbors during this
crisis, and work for New Orleans to be restored in a way that includes the
input of ordinary people!

New Orleans Network : In about 24-36 hours, the website that myself (Jamie),
Shana Sassoon and a whole team of volunteer techies are working on, and
will be functional as a way for people to connect with and support the New
Orleans refugees in their area, It will also be a way for New Orleans
refugees to find each other in their exile communities and organize to take
back their city and make sure that it is rebuilt in ways that serve ALL New
Orleans residents. There will be exile community bulletin boards,
discussion boards, resource listings, advocacy how-to sheets, events
calendars, etc.

Finally, as the Neighborhood Story Project, (Jamie's friends) Abram and
Rachel will spend the next 4 months working with refugee high school
students to document the stories of people living in the Astrodome. They
are in the process of reprinting the original Neighborhood Story Project
Books at a printshop in Houston. The original books, each written by a
highschool student about their neighborhood in New Orleans, were the
best-selling books in New Orleans over the summer, behind Harry Potter 6.
All remaining copies were destroyed in the flooding.

Anyone who wants to help get their local independent bookstore to take a
box of these incredible books to sell as a way to raise money for relief
and recovery, and as a way to get out the amazing stories of the people and
neighborhoods of New Orleans, please contact me at
Abram and Rachel will need to raise thousands of dollars to reprint the
books and get them shipped out to bookstores. Information about how to
help will come soon, when they can get some sort of bank accounts and 501c3
organization in Houston after the holiday weekend.

Thanks for all that you are all doing, and for all of the kind words and
well wishes.

It feels great to know that so many people are willing to do so much to
help our friends, family, brothers and sisters who have been so terribly
affected by this disaster of nature and all of the catastrophes of racism
and classism that have made it worse.

Jamie Schweser

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