January 19, 2005

Russell Simmons, President of the NAACP?

It is being rumored that the NAACP is considering Russell Simmons to be the next president of that Organization. If there has ever been a time where the next President of this organization will be important to the survival of it, this is that time. The NAACP is under attack from all directions, but most importantly from the BUSH administration and their watchdog group called the IRS. The NAACP has been very critical of Bush for his refusal to meet with the Organization and attend its annual meeting. Bush has however attended the annual gathering of the National Urban League. The NAACP is in a bit of a crisis with Kwesi Mfume stepping down in the midst of its battle with the Bush administration and facing an audit by the IRS that may lead to the organization loosing its non-profit status.

The worst thing the NAACP can do right now is appoint Russell Simmons to head this organization. Russell Simmons has direct ties with the hip-hop industry and has on many occasions defended the industry and the filth it puts out. I can not imagine how the NAACP got to this point where they would even consider Russell Simmons as a possible successor to Mfume. Russell has done some good; I do not want anyone to think that the Russell has not been an activist. His biggest accomplishment to this day as far his activism goes is his recent work to get the Rockefeller Laws over turned.

Although the president of the NAACP is not considered a political figure, he will and must be able to speak to political issues and have creditability when speaking on those issues. This is where I think Russell Simmons fails; he does not have the background, in politics nor does he posses any creditability in the political arena to be the President of the NAACP. This whole thing is starting to look and sound like rappers turned actors but now we have a hip-hop mogul becoming the President of a Civil rights organization. The appointment of Russell Simmons would be great fuel for the fire of those who oppose this organization and would like for it to become irrelevant. Surely the NAACP can search amongst Black intelligentsia and find an able and willing Black man or woman to head this organization.

8 Comments:

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting subject (and conundrum) that is going to emerge continuously in our culture over the next several decades. I don’t believe that rap music is filth, at least not across the board. For me there is a distinct difference between rap music and Hip-Hop culture. Even amongst rap there is a multitude of genres and national styles that vary significantly. The best rap never makes it to television or the airwaves; it just becomes obscure, underground art. Some of it certainly is filthy, but then again, there is always a place for filth (naughty is good sometimes). Rap’s filthiness just likens it to the multitudes of other media detritus we’re bludgeoned with everyday like pornography, and gratuitously violent films. But whether or not it’s harmful for America’s impressionable black youth is another discussion.

Hip-Hop on the other hand is a multinational cultural revolution that has indelibly transformed contemporary society. Furthermore, hip-hop is a multibillion-dollar industry that has employed people of color in unprecedented numbers. It has created opportunities for scores of young black stylists, designers, graphic artists, Web designers, film directors, producers, publicists, writers, editors and executives of all sorts, among many others – impacting almost any industry one could think of. This doesn’t even touch on the many black-owned advertising agencies, as well as law and public relations firms whose primary clientele is from the hip-hop world. This has never been achieved in the past.

Hip-Hop culture is embarrassing to many blacks because they believe it makes them look bad. You know… ignorant, violent, uncouth and self-destructive. But Hip-Hop speaks to the poor masses that bourgeois, wealthy and educated blacks (just like the rest of society) have turned their backs on. Somehow, underneath all of the misogyny, celebratory violence and grotesque materialism is a message that resonates. That message says one thing: Get Money! The Hip-Hop nation has abandoned the “we shall overcome” mentality of the Civil Rights era. They see that as a failed proposition, as a series of concessions and broken promises. Hip-Hop believes that the only way to achieve freedom is through the accumulation of wealth, by any means necessary – by guerilla capitalism. Also there is a lingering sentiment articulated in rap music that believes all the aesthetic markers of “normative” white culture should be abandoned. You know, it’s that whole “keepin’ it real” thing. This particularly enrages Movement blacks because it suggests that they have compromised and/or strayed away from their “imminent blackness.” One funny thing about Hip-Hop is that white conservatives have been aggressively trying to recruit the rap world. They rebuke them in public with their phony Evangelical morality bullshit, but they really see them as self-made, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” success stories that could further strengthen their cause. In the future we may begin to see Hip-Hop industry heads turning conservative as they get older and their fortunes increase. Remember, there is nothing conservatives love more than a successful capitalist. For conservatives, Hip-Hop money is akin to tobacco money, or alcohol money. It feeds off the pain of others, but it's demand is ever-increasing and it's profits are huge.

This, however, doesn’t excuse the buckets of crap that is produced by the rap industry – much of it is vile to say the least – but it’s a little more complicated than that. But what is happening in our lovely nation is that the Hip-Hop Glitterati has become quite powerful – and has produced a contingent of “organic intellectuals” that are becoming socially and politically active. For better, or for worse, they are the ones that can energize, motivate and mobilize black youth. Simmons is certainly intelligent and capable. He may not be palatable to Movement blacks and stodgy whites (which is basically the same thing), but he could probably achieve things that could enliven the NAACP. Maybe this is just what the organization needs: a leader and image that is not attempting to make itself palatable (visually, politically, or intellectually) to white America. Simmons represents the American dream fulfilled, he’s a rich, wildly successful and ruthless capitalist dedicated to social change. He came from nothing, gained everything and now wants to give back. Maybe the NAACP needs to become a little more dangerous, edgy and uncompromising – instead of a safe “PC” charity organization. Unfortunately, for many, that’s precisely how it’s regarded.

 
At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting subject (and conundrum) that is going to emerge continuously in our culture over the next several decades. I don’t believe that rap music is filth, at least not across the board. For me there is a distinct difference between rap music and Hip-Hop culture. Even amongst rap there is a multitude of genres and national styles that vary significantly. The best rap never makes it to television or the airwaves; it just becomes obscure, underground art. Some of it certainly is filthy, but then again, there is always a place for filth (naughty is good sometimes). Rap’s filthiness just likens it to the multitudes of other media detritus we’re bludgeoned with everyday like pornography, and gratuitously violent films. But whether or not it’s harmful for America’s impressionable black youth is another discussion.

Hip-Hop on the other hand is a multinational cultural revolution that has indelibly transformed contemporary society. Furthermore, hip-hop is a multibillion-dollar industry that has employed people of color in unprecedented numbers. It has created opportunities for scores of young black stylists, designers, graphic artists, Web designers, film directors, producers, publicists, writers, editors and executives of all sorts, among many others – impacting almost any industry one could think of. This doesn’t even touch on the many black-owned advertising agencies, as well as law and public relations firms whose primary clientele is from the hip-hop world. This has never been achieved in the past.

Hip-Hop culture is embarrassing to many blacks because they believe it makes them look bad. You know… ignorant, violent, uncouth and self-destructive. But Hip-Hop speaks to the poor masses that bourgeois, wealthy and educated blacks (just like the rest of society) have turned their backs on. Somehow, underneath all of the misogyny, celebratory violence and grotesque materialism is a message that resonates. That message says one thing: Get Money! The Hip-Hop nation has abandoned the “we shall overcome” mentality of the Civil Rights era. They see that as a failed proposition, as a series of concessions and broken promises. Hip-Hop believes that the only way to achieve freedom is through the accumulation of wealth, by any means necessary – by guerilla capitalism. Also there is a lingering sentiment articulated in rap music that believes all the aesthetic markers of “normative” white culture should be abandoned. You know, it’s that whole “keepin’ it real” thing. This particularly enrages Movement blacks because it suggests that they have compromised and/or strayed away from their “imminent blackness.” One funny thing about Hip-Hop is that white conservatives have been aggressively trying to recruit the rap world. They rebuke them in public with their phony Evangelical morality bullshit, but they really see them as self-made, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” success stories that could further strengthen their cause. In the future we may begin to see Hip-Hop industry heads turning conservative as they get older and their fortunes increase. Remember, there is nothing conservatives love more than a successful capitalist. For conservatives, Hip-Hop money is akin to tobacco money, or alcohol money. It feeds off the pain of others, but it's demand is ever-increasing and it's profits are huge.

This, however, doesn’t excuse the buckets of crap that is produced by the rap industry – much of it is vile to say the least – but it’s a little more complicated than that. But what is happening in our lovely nation is that the Hip-Hop Glitterati has become quite powerful – and has produced a contingent of “organic intellectuals” that are becoming socially and politically active. For better, or for worse, they are the ones that can energize, motivate and mobilize black youth. Simmons is certainly intelligent and capable. He may not be palatable to Movement blacks and stodgy whites (which is basically the same thing), but he could probably achieve things that could enliven the NAACP. Maybe this is just what the organization needs: a leader and image that is not attempting to make itself palatable (visually, politically, or intellectually) to white America. Simmons represents the American dream fulfilled, he’s a rich, wildly successful and ruthless capitalist dedicated to social change. He came from nothing, gained everything and now wants to give back. Maybe the NAACP needs to become a little more dangerous, edgy and uncompromising – instead of a safe “PC” charity organization. Unfortunately, for many, that’s precisely how it’s regarded.

Roland

 
At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I apologize for posting twice.... I forgot to add my name the first time. Just delete the first post, and this message.

Roland

 
At 6:39 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

"organic intellectual".......Hmmmmmmm...that is terminology that I have only heard coming from Renaldo. Is Rolando actually Renaldo? Whoever you are you will be judged ultimately by what you write, but I have a sneaking intuition that Rolando and Renaldo is a distinction without a difference.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I have never posted under the name Rolando, that's a nickname given to me by NmagiNATE. I only post with the name Roland. Renaldo is some other person.

Roland C. Webb

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Roland, what is your take on blacks being "Co-Conspirators" of capitalism and our own oppression?

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings Noah,

I think that African-American’s are now in the phase that immigrant groups were in many years ago. We have just now gained access to the means of production, and the wealth that such access brings. Currently, there are many blacks capitalists that are rapidly approaching billion-dollar status, and as a result, are joining the ruling classes. This is unsettling for many in our community because there is no historical precedent for it. Hip-Hop elites certainly represent this shift. They are “organic intellectuals/entrepreneurs” in the truest sense, and they build their wealth and power in part by exploiting (and celebrating) the misery of their own people. But as we have seen in recent years there is a strong political, socially conscious and philanthropic side to them as well. I find it encouraging. I also don’t find productive the notion of “our oppression.” Most American’s (white or otherwise) exist meagerly under the poverty line – and are similarly plagued with nihilism and self-destructive behavior of all sorts. One of the greatest political magic tricks in this country historically is the highly successful and systematic effort to keep the various groups hating each other. The conservative’s ability to convince poor whites to support policies that will destroy their lives is something that should be studied at great length. But, to fully answer your question, I believe that these developments certainly complicate our (society at large) traditional understanding of power relations in the United States. As the multi-national, capitalist ruling classes in the United States continue to become more ethnically and racially diverse, we will have to re-configure our understanding of (and resistance to) the structures of oppression and exploitation.

-Roland

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Russell Simmons is a successful businessman, but his political perspective is limited to the hip hop community. I respect the work that he did on the drug laws, but there is more to black politics than "the hip hop world." The NAACP presidency is not an attractive job because the last two leaders have been poor, in the case of Chavis, or mediocre in the case of Mfume. The NAACP should not be battling with the White House like that. I suggest Tavis Smiley.

 

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