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Saturday, April 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Black college women take aim at explicit rap videos
By Kristen Wyatt
ATLANTA Maybe it was the credit card that rap superstar Nelly swiped through a woman's backside in a recent video.
At Spelman, the nation's most famous black women's college, a feud has erupted over images of women in rap videos, sparking a petition drive and phone campaigns.
Nelly planned to visit Spelman this month for a charity event enlisting students for a bone-marrow registry. But the rapper canceled the appearance after hearing that a protest was in the works because of his videos especially "Tip Drill," the one with the credit card, which also shows men throwing money between women's legs and women simulating sex acts with each other.
Misogyny in pop music, especially hip-hop, has been around for years. What's new, students say, is an explosion of almost-X-rated videos passed around on the Internet or shown late at night on cable channels such as Black Entertainment Television, also known as BET.
Never before, students say, have portrayals of black women been so hypersexual and explicit.
"It's very harsh. This is something we have to see and listen to on a daily basis," senior Shanequa Yates said. "Nelly just didn't want to come here and face the criticism for the choices he's made."
Not all students agreed that rappers are to blame, or that the images were harmful to society. Some at a recent meeting at Spelman noted that women in the videos know what they're doing and are paid to do it.
The issue especially incensed some men studying at Morehouse, a black men's college closely affiliated with Spelman. "These are grown women. I'm putting the blame on the women," said Kenneth Lavergne, a senior.
Another student, Bradley Walker from Clark Atlanta University, talked about the credit-card swiping. "Bottom line, a woman let him do that," he said. "I do think sometimes the total blame is put on artists themselves."
"He did not think it was appropriate at all for students to use that as a forum," Washington said. "I think he was profoundly frustrated. He was not the first, certainly, to do a video like that."
Spelman women have low hopes of prompting change at BET, which airs bawdy videos with genitals and breasts fuzzed out on "BET Uncut" after midnight.
The network has no plans to stop running it. " 'Uncut' has developed an almost cultlike following because of the freedom of artists to express themselves," network spokesman Michael Lewellen said. "It is specifically for adults. These are music videos whose content is too strong for our day points. We exercise more scrutiny than is required."
That sums up the basic message Spelman women have received from rappers and TV executives: If you don't like it, don't watch or listen. But the student activists insist the stereotypes in rap music hurt black people.
"Black entertainers have become the new myth makers, showing gangsters and bikini-clad women with hyperactive libidos," said Zenobia Hikes, vice president for student affairs. "For nonblack children it creates a gross misrepresentation of the black experience."
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