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Erykah Badu: June/July Cover Story

ARTS & CRAFT

ERYKAH BADU’S BIRTHDAY SUIT PERFORMANCE FOR “WINDOW SEAT” WASN’T DONE IN THE NAME OF RECORD SALES. SHE WAS SELLING ART. CAN A PRUDISH MAINSTREAM AMERICA EVER BUY INTO THAT?

Words: Chloé A. Hilliard I Photography: Erin Patrice O'Brien

 

THERE IS NO fence or security guard protecting Erykah Badu and her children from the outside world. There is no long driveway from the street to her front door. If not for the high bushes, her front yard—with a worn playground set, clothing line adorned with purple and pink ribbons and a trampoline—would be completely visible to any passerby.

Reminiscent of an artist commune, Badu’s modest home sits amidst a White upper-class suburb in Dallas. The breeze from a nearby lake spins the chimes that hang from her balcony. Exterior speakers pump out drum-heavy tribal music. She calls the abode her “tree house,” a respite from the world, where she can create, paint and parent.

Badu is portioning out berries for her two eldest children to eat under an umbrella on the front lawn. She has on an apple green robe, loosely tied, hanging off her shoulders, revealing a red bra. Her curly ‘fro is contained by a faint yellow scarf that hangs down to her buttocks. She lifts her hand to shield her eyes from the beaming sun.

New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) is the latest exhibition from the Erykah Badu art collection that has been ongoing for 39 years. It’s an installment that will continue this summer when she hits the road with her Out My Mind tour. There is no part of the Badu experience that doesn’t stem from the mind of this woman. She writes treatments for, directs and edits all her videos. And her work is in high demand: 10 years in the business, four Grammy Awards, more than 7 million albums sold, criss-crossing the planet to perform before sold-out crowds.

With that much work going into it, she hasn’t made any excuses or apologies for her latest piece. In her mind, the decision to plead not guilty to the disorderly conduct citation that came with a $500 fine was a no-brainer. “If I get a speeding ticket, I plead not guilty, hoping the cop won’t show up,” she says.

The world’s interest in the woman, who debuted in 1997 with a sky-high head wrap, holding incense in her teeth and an affinity for tea, hit an apex after she disrobed on the streets of Dallas for the sake of her art. She’s also a businesswoman who realizes that the days of selling three million albums off a single release are long gone. However, completely disrobing in a music video for the first single of your fifth studio album is definitely a powerful way to announce your return. While many are attempting to dissect Badu, the mother/singer/producer/actress/director is already thinking about her next project. Whatever it is, she’s sure her actions will more than likely be misunderstood.

______________________

"I am not a feminist. I am not a Black liberalist, Republican, Democrat. I am not anything. I’m human." -- Erykah Badu

______________________

VIBE: Do you think that one song, “Window Seat,” and its video encapsulates the Erykah experience?

Erykah Badu: Because we’re in the Age of Aquarius, or technology, [people] get a chance to research. You don’t have to be as funky as your last hit no more. People can look for it. But it probably would be a staple for someone new. It was really not a lot to it so they’ll forget about it one day.

 

After the video debuted on your site, you were very vocal on Twitter explaining the definition for “group think,” the phrase that oozed from your head after you were assassinated at the end of clip.

But I wasn’t explaining anything about the video. My intent was to point out that that’s the dialogue I wanted to create to bring the attention to that, to make people aware of it because it’s such a big thing in school-age children and then people in the workplace and then people of the church and older folks. It’s like you don’t want to be who you are because you’re afraid to be assassinated. So that’s a big thing to me. I thought about that a lot. I thought about what I was doing. It wasn’t just something to do or a publicity stunt to sell records cause guess what; I don’t make money from selling records. I make money selling my shows all over the world and I have never needed help doing that. So I put that video out on my site.

 

It was your intent to bring a message, but it wasn’t your intent to be a role model.

There are a lot of things that I do. There are millions of people who have Ankhs tattooed on their body, or wear a head wrap or do all those things. You never have that intent now. You never know what is gonna happen. I put that out on my website. I didn’t know I was gon’ be on CNN on Monday, but when you do something responsible, you always have the understanding that people are going to be encouraged by it, and learn from it.

 

After addressing the social issue “group think,” are you worried that people will continue to expect some political or social commentary from you?

No, because I am not a feminist. I am not a Black liberalist, Republican, Democrat. I am not anything. I’m human. I support things that have good intent and that I feel I vibrate with, that I resonate with.

 

Do you think the controversy surrounding “Window Seat” will leave a negative stamp on your career?

That was nothing.

 

Are you saying that “Window Seat” is tame compared to what you have in store?

It don’t matter what I do. It’s just how it goes, no matter what I do.

 

So you see that as . . .

This is only the beginning

 

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George Floyd Died From Homicide By Asphyxiation, Independent Autopsy Finds

George Floyd was asphyxiated to death from “sustained forceful pressure” that cut off blood flow to his brain, according to an independent autopsy performed by medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson.

The 46-year-old father died from “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump announced on Monday (June 1).

“Sustained pressure on the right side of Mr. Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe,” reads a statement posted to Crump’s Twitter account. “The independent examiners found that weight on the back, handcuffs, and positioning, were contributory factors because they impeded the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function.”

The autopsy also found that Floyd “died at the scene” and not at a hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

Fired Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed jamming his knee into Floyd’s neck ass he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading for air. Two additional officers were helping to apply pressure to Floyd's body, while a fourth officer stood and watched. Chauvin was arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges last week. The other officers, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kuen and Tou Thao, have not been arrested.

“For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse. Beyond question, he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by fired officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body from two additional officers kneeling on him,” Crump said. “Mr Floyd’s death was a homicide by officers who taunted him while holding him down for more than eight minutes. And the officer who stood by doing nothing was a physical blue shield — a living symbol of the code of silence.”

Floyd’s family ordered the private autopsy after the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office claimed that his death was caused by pre-existing health conditions.

“What we found is consistent with what people saw. There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death,” said Dr. Baden. “Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breath. That’s not true.”

Global protests continued to call for justice in the murders of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police brutality and racial violence.

Read the full autopsy statement below.

 

Independent medical examiners determined #GeorgeFloyd’s death was due to asphyxia from sustained forceful pressure. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/cIbWu8ssWX

— Benjamin Crump, Esq. (@AttorneyCrump) June 1, 2020

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Prince Williams/Wireimage

Killer Mike Gives Emotional Speech Urging Peaceful Protests Amid Unrest In Atlanta

Killer Mike joined T.I., and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in delivering emotional pleas to discourage ATLiens from burning the city as protests broke out on Friday (May 29) in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless victims of police brutality.

“I don’t want to be here,” began Killer Mike. “I’m the son of an Atlanta city police officer, my cousin is a police officer…I got a lot of love and respect for police officers down to the original eight [Black] police officers in Atlanta that, even after becoming police, had to dress in a YMCA because white officers didn’t want to get dressed with ni**ers. And here we are, 80 years later and I watched a white officer assassinate a Black man and I know that tore your heart out. I know it’s crippling and I have nothing positive to say in this moment because I don’t want to be here.”

The Atlanta native went on to share background on his family’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, and other social justice issues. “I’m duty-bound to be here to simply say, 'It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with the enemy.’”

In what turned out to be another viral moment, Tip called Atlanta “Wakanda” while imploring demonstrators not to destroy the city. “Atlanta has been here for us, this city don’t deserve that. I understand that a lot of others do, but we can’t do this here, this is Wakanda. It’s sacred. It must be protected,” said the 39-year-old rapper.

Mayor Bottoms simply told protestors to simply “go home.”

“Above everything else, I am a mother to four Black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old,” she said. “When I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt. Yesterday, when I heard there was a rumor about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do: I called my son and I said ‘where are you?’ I said ‘I cannot protect you and Black boys shouldn’t be out today.’ So you’re not going to out-concern me, and out care about where we are in America.

“I wear this each and every day and I pray over my children each and every day. What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos.”

WATCH: "If you love this city, go home!" https://t.co/c8cPBZLATJ pic.twitter.com/v9IEBVoXpB

— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) May 30, 2020

At the request of Mayor Bottoms, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency in Fulton County, and deployed 500 troops from the state's national guard.

They will deploy immediately to assist @ga_dps, @GaDNRLE, @GA_Corrections & local law enforcement who are working tirelessly to subdue unlawful activity & restore peace. We will continue to make all state resources available to local leaders during this emergency situation. (2/2)

— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) May 30, 2020

See Killer Mike's full statement below as well as photos and video of the protests.

A powerful scene in Atlanta right now, this gives me chills. pic.twitter.com/SK7oOvzs8g

— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) May 29, 2020

More shots from Atlanta tonight pic.twitter.com/TmUmW5nXxZ

— kieron (@kieroncg) May 30, 2020

The chief of police in Atlanta talking and listening to everyone that has something to say#ATLFORUS #AtlantaProtest pic.twitter.com/qirbQRgViU

— Lilly - BLACK LIVES MATTER (@joonhopekook) May 29, 2020

It’s not just Minneapolis, we are now seeing protests in cities across the country over the death of George Floyd. This is in Atlanta as some smash the glass at our downtown CNN headquarters. #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/iwJxFaUfxW

— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) May 30, 2020

Police cars getting literally destroyed in Atlanta outside the CNN Center pic.twitter.com/x5zRxZVQpb

— Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso) May 29, 2020

Downtown Atlanta right now.... PEACEFUL PROTEST ! #BlackLivesMatter ! pic.twitter.com/6nejzqccVE

— KP 🦋. (@kailynnlee) May 29, 2020

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Breonna Taylor’s Family Vows To Continue Fight For Justice: “Please Keep Saying Her Name”

Breonna Taylor must not be forgotten. The family of the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March, released a statement encouraging peaceful protests and the continued fight for justice.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear read the statement from Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, on CNN on Friday (May 29).

“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile, and to bringing people together,” the statement reads. “The last thing she’d want right now is any more violence. Changes are being made, but it’s not enough. We will not stop until there is truth, justice and accountability. Breonna’s legacy will not be forgotten. And it’s because of all of us saying her name and demanding justice. We are saying her name more each day. Thank you.

“Please keep saying her name. Please keep demanding justice and accountability, but let’s do it the right way without hurting each other. We can, and we will make some real change here. Now’s the time. Let’s make it happen.”

Seven people were shot during a protest for Taylor in Louisville on Thursday (May 28). The shooting victims were treated and are in stable condition, according to Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. Fisher also reposted a video message from Taylor’s family urging peace amid the protests.

A message from Breonna Taylor’s family urging protestors to be peaceful, go home and keep fighting for truth. pic.twitter.com/if5MH5UcCW

— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) May 29, 2020

On March 13, 2020, Louisville police officers kicked in Taylor’s door without warning and opened fire. Authorities claim that they were executing a “no-knock” search warrant stemming from an alleged drug investigation involving another man who did not live in Taylor’s home, and had already been arrested.

“Police just unloaded 25 to 30 rounds, I mean they’re shooting from the front door, they’re shooting from the window, they’re shooting from the patio,” attorney Benjamin Crump told Essence on Friday. “They’re so reckless, they shoot a bullet into the next door neighbor’s apartment where their five-year-old daughter is asleep in her room. “They didn’t even have to come in her [Taylor's] apartment. They already had the person they were searching for in custody.”

Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LMPD accusing the department of excessive force and gross negligence. In wake of Taylor’s murder going public, LMPD has changed its policy and will now require no-knock warrants to have a police chief’s signature. The department also made it mandatory for LMPD officers to wear body cameras.

A 911 call made by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, after the shooting was made public on Thursday. “I don’t know what’s happening somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Walker can be heard saying through tears. Police arrested Walker for shooting at cops whom he assumed were robbers. The charges were later dropped.

Listen to the emotional 911 call below.

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