clark-sisters-1-1532131216
Getty Images

We Need To Put More Respect On The Clark Sisters’ Names

The iconic gospel supergroup still matters to music today.

The iconic gospel supergroup still matters to music today.

Thou shalt not speak against the Lord’s anointed. While the aforementioned is not really one of the Ten Commandments, it is common courtesy to not throw unnecessary shade against those who have not done anything to warrant the hate. Back in April, Wendy Williams utilized her on-air time to congratulate Snoop Dogg on the success of his gospel album, Snoop Dogg Presents: Bible of Love, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel Albums chart. Not being able to leave well enough alone, Williams continued by calling out legendary gospel group The Clark Sisters, asking, “If I were the Clark Sisters, would I be mad that Snoop got No. 1? The Clark Sisters, they’ve been doing gospel forever, did they have a No. 1?” Williams then added, “Oh well, step up your game.”

Viewers promptly responded on social media, asserting the importance and legacy of the gospel singers. Those taking offense included the likes of Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence, Michelle Williams and James Fortune, who all gave less of a clapback and more of a timely reminder. The Clark Sisters have not only had one of the most influential careers within the genre of gospel, but their reach has literally fulfilled the mission of bringing good news—and the sunshine—to the world.

--

Twinkie. Jackie. Denise. Dorinda. Karen. The five Clark sisters grew up in Detroit, Michigan right alongside the Motown music phenomenon. While the influence of ‘60s and ‘70s Motown was undeniable in American culture, it was the church that maintained center stage in the Clark family life. Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, the matriarch of the family, ensured that the teachings of the church remained paramount in their lives. Dr. Clark wrote and arranged songs that the girls sang at church and increasingly around Detroit. Eventually the reins were handed over to Twinkie to create the music that the girls would sing. During the ‘80s, Denise left the group while the other sisters continued performing as a unit. Each of the remaining sisters also pursued solo efforts at various times. As the sisters themselves described in their TV One “Unsung” special, their influences came from everywhere—commercials, mainstream records, and, of course, the church. This blend allowed them to perfect a pop style of gospel that would go on to resonate with generations to come.

A review of The Clark Sisters entire discography would necessitate an entire book. However, even a brief sampling of their music makes it clear that they have had an outsized impact. Their first No. 1 hit, “Is My Living in Vain,” is still a banger. The song shows Twinkie’s writing talent in the simplest way. The lyrics rely on hypophora as the literary device to drive the point home. Rhetorical questions are posed repeatedly: “Is my living in vain?” “Is my praying in vain?” “Is my giving in vain?” Then the obvious answer is given: “No, of course not.” Similar to many gospel songs, the content comes straight from scripture, re-emphasizing a point and wording that would have been familiar to the audience. Twinkie highlights her talent as an organ player, singing the line, “Is my organ playing in vain,” on a song where the underlying organ takes a prominent role in the music itself. While the song itself has all the elements necessary to take it to the gospel charts, it also shows why the group has crossover appeal. “Is My Living in Vain” hit No. 1 when it came out in 1980 and R&B group Xscape rerecorded it in 1993 for their debut album, Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, using the same lyrics and melody. Today in 2018, both versions sound fresh and timeless, a testament to both the artists’ singing as well as Twinkie Clark’s original writing and composition skills.

As a girl group without one lead singer, The Clark Sisters pushed against the increasing norm of groups to have one identifiable frontwoman during the time when they came to prominence. Each woman had her own key parts and an opportunity to showcase her vocal talent. Yet together, their harmonies are second to none. Listening to one of their songs is listening to five spectacular talents and one whole at the same time. “Is My Living in Vain” allowed each sister to take a line in an almost seamless transition of voices. When they come together, the harmony highlights their ability to work together. “Endow Me,” featured on their eighth album, You Brought the Sunshine, is another major hit for the group, showing that the group also had the ability to let one person shine. Here, Karen takes the lead, utilizing runs and riffs to enhance the power of the lyrics. Syllables are repeatedly extended across a range of notes, imbuing the lyrics with new meaning. The other sisters complete the harmonies in the background, mimicking Karen’s runs. Live versions of the song—both those shared on YouTube and on various live albums—show the versatility in their approach. There’s an undeniable energy to their call-and-response. Any of Karen’s riffs can be responded to on the spot. “Endow Me” has endured not only on its own, but also in contemporary remakes that highlight its timelessness. When Coko of ‘90s girl group SWV used the song for her gospel album debut, she called on three other powerhouses to complete the song: Fantasia, Lil’ Mo and Faith Evans. In order to masterfully remake a Clark Sisters song, it is necessary to use talents of the highest caliber.

"Together, their harmonies are second to none. Listening to one of their songs is listening to five spectacular talents and one whole at the same time."

Perhaps no song showcases the group’s cross-genre significance as much as “You Brought the Sunshine,” featured on their album of the same name. Drawing inspiration from Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster,” Twinkie Clark infused the melody with a reggae beat, providing an infectious baseline that cannot be ignored. It is a perennial jam. When released, it crossed over in the way that few gospel songs get to do, making it onto mainstream radio and into the clubs. Since then it has been covered by everyone from Al Green to Shirley Murdock to Out of Eden. It even found itself connected back to Stevie Wonder when the ‘90s R&B group Intro remade Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky”—arguably one of the best remakes one any Stevie Wonder song—and sampled a portion for “You Brought the Sunshine” for the ending to the remix. Both songs have made it into their fair share of weddings and barbecue playlists. The Clark Sisters’ talent and influence in music has allowed them to have a place in culture at large.

If those song examples don’t show off The Clark Sisters’ cultural footprint, then consider one of their songs that did not cross over. Is My Living in Vain’s “Ha Ya” certainly has its fans both high and low. The basic gospel tune’s title is taken from Hebrew and loosely translates to “life,” and that’s exactly what it gave to “Family Feud,” the star track on JAY-Z’s 2017 LP, 4:44. All of Twinkie’s work for The Clark Sisters is on full display, from the two sanctified words Beyoncé repeats through the entire song to the background of the chorus down to the melody.

When Wendy Williams asks if The Clark Sisters ever had a number one song, the answer is clear. They have had quite a few number one songs, and charted on Gospel, R&B, Dance and Overall charts. But even more impressively, they have had a continuous noteworthy presence. The irony of Williams’ comment is that even on Snoop Dogg’s latest album—the one that went number one, that Williams offered him praise for, the one that led her to pithy remarks—he features The Clark Sisters. They even performed together at a concert this year.

Without a doubt, the number of No. 1 songs an artist has is an important factor to consider when evaluating an artist’s impact. Sales matter. Quantitative records are objective and easy to point to when making an argument. However, they are not the only way to measure an artist’s success. The sheer number of times that The Clark Sisters have been covered or sampled shows that they have the backing of other musical artists and producers. Their community acknowledges them as a creative force. That is a valuable part of evaluating the longevity of an artist. When we salute any song or artist that has used The Clark Sisters in their work, we are also, in effect, giving kudos to the original piece of work.

--

Longevity might just be the strongest proof in the pudding of The Clark Sisters’ necessary kudos. They’ve performed together in various forms for almost forty years. Four of the five original members still perform with the group, and they have supported each other in their various individual projects, which have also been met with success. Similar to many other musical families, the talents have also been passed on to another generation. Most prominently, Karen Clark Sheard’s daughter, Kierra (also known as Kiki), has made a name for herself in the music industry. She herself has several acclaimed albums, has charted at No. 1, and is most known for her appearance on Mary Mary’s crossover hit, “God in Me.”

The immense vocal talent, songwriting skills and ability to produce music of The Clark Sisters have allowed them to have an undeniably prosperous career. Their impact within the world of music and to the culture at large is undeniable, something witnessed firsthand in 2016 when the sisters were honored at Essence Fest in front of a packed room. Amidst all the festivities going on in New Orleans, people flocked to see these women receive their laurels. Amongst those giving them their due respect were Yolanda Adams, Ledisi and Chrisette Michele. The women were given their roses while they were alive, and an auditorium full of people received a blessing in terms of the performance given that day.

While Wendy Williams may opine that the group needs to step up their game, it is far more evident that she needed to be put up on game. More importantly, we all should reevaluate the way in which we consider success and talent. The success of Snoop’s latest endeavor does not eradicate the decades of music and entertainment that The Clark Sisters have provided. His success is actually a reason to celebrate them even more for their contributions, and hope that they both continue to grace us with their gifts for decades to come. They both serve as testaments to the fact that greatness knows no genre and is, indeed, timeless.

READ MORE: Sounds Of Sisterhood: 10 Music Moments Inspired By The Clark Sisters

From the Web

More on Vibe

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur

‘Inspire Change?’ NFL's Super Bowl PSAs Only Inspire More Skepticism

It’s been a few months into the NFL’s controversial “Inspire Change” initiative, a promotion by the league to highlight the Player’s Coalition and its work to address social issues. “Inspire Change” officially launched last year, (to “nurture and strengthen community through football and music,” said official statements) with the league’s partnership with Roc Nation expected to guide much of the outreach and voice.

"With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country," Jay-Z said via press release back in August. "Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas -- instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America."

The first “Inspire Change” ad featured the Botham Jean Foundation, and focused on the Jean family and their reaction to Botham’s 2018 death at the hands of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Jean’s murder, in which Guyger shot the 26-year-old as he sat in his apartment after saying she’d believed it was her own, drew international attention. The subsequent trial and conviction of Guyger drew derision and criticism after the former officer was sentenced to ten years (with parole eligibility in five) amidst hugs from the prosecuting judge and official statements from the family that focused on forgiveness.

“He just loved people and he was very particular about the company he kept. So I felt he was not in harm’s way,” his mother, Allison Jean, says during the video.

The NFL debuted the Jean ad online in late January to a mixed reception, and a new ad was shown during Super Bowl LIV. In the new ad, former 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin is heard speaking about what happened to his cousin, Corey Jones, on the night of October 18, 2015. That night, Jones was shot and killed in Florida by a plainclothes police officer as Jones was stuck on the side of the road with car trouble.

“I was still playing with the 49ers and my wife walks up after the game and told me that my cousin Corey had been killed. Corey broke down on the side of the road and a plain clothed police officer pulled up. Then this guy starts screaming. All you hear from there is three shots.”

Both ads focus on family and loss: the first clip features footage of Botham Jean’s brother hugging his convicted murderer in court as Jean’s mother and father talk about forgiveness. In the second ad, Jones’ father tearily asks “Why? Why’s my son gone today? Why?” The human toll of these crimes is front-and-center, but as far as the institutions that have created this reality for so many non-white people in America, they’re comparatively peripheral in these clips. The word “police” is never uttered, and while the tagline is “We’re all in this together,” there is nothing on screen to suggest racism is the common enemy. It’s cozy to posit that “we” are the solution, but what’s the point if I don’t have the fortitude to declare that you are the problem?

When Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL was announced just before the start of the 2018-2019 NFL season, many saw it was a mogul putting business before social justice. After all, the league had kept Colin Kaepernick on the sidelines for three years, and Jay supposedly supported Kaep and his protest—so why get in bed with the league that had effectively blackballed the quarterback? There didn’t seem to be any benefit in Roc Nation partnering with the NFL—outside of the NFL being able to save some face after losing some fans because of the treatment of Kaepernick. Working with a mogul who, in recent years, has become a symbol of Woke™ Celebritydom, could go a long way towards softening the league’s image as one that defers to good ol’ boyism. The most skeptical saw the initiative as a chance for the NFL to score cool points while using Jay-Z’s brand to do it. And with these new ads, those cynics have been proven right.

The hope behind these ads is that they will inspire the more ambivalent or right-leaning members of the NFL’s viewing audience to take up the cause that the league itself effectively punished Colin Kaepernick for protesting. That side of the NFL’s audience has made it clear that it does not commiserate with Kaepernick or his cause, but these ads are supposed to be what sways them. These ads are supposed to start a conversation. Roc Nation also pressed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to commit $100 million to social justice outreach, and Jay-Z has emphasized that he did not do this deal for anything other than a chance to use the platform to raise awareness on the issues.

It’s a stance that Jay has been voicing since that first announcement in August. “As long as real people are being hurt and marginalized and losing family members, then yes, I can take a couple rounds of negative press,” Jay said this week in an interview with The New York Times. He also said that he feels for what’s happened with Kaepernick (a workout this fall turned into a debacle for all parties involved), but he feels that what Roc Nation is doing is pushing things forward.

“No one is saying he hasn’t been done wrong. He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now — because people are still dying?’

“We didn’t say, ‘Let’s go make some money off the N.F.L.’”

Nonetheless, the NFL’s “Inspire Change” campaign feels more like a big-budget facelift for a league that still struggles with who it is and who it wants to sell itself to; as opposed to a lucrative corporation finding its conscience. In 2016, famed director Spike Lee was hired as a “consultant” for the NYPD when the department wanted to create initiatives to “build trust with minority communities.” Roc Nation’s cosign amidst the “Inspire Change” campaign feels like a similar maneuver from the NFL. These ads stoke emotion without indictment, evoking the murders of Botham Jean and Corey Jones at the hands of police officers, but focusing on sentimentality and not how and where reformation is needed. Jay has become someone who wears his “activist celebrity” tag on his sleeve, but how do moguls truly benefit causes? From his role in Barclays Center and the gentrification that accompanied its opening, to his deal with Barneys--can he truly occupy both worlds? Jay-Z wants Roc Nation's work with the NFL to push people to act, for everyone to see themselves in these victims. But the NFL can’t soft soap this and expect anyone to take any of this seriously. You can’t truly “inspire change” with post-woke pandering—or by helping conglomerates save face.

Continue Reading
Shakira performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Shakira's Cultural Homages During The Super Bowl Halftime Show Deserve A Standing Ovation

Now that the glitter and fireworks have settled in Miami after Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's Super Bowl Halftime performances, the ladies are getting their just due props for incorporating Latinx, Arabic, and black/African culture into their sets.

Shakira's homages were the most prominent Sunday (Feb. 2) with many mocking her "tongue-wagging" which was a nod to her Lebanese roots. Known as zaghrouta, the act is one of celebration and joy often done to express gleeful emotions at weddings and graduations. The 43-year-old (Sunday was her birthday) was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, by her Lebanese father and Spanish/Italian mother. The singer, whose name is Arabic for "grateful," has talked about her mixed heritage and how it played a big role in her music and performances (think her iconic Bellydancing or her punk-rock era).

“I am a fusion. That’s my persona. I'm a fusion between black and white, between pop and rock, between cultures — between my Lebanese father and my mother’s Spanish blood, the Colombian folklore and Arab dance I love and American music," she told Faze Magazine in the early aughts. "I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, The Beatles, and Nirvana. I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of 100 percent Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds."

 Zaghrouta was heard loud and clear during her performance of the 1998 classic “Ojos Así," which is also one of the few songs in her catalog to feature Arabic on it. She also tapped Afro-Colombian dancer Liz Dany Campo Diaz to help incorporate champeta into her performance. A dance from her hometown, the moves are traced back to African ancestors. It also has a similar groove to South African pantsula dance routines which some may remember from Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" music video.

Btw this dance is called Champeta and it is originated in Shakira’s hometown of Branquilla Colombia! It’s respected for its footwork and it’s an important part of Colombian culture 💃🏼 pic.twitter.com/JtcLsl9sm9

— SHAKIRABOWL2020 (@Exmotions) February 3, 2020

The singer also danced to another Afro-Colombian routine called mapalé, importantly at the start of her performance. The moves (including the beautiful sea of Afro-Latinx dancers) was a sight to see at one of the most-watched shows all over the world.

The initial eyebrow raises of a Colombian pop singer at the Super Bowl Halftime Show made sense but the singer was thoughtful in the songs she picked (her 2008 World Cup hit "Waka Waka" (This Time For Africa)" is a remake of the 1986 song "Zamina Mina" by Cameroonian makossa group Zangaléwa) and even more mindful in her riffs (she repeated with passion the "no fighting" lyric during her performance of "Hips Don't Lie"). In all, Shakira's set will be one hell of a cultural study in years to come.

Jennifer Lopez also made subtle political statements during her performance. Her set was a pleasant blend of her Vegas and "It's My Party" tour sprinkled with some of her newfound pole skills from her performance in Hustlers. Swing Latino, a competitive world-champion salsa group from Colombia returned to the stage with the singer as they previously were special guests during her "Party" tour dates. It took her On The 6 single "Let's Get Loud" to new heights as the group brought together swing dancing, a very Americana dance, and salsa on the stage.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by SwingLatino | official account (@swinglatino_cali) on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:56pm PST

A treat for pop culture fanatics, J. Lo's five outfits were customed made by Versace which we can give a smirk to. There's also the undeniable presence of Parris Goebel, who choreographed Lopez's entire Super Bowl performance. The two met back in 2012 when Goebel worked on her world tour and the American Idol season 11 finale where Lopez sang her 2012 hit, "Dance Again."

But it was the presence of her daughter Emme Maribel Muñoz singing with her that captured the audience. What many did miss was how the 11-year-old along with other children, appeared in silver cages, pointing towards the immigration and family separation policies the country has enforced at the southern border. "Let's Get Loud" then collided with a cover of "Born In The USA" with Lopez touting a feathered American flag with the Puerto Rican flag on the other side.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Emme Daddy is so proud of you. You are my ❤ and I am forever yours.

A post shared by Marc Anthony (@marcanthony) on Feb 2, 2020 at 6:19pm PST

You can't please everyone, but their performances were one of precision. The two living legends who don't need validation from anyone were in control and commanded the attention of everyone, including those who make it difficult for Latinx families to live their version of the American dream. We like to imagine that the two singers also learned from each other, especially J. Lo since some cultural stances go over her head. "Let’s show the world what two little Latin girls can do," Lopez said on Instagram before their takeover. And that's exactly what they did.

Rewatch their performances below.

Continue Reading
Terry Crews speaks onstage during Steven Tyler's Third Annual GRAMMY Awards Viewing Party to benefit Janie’s Fund presented by Live Nation at Raleigh Studios on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Anna Webber/Getty Images for Janie's Fund

Terry Crews, 'America's Got Talent' And The Conditional Solidarity Of Celebrity

Terry Crews is doing quite a spectacular job of torching any goodwill the public had toward him. The actor moved from tertiary to central figure in the ongoing controversy surrounding NBC’s popular talent show America’s Got Talent and its November firing of former co-host Gabrielle Union.

Union has stated that there was a toxic environment on set, citing the behavior of producer Simon Cowell, and an incident involving a racist joke she says was made by guest host Jay Leno and other instances where she felt AGT and NBC had not addressed racist or sexist behavior and policies on the show.

Terry Crews offered mild support for Union upon her initial firing but has drawn the ire of fans this week after he offered a less empathetic take about the situation during an interview with the Today show.

“First of all, I can’t speak for sexism because I’m not a woman, but I can speak on behalf of any racism comments. That was never my experience on America’s Got Talent,” the AGT host said. “In fact, it was the most diverse place I have ever been in my 20 years of entertainment.”

When asked if he’d spoken to Union, Crews offered, “I have reached out, but I have not heard anything.”

The online reaction was critical, with fans and pundits pointing out that Union had been one of Crews’ most vocal supporters in 2017 when the actor revealed and then testified that he’d been a victim of sexual assault by a Hollywood studio executive. With the flurry of criticism, Crews scoffed at his detractors, tweeting that there’s only one woman in his life who he works to please—his wife.

“There is only one woman on earth I have to please. Her name is Rebecca,” the 52-year-old tweeted. “Not my mother, my sister, my daughters or co-workers. I will let their husbands/ boyfriends/ partners take care of them. Rebecca gives me WINGS.”

Crews’ statements—and his nonsensical Twitter reaction to his critics—were disappointing for anyone who’d hoped Union wouldn’t be left out to dry in her fight against a very powerful corporate entity. When there was an opportunity to support a person who’d been vocal in her support of him, Crews chose to lean on his own experiences in a way that would obviously pave the way for America’s Got Talent to cast hers into dispersion. This entire debacle has been reminiscent of other high-profile instances where Black celebs offered criticism in the wake of solidarity—either focused on the comforts of celebrity or preoccupied with the trajectory of their careers.

Mo’Nique famously engaged in a feud with streaming service Netflix, after she felt the giant lowballed her in regards to a proposed stand-up special. The star had been branded “difficult” for years and she’d felt blackballed by Hollywood notables like Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels, whom she worked with in 2009's Precious. It was her performance in that film that landed her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2010.

When Mo’Nique appeared on Steve to discuss her proposed boycott of Netflix and the blackballing, her longtime friend Harvey chastised the Oscar-winner. “We’re fighting two wars here,” Harvey said. “There’s two wars, it’s what your issue is and is what the perception of the issue is.”

Mo’Nique’s stance was that she was fighting for equality—for women and for Black comics—in her battle with Netflix. In regards to her stance on Winfrey and Daniels, she was fighting to be paid for extensive travel and promotion. To her, this was a fight for the right to say “no” in Hollywood.

“Now, I said ‘no’ to some very powerful people...the difficulty came in when people that looked like me, like Oprah, Tyler [Perry], Lee Daniels—and I got to put my brother Steve on the list. Y’all knew that I was not wrong. Each one of you said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’re not wrong.’ And when I heard you go on the air and say, ‘My sister burned too many bridges, and it’s nothing I can do for her now,’ Steve, do you know how hurt I was?”

“I would have appreciated it, had my brother called me up and said, ‘let’s talk,’” she also said.

But Harvey was adamant that Mo’Nique’s wounds were self-inflicted, dismissing any notion of solidarity for what she was fighting for. Instead, he scolded her.

“This problem that you had at Netflix are rich people problems,” Harvey told her. “Because they’re looking at us saying, ‘you’re talking about millions, well, you got this, so you oughta be cool.'”

“I felt you had done yourself a disservice by the way you chose to go about it. When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. We black out here. We can’t come out here and do it any kind of way we want to.”

“Black people can’t do that” was always poor logic for not standing up for oneself, and Harvey’s take on Mo’Nique may have been more egregiously condescending than Crews and Union but it also reveals how “my career” can trump “you were right” when it’s time to show solidarity. It’s also important to understand that you can’t only see “the problem” via your own “experiences”—what you’ve experienced isn’t the sum total of what goes on. And waiting until the wackness affects you will have you dismissing the oppression of those who may not be in your position.

Five years ago, rapper A$AP Rocky was at the center of a firestorm after he dismissed the idea of rapping about the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Md., at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. The incident sparked weeks of unrest, as citizens gathered to protest police violence against Black communities, with artists like J. Cole and Talib Kweli offering support.

“Why would I feel compelled to rap about Ferguson?” Rocky said at the time during an interview with TimeOut New York. “I’m not about to say that I was down there throwing rocks at motherfuckers, getting pepper-sprayed. I’d be lying…I live in fucking Soho and Beverly Hills. I can’t relate.”

When Rocky found himself imprisoned in Sweden in 2019 for assault, the rapper’s old interview came back to haunt him. Many of his peers called for his release and railed against what they felt was a racist overreaction as Rocky faced up to six years in prison for what was essentially a fight. As his supporters pleaded his case, many online called back to Rocky’s dismissiveness when he was asked to offer support for the protests in Ferguson.

In an early January sitdown with Kerwin Frost, Rocky offered an explanation for his words in 2015. “In those old interviews, I used to say ‘I think it’s inappropriate for me to rap about things I didn’t help with… I felt like when it came to Ferguson, J. Cole went down there and he actually was on the news and he helped. I felt like he deserved to rap about it. So when someone [asked] me that in 2015 I’m like: ‘I just feel, personally, if I’m in SoHo or I’m here I can’t even talk on that’… That’s appropriating.

“It’s not sincere. It’s pretentious.”

Black voices can often be scorned when they’re facing off against powerful gatekeepers; that those in positions to amplify those voices can so often decide to take the more “practical” route of undermining or outright dismissing those voices in the most public forums is just evidence of how much the upward mobility of the individual can blind them to the bigger picture. When Rocky had to deal with what it meant to face law enforcement while young and Black, when Terry Crews had to stare down a powerful Hollywood entity who’d wronged him—they fully understood what oppression can feel like. When Steve Harvey finger-wagged Mo’Nique on a high-profile platform, he did so acknowledging the sliding scale that Black people face. Supporting each other when “that’s not my experience” means not undermining the fight against powers-that-be. Because being able to retreat “my experiences” is the greatest privilege. Hopefully, someone will remind Terry Crews.

Editor's Note: Terry Crews has tweeted an apology to Gabrielle Union saying, "I want you to know it was never my intention to invalidate your experience— but that is what I did. I apologize."

Continue Reading

Top Stories