All posts by Fayola Perry

Don’t Call Yola An Angry Black Woman: Black Suicide

By Fayola Perry

W.E.B. DuBois, author and black revolutionary, once asked, “how does it feel to be a problem?” It is a question anyone must consider when studying or discussing blackness, or the state of being black in the African Diaspora. It is an important to keep in mind when trying to understand why black men are depressed and contemplating suicide. Not only are black men being killed by police and by each other, but also by themselves.

There are several factors that lead to black men being depressed. There are several factors preventing them from healing and there are several factors that stop society at large from discussing the fact that black men are dying of unnatural causes.

The media does an amazing job of assassinating the black man’s character. The common narrative we are presented with is that black men are big brutes: unmotivated and lazy with a propensity for violence. The other popular narrative is the successful black male celebrity who is usually an athlete or an entertainer who is seen as inherently cool because he’s black, but still feared because at the end of the day he is still black. These ideals are not only unbalanced, but they place tremendous pressure on black men to maintain a certain level of composure or cool while trying to combat and make sense of the ‘indignities, inequities and and injuries’ that come with being black in America. This phenomenon ‘cool pose’ is explored in Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson’s book Cool Pose: The Dilemma of Black Manhood in America.

Not only does does the negative, one-sided depiction of black male masculinity directly affect how black men feel about themselves, but it affects how the outside world perceives and interacts with black men, which can take a toll on their psyche. News programs disproportionately cover stories where black men are seen as uneducated and violent, when in reality black a male bodies are being used by law enforcement for target practice. An example of that can be seen with what happened to Oscar Grant. A lot of news coverage focused on his criminal past as a way of justifying his death at the hands of the police. The same was seen with Trayvon Martin. The image of him brandishing his middle fingers to the camera were heavily circulated but not many people saw the images of him at space camp and that idea that black boys are inherently volatile is perpetuated through scenarios like theirs. Society takes these images and deems black men inferior. This is all apart of the racist agenda of America at large.

SFSU Africana Studies professor Serie McDougal, an expert on black male development breaks down how problematic it is to depict black men in only one or two ways can be detrimental. He explores what it is like when your blackness is only seen as a problem and not as a source of strength.

“This idea of blackness as a burden, blackness is painted as something like a scar, or something to overcome, when actually blackness is a source of validity.When someone looks at blackness as the problem and allow that idea to be internalized, we must reverse that and socialize blackness as something to embrace,” McDougal said.

The stereotypes of the black males plays a large part in how black males form their identity and create their own ideologies about what masculinity looks like, what blackness looks like and most specifically, what black masculinity looks like.

Geoffrey Malveaux is a mixed race black male. He attends SF State and is active in the theatre arts on campus. He has dealt with depression and has thought about committing suicide. He has even attempted it. He admits that from age nine to 12, he had thoughts about harming himself and grappled with depression throughout high school. He questioned himself because his black male identity did not align with the media’s portrayal of black masculinity nor his peer group’s definition of being young, black and male.

“The bullying factor really played on both a mental an emotional part of my life. I couldn’t cope with it. With me being biracial, I always had the racial identity struggle,” Malveaux said.

Malveaux, like so many others, felt like he had no allies. He felt like in admitting that he felt differently than his peer group seemed to make him feel inadequate. Part of the reason that he felt that way is because of the stigma attached to mental illness and depression coupled with the misconceptions of what it means to be a black man. When the stigma surrounding mental illness is coupled with the stigma of blackness, black men feel almost obligated to keep their feelings internalized and appear to be unaffected.

“Eventually it piles up, everybody has a breaking point, when we reach that breaking point, we as black men are seen as animalistic, but we’re just human like everyone else,” Malveaux said.

According to scholars like McDougal, that perception of masculinity, while commonly accepted is problematic.

“The mainstream notions of masculinity, which is that you are supposed to be able to deal with everything that the world throws at you and without making a big deal out of it. When it comes to mental health, you have to some degree, acknowledge that you’ve been affected or are being affected,” McDougal said. “Sometimes there is a real and a perceived threat that you’ll be labeled inadequate if you can’t handle it.”

This notion that being male means never allowing yourself to be emotional or to admit that you have been hurt by something or are experiencing trauma, leads to social isolation and dangerous behaviors which can lead to depression and suicide. Africana studies professor Shawn Ginwright has a background in black youth development and has written about black male development. In his research he has concluded that not being able to share your experiences can lead to a fatalistic approach to life, especially when you see other men that look like you being killed on a daily basis in the media.

“If we understand that the media is telling young black men that their humanity doesn’t matter, it leads to what Dr. Poussaint calls slow suicide. Young black men engage in dangerous behaviors because they have internalized the idea that no matter what ‘I’m going to die before I reach a certain age,’” Ginwright said. “In doing so it’s almost like they confirm to society that indeed the black male is a violent problem and I think understanding that is important because it has currency’s not understanding young people’s behavior.”

Ginwright references Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint and Amy Alexander’s book Lay My Burden Down: Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis among African Americans. McDougal adds to that idea by explaining how these factors work together to convince young black men that regardless of their actions, they will still die, so why not kill myself before anyone or anything else can.

Slow suicide is another branch on the tree of internalized fatalism or the idea that regardless of what is said or achieved, a person’s blackness dictates their self-worth.

“That fatalism as it comes to black men is a part of American culture. If you find out for a black person, for them to get shot by the police doesn’t have anything to do with whether they broke the law. Their college degree won’t prevent them from getting killed. They’re being taught fatalism,” McDougal explained.

“Just like anybody else black males evaluate themselves, based on their own expectations, their family expectations, peer group and the at large the community and the larger society itself and their perceptions of them so, everyone has challenges when dealing with negative perceptions of them but in a lot of cases black males have the added burden because of people’s perception of them, racist perceptions of them with racial expectations of them,” McDougal concluded.

Dialogue about this unnatural cause of death of young black males is rarely had. In recent years, television shows like “Being Mary Jane” have discussed how even successful black men who have seemingly defied the odds are committing suicide.They too are often fearful of confirming anything negative about the black experience. They are conditioned to believe that admitting that I am dealing with some type of trauma confirms the notion that black men are inferior. Even with their success, black men are still fearful in showing any signs of weakness. Some examples of this can be found in the stories of people like rapper Capital STEEZ, producer and music mogul Shakir Stewart and actors Lee Thompson Young and Sam Sarpong who all committed suicide despite seeming to have it all.

“Sometimes, with black men, success can lead to social isolation and poor relationships and that is another factor that can lead to depression and eventually suicide,” McDougal said.

One of the reasons that this needs to be discussed more is because bringing light to an issue is one of the first steps to combatting the issue. Discussing the issue gives black men an opportunity to share their experiences and use the anecdotes as a common thread.

Dr. Frederick Phillips uses and Afrocentric approach to healing the issue that black men face regarding masculinity and identity. HIs approach uses the principles used in Kwanzaa paired with anecdotes as a way for black men to start sharing their stories. Another School of thought on healing uses key pieces of literature and scholarly text from black authors as a tool for black men to find themselves and identify with other men who have historically faced soe of the same challenges.

W.E.B. DuBois question still remains and these conversations about black men and depression and suicide serve as an answer. It doesn’t feel good to be viewed as a problem. Now that that has been answered the larger issue at hand, racism can begin to be combatted, the question how black men and black people started being viewed as a problem can begin being answered as well as how that idea negatively affects humanity overall.

Merging of Two Departments Limits Choreographers in New Moves Showcase

David Spain, left, and Dominique Turner, right, performs during the showcase competition in the McKenna Theater. Photography by Imani Miller

 

By Fayola Perry

Senior Matthew McKines III’s 19 student dancers entered the stage, clad in all black and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the models in the second season of Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion show. They performed a ballet piece that McKines choreographed in the course Dance 461: Advanced Choreography. The piece, titled “Royals,”  is a story of love, loss, battle, betrayal and overcoming it all, according to McKines. The dancers came out with their arms framing their heads like busts in a museum casing, forming perfect right angles at their elbows on either side. They held their shoulders back and pushed their chests out, strong and regal. As the dancers moved through eight counts and the piece came to an end, the anxiety on Mckines’ face never faltered.

Mckines is competing for a spot in this year’s New Moves Choreography Showcase titled “Emergence” against 13 other choreographers. The 14 choreographers have gathered their dancers in McKenna theater to compete in a final showing of their pieces for a coveted spot on the paid by patron program.

The showcase usually serves as a capstone course and states in its syllabus that each choreographer is to create a piece that will be performed on stage in a showcase that patrons of the theater come to see every year. For the first time in the history of the showcase, the department is not letting all students enrolled in the Dance 461 course perform their pieces in the program that patrons pay to attend.The changes have somewhat shifted the energy of the program and have caused the morale of the group to diminish, according to dance students.

“It’s just made it a more stressful process because now there is a chance that all of this work will have ultimately been in vain,” McKines said.

The tensions within the program are multi-faceted and can be felt not only among the dancers, but between the choreographers and their dancers, between the choreographers and one another and between the other dance teachers and the student body of the theatre and dance programs as well.

“Each teacher that I have, independently of one another has addressed their classes that have nothing to do with New Moves on the fact that they can tell that their general student body is like depressed, just down in the dumps, just upset and unable to focus, and things are slipping,” McKines said.

This year, the department has limited the showcase to seven pieces — a huge shock to the student choreographers. There will be three main shows where patrons pay to attend with the chosen seven pieces being showcased. All of the remaining choreographers pieces will be shown at a Saturday matinee performance for free on December 5. The new director of the combined program, Todd Roehrman, feels that he’s doing his best to allocate the resources between the two programs and their productions.

“So actually every piece that’s in the class is being given an opportunity to perform on stage in concert in front of a live audience. So nobody is being told they don’t have that opportunity. Every single person. In the performing arts as you know, there is a process that’s called audition. You audition for a role, not everyone gets the role, right,” Roehrman said.

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Victoria Robles, left, and May Wells, right, embrace each other while performing during their showcase competition in McKenna Theater

Many students feel like they should have been given a heads-up before enrolling in the class or before investing so much of their time in a one unit class that is no longer rewarding them with a final performance of the caliber they initially anticipated.

“The sole purpose of doing something like this is to have a final piece on stage and ready for multiple audiences and multiple nights,” McKines said.

Students in the dance program understand that resources are limited, and that each show requires a lot of man-power and that means there will be cuts, but they can’t seem to understand why the cuts appear to be mainly at the expense of the students in the dance program.

“We got a general answer of lack of resources, but that answer kinda came, we feel, arbitrarily and without us really seeing the numbers and seeing what could really be done. Especially if the 14 of us, the choreographers, we’re all a very smart, hard-working group that are kinda close-knit and very in support of each other, are all willing to compromise,” MicKines said. “There are things that could have been done.”

The new format of the showcase is one of many changes for the dance department, which dealt with the closure of one of their studios recently. The dance program has now been integrated with the theatre program, and many students in the dance program are feeling like their resources and needs are no longer seen as a priority.

A main reason that has been given for the changes is that there are simply not enough resources to accommodate a show of that size with multiple performance dates. Each production put on by the dance program requires input from the theatre program. The performances and even the rehearsals require theatre students to work on lighting, sound, stage transitions, costuming, makeup other tasks that are integral to any production.

One of the biggest resources creating conflict between the two programs is space. Earlier this year, the dance program lost one of its studios because it was located on top of a theatre, and the pitter patter of feet during a rendition of a theatre was very distracting. That studio was repurposed to serve as a museum for some artifacts the school had on display elsewhere. The dance program is now in the process of getting a new studio, but in creating this new studio, the Brown Bag Theatre and a few other spaces had to be closed, causing both programs to be displaced. Roehrman explained that the new studio will be a shared space for both programs but has cost the theatre program some of their rehearsal spaces.

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Dominique Turner, left, and David Spain, right, perform May Wells’s showcase piece in the McKenna Theater.

“So theatre has to compress a lot and dance isn’t really losing anything here. Every piece is being given a chance to perform. It’s not losing any facilities, it’s getting a bigger, better facility. It’s brand new. It’s beautiful. It’s nearly a million dollar investment by this campus, so dance is not suffering as a result of this merger. In fact, they’re in a much better place than they were before the merger,” Roehrman said.

Regardless of who is gaining what resources, students feel frustrated. Senior May Wells, who not only choreographed a piece but is one of the lead dancers in McKines’ piece is extremely concerned about what this merger means for the future of the department and for her future as an aspiring dancer. For graduating seniors, the changes aren’t just frustrating. They pose a threat to their ability to get jobs in the dance world. Campus performances are a resumé builder for aspiring dancers and choreographers.

“Many of us are graduating and it’s important for us to have a piece that’s been in a paid concert. If you have a piece only in the (free) showcase, it doesn’t mean much to the professional world,” Wells said.

Students are flustered by the merger and the tension between each other, but also the self-doubt brought on by having their pieces compared to others. Dancers feel like they have to compromise themselves and their vision to create a piece that will get chosen, regardless of whether or not they love the piece.

“Now it’s like, what is going to get my piece chosen? Like, do I need to add certain elements to make my piece more unique or more different when in reality, we’re trying to create based off of what we feel and that’s what we were taught in the past choreography classes that this is your art, make it you. Now it’s like, is me enough” Wells asked.

Wells, like many other students, feels like there is a lack of communication and cohesion between the two programs. When discussing the loss of one of their studios and the subsequent resolution, dance majors and minors said they feel like the people in charge of the theatre program are trying to appease them rather than actually working with them.

“Since we’re merging, we need to work more like a team within the two departments. (The chair) is still referring to us as ‘you guys’ and ‘your department’ and ‘we’re giving’ instead of ‘we need to do this,’” Wells said.

There is an overall sense of discord between the two departments and that seems to be the real root of all of the chaos surrounding the New Moves Showcase.

“If the minds came together, if they put forth the extra effort to come together, then something more could’ve been done,” McKines said.

 

The Changing Music Marketplace

By Fayola Perry

In 2013 Beyoncé released Beyoncé, her fifth solo album on iTunes without prior announcement and it debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200. The album went on to sell five million copies worldwide and it became the fastest selling album in iTunes history. The album sold over 430,000 copies in the first 24 hours of its release. Beyoncé posted a 10 second video from the album on Instagram with the caption: “Surprise!” Within 12 hours of the post, 1.2 million tweets were posted about the album.

Drake released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late this year with little prior announcement as well. On Feb. 12 Drake posted to Instagram the now infamous and intentionally scribbled handwritten album art bearing the words: “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and released the alluded-to album the following day. The album was streamed over 17.3 million times,  breaking Spotify’s first week streaming record. The record was previously held by his prior album Nothing Was The Same.

Drake and Future have a combined 18.6 followers on Instagram. Drake’s first post confirming their joint album’s existence and scheduled release date was a simple photo of the album art on Instagram with a caption that read: “WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE available at 8 p.m. EST, Sunday on Itunes @future @applemusic.” The post received 288,698 likes. The album debuted at number one on Billlboard Top 200 as well and was released without marketing except for the posts on Instagram.

Many artists are employing very few traditional marketing strategies like using street teams to handout and post flyers throughout certain neighborhoods, in-person networking and actual television commercials, and instead use social media apps almost exclusively to share their content and keep fans abreast of new music. All of these projects broke the internet and highlighted the effects of social media and digital releases on hip hop and popular music. They also forced data analysts and record labels alike to look at the role of the internet on consumers of music.

Even analysts who deal with numbers outside of the music industry have taken notice and have contemplated how this new wave of marketing can be use in other businesses with other projects. Data analyst for Peterson Cat, Azhara Osborne has combined her traditional knowledge of data analytics with some of the marketing strategies employed by hip hop artist to propel her own company Azhara Hanan Design Collective and understands its effectivity.

“I like the creative marketing tools that are arising, like the promotion-less route Beyoncé took. It caused a spectacle, wonder, emotion and uproar from her fans and media alike. She’s not my God or anything but even I was jolted by the surprise of it all,” Osborne said.

Osborne, like many college students of her time is an avid consumer of music. Her love of music coupled with her penchant for number crunching led her to notice that what Beyoncé pulled off was a major feat and could set a precedent for other artists.

“I think people will follow for sure. Artists already have to be creative about how they go about releasing their music, but what she did was pretty ground-breaking to have went unleaked and unnoticed,” Osborne continued.

In 1999, Napster hit the internet and allowed people to listen to their favourite artists’ music for free. It was followed by Limewire in 2000, which worked on multiple interfaces, allowing people to download and stream music for free as well rip music from artists whose music was on the Internet.

Now is the age of apps like Spotify and Tidal. In the last six years Spotify subscribers have surpassed the 25 million mark. More subscribers means more listeners with access to entire discographies.  These apps put the entire catalogue of virtually any artist right at users fingertips for little to no cost. You can listen to music for free on an ad-supported version of the app or pay a monthly fee for uninterrupted streaming. Paying $9.99 per month for access to almost every new album of almost every artist is substantially less expensive than purchasing one album at around $12.99.

Since these apps and many others hit the market, a lot of emerging artist now take to streaming platforms like Soundcloud, Datpiff, Spotify and Tidal to release music for free. They use their social media clout and influence to get fans and potential fans to check out their work as well as the work of their collectives via these different apps. Apps like Spotify even allow and suggest that you sync your Facebook account to your Spotify account for a more customized experience. Another perk of streaming apps is that they allow you the option to decide beforehand how to spend your money.

“Spotify and Youtube give the option to sample and check out artist before I commit to buying. That’s pretty player,” Osborne said.

Social networking sites like Tumblr and instagram are largely responsible for the fame and success of so many artists. The ASAP Mob, a hip hop collective from Harlem, New York,  took Tumblr by storm in the early 2000s. They used their social media notoriety as a platform to launch the careers of two of their most famed rappers: ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg. One of the group’s style mavens, ASAP Jiggy Josh credits the Internet as a part of their success.

“It’s a big part of the movement. If anything, tumblr was our forefront for us to be introduced to the world,” Josh said.

Shawn William, an Oakland based, poet and rapper who many know by the name N Er City has created an Internet persona that has a large following and is usually one of the first people to post an opinion about any and everything regarding Hip Hop and popular culture.

“As an artist, social media has made me realize that marketing and creating a strong brand is just as important as your art,” William said.

Having a substantial Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook presence is key for Willam. All of these elements go hand-in-hand to create that perfect artist package.

“IG (instagram) illustrates my life visually while SoundCloud provides the soundtrack,” William said. “The access to fans makes it easy for anyone to post a link to their mixtape.”

The internet transcends geographical borders. The Internet allows for rappers like Gnucci Banana from Sweden by way of Belgrade, Serbia, to get the video for her song “Coolie Fruit” on little American girls Tumblr pages.

“I’ve been in the game for 15 years and to get your work overseas with a simple retweet or repost is priceless,” William added.

Bay Area rapper Bryce Savoy, better known as Int’l Hay Sus, has seen the positives of marketing and branding himself on the internet.

“I feel like social media and digital media consumption gives artists the opportunity to promote themselves and their brand without any money or a machine behind them,” Savoy said.

Some artists that have been making music for many years have mixed feelings about the D.I.Y. style of self-marketing through social media. Many seem to praise this new model for allowing artists to speak and advocate for themselves. Artists like Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds applauds Spotify for its capacity in delivering a legal substitute to piracy with a pay-per-play model.  Hip Hop legends are praising the new model for allowing artist to create a brand for themselves or their collective.

The iconic “Golden Era” rap classic, “93 ‘Til Infinity” is one of the most widely recognizable Hip Hop songs of all time and to this day has over 1.6 million views on it’s official post and over 150,000 views on countless other uploads of the song. Imagine what those numbers would be like if the internet and it’s new wave of artist marketing existed then. Imagine how easily that number would increase in today’s market.

“Smart, aware artists will find their job easier. Artists who just want to deal with the art and either do not have a team or label or group or other artists who are willing to help them with their business will most likely suffer,” Tajai Massey of legendary rap collective Hieroglyphics and one of the founding members of Souls of Mischief said.

It’s still up to consumers which artists break the internet. No matter how accessible music is, the total package still seems to matter. Artists now require a large social media following and ability to market and cater to an ever-changing industry.

Don’t Call Yola an Angry Black Woman: Her Name is Actually Felisha Though

Photo by Martin Bustamante

 

By Fayola Perry

In the 1995 movie “Friday,” Craig, played by Ice Cube, and Smokey, played by Chris Tucker, are sitting on Craig’s porch when the resident dope fiend, Felisha, played by Angela Means, comes by and asks them to borrow a car, a joint and a couple of other items. After the pair engage in a back and forth with her, Craig asks Felisha to excuse herself from the stoop by uttering the now infamous phrase, “Bye Felisha.”

This year’s end of summer blockbuster biopic, “Straight Outta Compton” chronicled the rise and fall of the legendary rap group, N.W.A. in which Ice Cube was a founding member. He also wrote, as well as starred in, the movie “Friday.” In the biopic, it is revealed that Felisha is also the name of a woman who managed to make it back to the group’s hotel room. She is asked to leave the hotel room when her boyfriend and his posse came to the hotel room asking for her. An altercation ensued and that’s when we hear the phrase, “Bye Felisha” uttered upon her exit. Since the movie’s release, it’s been confirmed by members of the group to have originated there and then made its way into the “Friday” script shortly after.

The phrase has been popular in black communities, but with the use of apps like Twitter, the phrase spread like wildfire to the rest of the world. When it became a trending topic on “Black Twitter” where it no doubt trickled down and made it’s way into lexicon across the interwebs and into the mouths of the unknowing.

The use of “Bye Felicia” in popular media is a very basic example of cultural appropriation. The hordes of people who think they can relate, but in reality cannot, who use social media and say Felicia “isn’t actually a person,” in their Tumblr posts or say things like “it’s just something people say” have no idea that they are diluting and distorting the significance of the phrase. The statements essentially undermine the importance of cultural symbols and ignore the origin of cultural symbols, which are taken for granted in popular discourse.

Cultural appropriation is the concept in which the elements of one culture are used by another outside culture. It is typically viewed as a negative phenomenon because the culture being borrowed from is usually ignored both intentionally and unintentionally.

Cultural appropriation can often be seen in aesthetic trends, costume choices for Halloween and in the popular media adoption and glorification of linguistic patterns and physical attributes as they trend.

Taking it a step further, cultural appropriation often refers to a particular power dynamic in which the member from a dominant culture, in this example WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) ‘culture’ is the dominant, hegemonic culture, that takes elements from a group they systematically oppressed, in this example, the oppressed are black people.

Pretty problematic, right?

There is someone in the back of their classroom right now reading this in preparation for Halloween, wondering if they’re a racist because they wanted to wear a feather headdress and moccasins as their costume.

The answer to that question is yes and no. It’s more complicated than Donald Trump’s relationship with poor people.

There is this tricky gray area between cultural appropriation, where people take without attribution of origin and cultural exchange, a situation in which both parties have a mutual appreciation, fascination and willingness to understand the complicated and intricate histories and power dynamics in play.

Cultural appropriation minimizes and trivializes the history of oppression. What may seem so small to one group can be a haunting reminder of traumatic experiences to another.

Cultural appropriation allows people to show love for a culture, but still hate the people from that culture. As comedian Paul Mooney once said: “everybody wants to be a nigga, but don’t nobody want to be a nigga.”

“Hunger Games” actress Amandla Stenberg posed the question, “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

Both of their statements allude to the idea that using aspects of Black culture or participating in parts of Blackness is great as long as I continue to have the ability to move around and avoid certain situations and power dynamics in the privileged body that is usually not Black.

Another way to conceptualize this is to think about the Bay Area and it’s inhabitants in the quest for authentic Mexican food without having to go into dangerous neighborhoods to get it. Dangerous neighborhoods is usually code for areas that are heavily occupied by people of colour, in this case it’s Mexicans and or Latinos. It says that I’m entitled to your culture, but I would never want to be you or have to deal with you.

Appropriating culture makes things okay for one group while making it taboo for another. Things that people of colour are reprimanded for and ostracized for are okay when White people do it. A lot of this can be seen in hair trends. In popular fashion magazines black hairstyles like bantu knots and cornrows are given new names like “mini buns” and repackaged and reimagined on white bodies.This makes it socially acceptable but instantly deemed “ghetto” and unprofessional when worn by the people who originated it. The feelings of the privileged who are more often than not white, are prioritized and hierarchically situated above marginalized people of colour.  Marc Jacobs is deemed a trendsetter for sending “mini buns” down the runway while the original creators never receive credit. Much like the phrase “Bye Felicia.”

Cultural appropriation sanitizes and spreads lies about people’s culture. It takes away the story Felisha, the addict who represents and symbolizes so many black and brown women’s struggle with drug addiction in that era and makes her a passing internet trend.

This lack of attention to detail can perpetuate racist stereotypes. Someone may think they are paying homage to someone’s culture and the person whose culture they’re paying homage to is completely offended at the misrepresentation.

Fear not, you can enjoy a great burrito if you are not Latino and do yoga if you’re not Indian, but be thoughtful, check your privilege and be considerate of context and history. Everyone has some type of privilege, people of colour appropriate each other’s cultures as well. We must all be mindful of our lens, other people’s perspectives, the legacy of oppression and try our best to make sure that  we are not continuing it. At the very least, know where the appropriated element came from and at the very, very least, spell her name right. It’s Felisha, not Felicia.

 

‘93 ‘Til Infinity touches a new generation

Students and faculty alike were buzzing as they gathered in the small lobby area in front of Francis Coppola theatre last month for a private screening of the documentary “’93 ‘Til Infinity: Celebrating 20 Years of Souls of Mischief.”

For some of the students, the iconic song “’93 ‘Til Infinity” was released before they were old enough to speak, let alone rap along to the lyrics. However, the song is as important to youth culture and Hip Hop as it was over 20 years ago.

The legendary rap group, Souls of Mischief, formed in 1991 in Oakland, California. The group is composed of four emcees, A-plus, Opio, Phesto Dee and Tajai. They are also part of a larger collective called Hieroglyphics.

The film, made by long-time friend of the group Shomari Smith, chronicles the group’s early years as well as follows them along the way to their energetic performance at the 2011 Rock The Bells music festival.

Smith knew that the “be yourself” message that made the group so revolutionary was one that wasn’t just relevant in the early nineties, but one that applies to every generation.

“One of the things I really like to stress is that year in ’93 was the era where I was in college. It was sort of a coming of age time for me, so I wanted to share it with those people who are going through that time in their life,” Smith said.

The college years are definitely seen as a time of change and growth for most. For many it is also the first time in their lives that they start feeling like they can express themselves and truly be who they are meant to be. The film’s core message makes a college campus a great place for sharing the triumphs of four guys who were coming of age, so to speak, in the same way that many of the students at SF State are.

“You have a group of guys who did something that wasn’t done for their time. They released music and had a lyrical style that was not heard yet and was monumental because it spawned the emcees that came after them. They spawned the Eminems and they spawned the Kanyes and the Pharrells and these different guys who watched them and saw them so they took something either from their personal style or their lyrical style or just something that overall touched them and they took the next step,” Smith said.

A lot of the students in attendance were particularly excited to see the members of their favorite group sitting alongside them in the audience. For Tajai, A-plus and Phesto, who were all in attendance, this was their first time seeing some of the final edits to the film since its first SF State airing last spring in the Africana Studies, Hip Hop Workshop class taught by long time friends of the group Hip Hop historian Davey D and the “DEF professor” Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer.

The group member’s respective faces expressed a gamut of emotion in the 30 or so minutes after the film as students and others in attendance, praised, critiqued and asked questions. Students were seemingly in awe as Tajai and A-plus expressed how amazing it is that Shomari was there to document these moments and took time to tell their story.

“I think [the movie], it’s awesome ’cause you don’t remember everything you did, especially the things you’ve tried to shut away in your mind ’cause you’ve tried to forget them. So it’s great. It’s a great experience seeing the final product. You don’t realize you’re making history while you’re making it. It’s like a good thing to do a retrospective of it,” group member Tajai Massey said.

The group members also shed some light on their philosophies on life and it’s easy to see why students can relate.

“I think we’re all students and we’re all trying to elevate and increase our mind power and Hieroglyphics kind of represents that style of Hip Hop or that style or lifestyle where we’re constantly trying to push ourselves to the limit. I think that we’re all in the same boat,” Massey said. “We just happened to make records that came out already.”

The group’s longevity, combined with their insights on music and life, make it easy to see why so many different people from so many walks of life can identify with them.

“They’ve been in the game for the longest, you know, so they have a lot of wisdom and all that to provide to the new artists and I’ve been listening to it and I was born in ’93,” sophomore Edgar Campachaña said.

As surreal as it is for the students, it was equally as awe-inspiring for the artists.

“Like A-plus said, we were just kids making music, and then we’re celebrating it 20 years later. Like, that’s crazy at that age. You haven’t even been alive 20 years, so how can you picture 20 years into the future,” Phesto said. “To really just process it, it’s a little difficult, but we’re grateful, very grateful.”

Making Dollars Out of Death

You’re on your evening commute, riding the 28 bus to Daly City Bart station, and you decide to take a look at your Twitter timeline to see what new kale recipes and animal rights issues your friends have decided to center their tweets around today. Your eyes get big as you notice the hashtag “RIP” with your favorite artist’s name next to it. Shocked, you click the hyperlinked text and read a few of the top tweets. Your thumbs are quickly typing your favorite celebrity’s name into the Google search bar because you can’t believe that it’s true. The top story appears and as you read the headline, with tears in your eyes, you accept that indeed it is true.

You return to your twitter timeline and you see a tweet with a link from a crowd funding campaign claiming to to be raising money for the family of the deceased. In good faith, being the “Stan” that you are, you click the link, read the brief write-up explaining why the family needs this money, and it seems legitimate. You grab your credit card and unknowingly begin giving scammers access to your banking information.

Scammers have now found another way to play upon people’s emotions by exploiting your favorite celebrities after their deaths.

One of the many ways that scammers are doing this is through fraudulent crowd funding campaigns claiming to be raising money for the deceased artist’s family, who, due to some circumstance and despite their family member’s success, can not properly memorialize them without your contribution. For example, Bay Area rapper “The Jacka” of the infamous group Mob Figaz was shot and killed this week and within hours there were multiple crowd funding platforms with campaigns purported to be on his behalf.

Scammers are also using fraudulent headlines attached to advertisements that funnel foot-traffic to sites that gain access to your internet habits. This markets things to you via a process called ‘data mining’.

When Whitney Houston died, record executives, along with her managers, decided to raise the price of her greatest hits compilation albums as well as pull her movies from streaming apps so that sales of her DVDs would increase. Only later did they apologize for trying to profit from her untimely death.

Similarly, when popular hip-hop curator and pioneer Steven Rodriguez, better known as ASAP Yams, passed away in January, there was a slew of Instagram boutiques selling T-shirts with his image on it merely hours after news of his death hit the Internet. While these boutique owners may be less malicious in their approach than say someone trying to steal your identity, there is a certain opportunistic element in profiting from someone’s death that can’t be ignored.

You could be thinking that you’re helping your favorite artist’s family in their time of need when, in reality, there is someone at a desk hoping to make money from misfortune.