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Hip hop needs to do a better job at protecting Black women against domestic violence

Last night’s (June 30) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” episode titled “Are We Hypocrites?” brought special attention to the topic of domestic violence against Black women and its tolerance in the hip hop space.

Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of black people for black people.

Last night’s (June 30) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” episode titled “Are We Hypocrites?” brought special attention to the topic of domestic violence against Black women and its tolerance in the hip hop space. Host and executive producer Eboni K. Williams was joined by Sylvia Obell, Chris Rivers, Lawrence Burney, and Charlene Allen.

Williams opened up the discussion by noting the importance of taking responsibility for the role we all play. She reflected on Monday’s Verzuz battle between New York natives Fabolous and Jadakiss by diving into Fab’s participation in the famed one-on-one session though he has been called out for domestic violence before. “We have to shine a big, bright spotlight on this reality even when it hits close to home,” she said. “We do not have to sacrifice hip hop or the artist that we love. We must love them enough to hold them accountable, to have these discussions, to grow together, to be okay together.”

After playing clips of personal accounts from Remy Ma, Rihanna, Angela Simmons on their experiences with domestic violence, as well as support from Papoose and Fat Joe, and public admissions from Dr. Dre, Fabolous and Chris Brown, Williams returned on a lighter note that this episode will be a moment of healing and progressing forward.

Last night’s “Headlines” included the removal of the confederate emblem from the Mississippi state flag, a St. Louis couple pulling out guns on protestors, and the potential of a second wave of shutdowns amidst COVID-19. Following the news roundup, Williams was joined by Burney and Obell for part one of “From Bops to Bullsh*t.” The host turned to Obell about the support for Black women and domestic violence victims in the hip hop community — or lack thereof — in comparison to white counterparts during the #MeToo movement in Hollywood.

“I think we are always at the bottom of the totem pole. I think our allegiance to our race and our people have something to do with it,” Obell admitted. “While it may seem like when we talk about hip hop specifically that we’re prioritizing demonizing Black men, I think the other way to look at it is we’re prioritizing Black women.” Obell and Williams continued to shed the seemingly simple ideology of protecting each other at all costs, even if it’s at the hands of our own demise.

Williams turned her attention to the Black man, and spoke on not bringing mainstream attention to the killings and abuse of Black women as often as we do them. On Black men taking action and a stand against domestic violence, Williams expresses her observation of some public figures falling short while Burney taps in.

“I don’t think anyone is saying that the individual Black men don’t love the Black women. I’m sure they love the women in their lives,” he said as he continued to assure that men’s love for their mothers and sisters are not enough if they don’t support other victims of violence.

Following words from Kelley Green, D’Shonda Brown and Tyler Greene on the relationship between the art and social responsibility of hip hop artists in regards to violence against women, Williams returned for the “When It’s Close To Home” conversation with Allen and Rivers. As Allen began to share her work at Safe Horizon, she pointed out her observation that Black and brown communities have been really “hush hush” about what’s really going on.

“What we have known for decades is that Black and brown women in particular do not use the systemic responses to intimate partner violence,” Allen said. “We use them in lower proportions than other communities, and by and large the vast majority of people who are affected by intimate partner violence do not call the police [and] do not use system response for a variety of reasons.” Williams and Allen nodded at one another about knowing the “why” but not knowing how to handle the problem in a systematized way.

Rivers, son of hip hop legend Big Pun, spoke with Allen and Williams about his childhood experience amidst the domestic violence allegations against his father. He admitted to experiencing confusion in an environment where he was raised by a hands-on father who taught him to protect, provide for, and honor his mother and sisters, yet Big Pun was the one dismantling the environment he was trying to establish. “I had to be the protector and the same person telling me to be the protector is creating an unsafe environment,” he shared.

Rivers continued to share his experience with lack of confidence, lack of self-love and feeling of powerlessness in certain areas of his life as a result of his toxic household. Now that he is a man, he recognized his desire to be a loving husband and father, and transformed his past into a positive outcome for his mental health.

“Not saying that you have to be abused or see it not happen for you to become that,” he shared with REVOLT, “but I do think that some people steer and become that, and go the opposite way. I’m glad I had the awareness.”

For the last segment and part two of “From Bops To Bullsh*t,” Williams, Obell and Burney reconnect for a conversation about hip hop’s role in domestic violence and ways in which the culture can improve its response to it. “What I want these men to do is be willing to come to your community, your people and your families because that’s really what we are — a culture, a family — and talk about how you got to this place. How did you get to this point?” said Williams about the narrative of solving abuse behind closed doors.

“We want to pretend like we’re all these independent thinkers. They influence people, they influence the culture, [and] that’s the whole point of this,” Obell said about the role of responsibility that artists and their platforms play. She continued about the reasoning behind the acceptance of domestic violence due to us sweeping it under the rug for years, and the weight of truth-telling falling onto the shoulders of the survivor.

“The short answer is ‘yes,’” Burney responds to the posed question title, “Are We Hypocrites?” of the episode. “The same way I can learn from JAY-Z in his early 20s and him trying to break into the industry is the same way I’m gonna value him being open about cheating on his wife,” he continued about men opening up about their shortcomings. Burney referred back to the Verzuz battle between Fabolous and Jadakiss, and expressed his disappointment in everyone involved with the platform for giving Fab an endorsement knowing his past with domestic violence.

“That’s unfair and really it’s a disservice to the advancement of hip hop culture,” Burney added in response to Williams and Obell noting that we are sending the message of loving the music so much that we overlook the survivor’s experience.

As she closed the show, Williams expressed her wish for the protection and honoring of Black women. “The reality is hip hop has historically been a safe haven for some perpetrators of violence against our queens and that’s a fact. Time’s up on that,” she said. “The same way that we are rightfully requiring white people in this moment to vocally and enthusiastically disassemble systems of systematic racism, Black subordination and white supremacy. See that same energy? We have to apply that same energy to ourselves.”

We cannot continue to keep one foot in the door while one foot outside just in case you need to dabble between climate changes. All Black lives don’t matter until all Black lives are included in the conversation — including Black women and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence.

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