COLOR ME BAD
I have been a loyal Village Voice reader since moving to New York, and as much of an honor as it is to be on the cover of the paper it has been bittersweet. Makkada Selah’s ‘Miami Vices‘ [April 4–10] is negligent at best and an outright untruth at worst. Selah’s retelling of the incident at the James Brown tribute during the World Music Conference is a cheap and clichéd portrayal of me in a situation that she did not witness. I am not sure that Selah was at the James Brown event at all. The fabricated description of me “with one hand on my hip and the other on a record bag” while telling the emcee that I would not cut my DJ’ing set short was relayed to Selah as an example of the fact that as women in a field where we are underrepresented, we constantly have to advocate for ourselves. It was instead diminished by an irresponsible recounting of a scenario that the writer only knew about because I told her in our extensive phone interview was one of the many things that were a part of a magical and historical evening at WMC. Selah also reported that I am from Brooklyn. I am from Chicago and I spoke about that fact with her at length. Another outright lie that was reported about my handling of that incident was that I began my set with “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” ostensibly as a response/statement to the emcee who attempted to slight me and the other female DJ there. This kind of “real-world-ising” of me as a character—dramatic, undiplomatic, sassy black woman, and not as the accomplished, technically skilled and well-respected DJ that I have been for over a decade—is outrageous and offensive. Instead of giving light and voice to the history and accomplishments of female DJs, this piece had a tone that was gossipy and trite. It is pieces like this that do a great disservice to women in male-dominated fields across the board, and is particularly damaging to women of color. I am shocked that a paper that purports to be a progressive, journalistically savvy source of information would stoop to such shallow and sensationalistic reporting.
DJ Reborn (Ubiquita NYC)
Editor’s response: Makkada Selah did attend the show that Ubiquita played. Later, she interviewed the three members of Ubiquita and their management for their versions of what happened. DJ Reborn, her manager, and her publicist all brought up the issue of Ubiquita DJs not getting the respect they deserve. As an example of this, Reborn specifically mentioned the incident we featured about the emcee asking her to cut her set short, which Selah described based on Reborn’s telling. Reborn said she got a big response to playing “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).” Selah’s story makes no comment about why she chose this song.
AIN’T THAT A BEACH
Thanks for Neil deMause’s article detailing the motives and methods of Thor Equities CEO Joseph Sitt [ ‘Coney Island’s Last Ride? The Bulldozer!,’ April 11–17]. Sitt’s attempts to obliterate the legacy of Coney Island’s amusements in order to build high-rise condos will surely earn him a place next to Walter O’Malley as a man whose name will be forever cursed by generations of Brooklynites. Like O’Malley’s theft of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the destruction of the “working- class Riviera” represents the loss of a fundamental piece of New York’s collective soul. And as for Joseph Sitt’s soul, it appears destined for permanent residence in one of the Coney Island amusement rides that he plans to demolish: Dante’s Inferno.
Thanks for putting the women trying to be men to get more women on the cover this week. Amazing. Why not a picture of Coney Island? Oh, I guess the other story is so much more important than the destruction of one of the most historic and loved landmarks in New York City history and home to the
Voice‘s Siren Festival. Thanks also for waiting until they were actually tearing it down to write a story about it. My friends at Ruby’s on the Boardwalk told me about this impending ridiculous disaster two years ago. I am glad you finally wrote about it, but what took you so long? Cheers to some serious cutting-edge journalism.
‘Girls to Men‘ [April 11–17] was an unfortunate title for Chloé A. Hilliard’s article on aggressive and femme lesbians. The title completely misses the reality of the lives of these young women, who are just that: women. Women who love other women. They are not girls, and despite their appropriation of masculine language and visual cues, they are not men. I am a femme who loves what my generation and culture refer to as butch women. Like many other femme lesbians, I love butches precisely because they are not men but rather women who have masculine energy. There are many ways to be a woman, and we should celebrate all of them.
I’m feeling the whole article thing on aggressive females. It’s about time we get recognition, regardless of the topic. I am really happy to see an aggressive female on the cover of the Voice. Topics like this should be talked about much more. I would love to be interviewed. I am a very attractive aggressive female who went through a lot of similar things.
The cover story was problematic, and not because it’s about lesbians. It states that rap videos “have long provided men of color with milestones on their journeys to manhood.” I’m a man of color and I’ve never taken my cues for manhood milestones from rap videos. Moreover, everyone knows that the vast majority of consumers of rap music are white. So what exactly are white men taking from these videos and music? I’m sure your readers are concerned about the negative effects of hip-hop culture and rap music on whites. Secondly, for the record, hip-hop culture in general and rap music in particular does not equal black culture. Third, why does the story focus on Brooklyn lesbians? I’m sure there are lesbians—femme and AG—who live in all five boroughs and around the country. Lastly, I thought the story portrayed lesbians of color (read: black and Latina) negatively. Would you write a similarly negative story about white butch lesbians? Probably not.
Part of me wants to commend you on shedding light on the AG voice, but a larger part sits very uneasy. I’ve seen profiles of these “aggressives” splashed across the pages of newspapers before, and to me it’s so typical. I understand that a story must be newsworthy, that it should be new and different, or carry some sort of social consciousness or responsibility, but even under the most liberal assumptions this story discounts the voice of the lesbian I see. I see a lesbian who has nothing to prove, who is socially and emotionally grounded and makes no apologies for the life she lives. She carries herself with uncompromised dignity, and will rather die than get sweaty. She will two-step to R. Kelly, nod to Jeezy, and hold her lady close to Al Green. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t deny the opposite; the issues that plague today’s youth extend to all branches. I am a femme lesbian who is known within the immediate community. I promoted parties, and still attend quite a few. I appreciate Madison and Kimmeee as promoters, but the Lab will never see a femme like me, even if I was 18. I am nowhere in line with this new “epic” of lesbianism. In any event, your article was successful in showing their “hyper-masculinity” and “thug-hop gone gay” mentality. In a pleasurable sense, you’ve exposed an ongoing joke within my circle: Today’s youth lack the ability to pick sense out of nonsense.
Two days ago I strolled right by the current issue of the Voice
because the person on the cover just looked like another rapper. However, when my eyes scanned down and saw the title in big, bold white letters, I went back to get a copy. I had to. After reading the first two paragraphs I was mortified. After forcing myself to read the rest I was beyond upset, but I had to stop and think about everything: Hilliard’s observations, the subjects’s quotes, and my own observations. I didn’t want to be biased and decided to wait a day or two before sending my comments to you as well as publishing them on my blog. My thoughts now are that though I hate what the article has the potential to do to the image of lesbians of color, it will open up a dialogue that has been a long time coming within our community. If these women don’t want to be referred to as trying to imitate men and truly embrace their womanhood, then they should cease being called Uncle, Father, Boi, etc. The term aggressive, though used within our community as a positive term for women who take on roles that are traditionally those of men, is by definition pushy, boldly assertive, and forward. It’s not the best word to describe what these women think they are. What these women want to be recognized as are the provider, the caretaker, the protector of their feminine girlfriend or perhaps even the breadwinner in the household, which is not something that is new. What is new and gravely disturbing is the influence of hip-hop upon young lesbians, but that is another topic altogether. I know that once I publish my blog I will get some negative responses because I know a few of the women you interviewed. We used to be in some of the same circles, but have grown in extremely different ways over the last couple of years. I understand that they are hurt by your portrayal. I was hurt and embarrassed by it, and wondered if you were exaggerating. But as I said, having time to think about it and re-read the article allowed me to look at it for what it is. What you saw was what you saw. A lot of people see it and base their opinions of lesbians of color as a whole solely upon the young women they see frequenting the village and parties.
Cheril N. Clarke
As Executive Director of Sistahs in Search of Truth, Alliance, and Harmony (S.i.S.T.A.H.), an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of lesbian, bisexual, SGL, and transgender women of color, Chloé Hilliard’s article depicting women as thugs, hoods, and gangsters concerned and disappointed me. Hilliard’s perception of women who display themselves in a negative light does not incorporate every woman who identifies as aggressive or femme. Women in my organization who identify themselves as AGs or femmes are hardworking, are educated, own homes, have their own businesses, and maintain family and relationships. There are even organizations like Sophisticated Aggressive Gents that mentor and exchange positive information with women who are coming out as AGs and teach them to respect themselves and the women that they may involve themselves with. Women, whatever roles they take on, are different and should be seen as such.
Executive Director, S.i.S.T.A.H.
Hilliard does not know what studs go through day in and day out. There are many studs who have jobs and careers and are doing something for themselves. Aggressives are not the only ones who hustle or sell drugs. Hilliard put a real damper on the young black and Hispanic studs, and hurt my heart. I am a black woman who is married to a black stud who went through a lot of struggles but still takes care of me. We are both working women. It’s sad that Madison and Kimmeee took the time to invite Hilliard to write a story about the Lab, and you just did us wrong. Learn your history about gays and lesbians. Maybe you need to go to the lesbian archives at the Herstory Museum.
As a member of the House of Corleone, I was surprised to see the article written about our group. It seemed to be biased. In my opinion, we (as in AGs) not only have no want/need to be men, but we don’t find it essential to imitate men at all. Could it be too hard to understand that this is the way we are? Maybe the bubble that society has placed you in made it so you see boys and girls as black and white. Maybe there is a gray area: women who are more masculine and damn proud of it! Speaking for myself, I have always been naturally very tough growing up. We as black and Hispanic people embrace, cradle, clutch our hip-hop roots; to imply that most or all AGs are drug dealers or thugs disgusted me. You didn’t focus on the good things Don Vito did and continues to do. You were invited in to our community, to see our lives, and you made us look like street trash (well, at least you tried to). You blasted the worst and whispered the good. This was a good opportunity to have others see us as the same humans they are, with different outlooks and ways of living. Well, you got your story—hope it was worth the check.
In last week’s Cine Phile column, the director of the film Invisible Waves was misidentified. The director is Pen-Ek Ratanaruang.