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June 10, 2008

Ashanti’s Promotional Assault


Over the last 15 years as a black activist, I have been a voice of concern on various issues that I personally felt needed attention drawn to them. I’ve organized gang truces in South Los Angeles, protested police brutality and coordinated forums to help stem black on black violence, among countless other causes. There are some who say I have been at the forefront of the movement to help stop the violence and increase the peace.

This is why I, along with several of my colleagues nationwide, have launched a campaign to draw attention to R&B singer Ashanti. I think she should be ashamed of herself. Her participation in the glorification of violence in her music video for “The Way I Love You” sends a horrible message to thousands of impressionable young people worldwide who are accessing a promotional site for her album called the Universal Crime Network. The site is built to look like a news blog complete with an article “reporting” on a crime of passion instigated by the Ashanti video. The first page of this fake news site then morphs amidst blood splatters into a photo of the singer in a gold sequined minidress. This all leads to a sign-up page where fans can send a “Gotcha-Gram.” Why would Universal Music and Motown allow this sickness on their website to draw in young fans with violence?

I’ve been speaking at length to my friend Paul Porter, co-Founder of Industry Ears (www.IndustryEars.com), a new generation non-partisan think tank aimed at addressing and finding solutions to disparities in media that negatively impact individuals and communities. He believes that Universal Music and Motown continue to promote black violence and stereotypes without corporate responsibility.

Ashanti’s senseless promotion is evidence that commercial hip hop is dying fast. Instead of producing and promoting a quality project, Ashanti and Universal have decided to deliver another typical ho hum project that the corporate blue suits have signed off on.

Weak sales projections of less then 75,000 units for first week sales have prompted this mess. Even BET had to edit some of Ashanti’s video content. Hopefully Doug Morris at Universal will explain why his company is insensitive to urban violence. I don’t believe in censorship of artists, but I do believe in corporate and artistic responsibility, especially if minors have access and can be influenced by violent imagery.

Time Warner pulled rapper “Ice-T’s” album from the market after complaints and tremendous pressure by law enforcement about the controversial song “Cop Killer.” The Jewish community forced Sony records and Michael Jackson to change lyrics on one of his songs after they deemed the lyrics anti-Semitic. There are several examples of corporations and artists having to modify material that is deemed inappropriate.

People choose to attack us and want us not to complain. Well, I have seen the Ashanti video and I believe it needs to be pulled. We have enough black on black violence with out any more encouragement from Ashanti, Universal Music and Motown.

Najee Ali is Executive Director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E, a national civil rights organization that advocates for the human rights of oppressed people regardless of race, gender or religion. He was selected by Wave Newspapers and Our Weekly Newspaper as one of the 25 most influential black leaders in Los Angeles. More information is available at: www.islamichope.org.

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