Sunday, July 29, 2007

In the news the past week..

Was Hot Ghetto Mess, a website that I had linked to in year one of this blog.

I wish I can tell you how I found this website. Perhaps it was a link I found on a computer in a public lab. For a good period of time I would look at this site. Lately I've not even mustered a whole lot of page views.

The site was controversial because it showed black America at its worst. People engaging in streetfights, crackheads, or even one video of a young child cursing out a Chinese shopkeeper. But the website founder may have a point in showing us the worst of black American. She talks about it in the Washington Post...
Ever since she started pumping her friends' snapshots of black people behaving badly onto her Web site, Jam Donaldson has been at the center of an uncomfortable cultural question:

Can African Americans publicly humiliate, satirize and otherwise shame other African Americans and not be called "race haters," "elitists" and "Uncle Toms"?

Donaldson has heard it all before. Since 2004, her Web site,, has featured a motley assortment of gangbangers, hip-hop poseurs and strutting hoochie mamas, set off by quotes and comments that suggest Donaldson's disapproval. The featured "Mess of the Month" for June is an unnamed plus-size woman wearing a halter top split almost to her navel. Her accessories are arm and chest tattoos and an oversize necklace with a cross. The caption beneath her photo is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Nothing in [all] the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Like what you see? Hate what you see? Either way, there's more where that came from. Donaldson, a lifelong District resident, is the creator, executive producer and writer of "Hot Ghetto Mess," a six-week TV series based on her Web site that will debut on Black Entertainment Television on Wednesday night.

The TV show isn't exactly like the Web site, Donaldson says, but it's in the same spirit. Which is to say that it features video clips of young African Americans (as well as folks of the Caucasianpersuasion) engaged in various acts of idiocy (random street brawls, gratuitous booty-shaking, etc.). It also puts cultural ignorance on display (people are asked in man-on-the-street interviews whether they know what "NAACP" stands for; they don't). The tone, Donaldson says, is more or less in keeping with the same finger-wagging critique embedded in the Web site's slogan: "We Got to Do Better."

"I think shame is underestimated as a tool for behavior modification," says Donaldson, sitting in the front parlor of her duplex in the District's historic LeDroit Park neighborhood. "I could have done it in a nicer way, I guess. This is just how I chose to do it."

This is not, she acknowledges, "the ivory tower approach. I'm saying, and a lot of other people are saying, that just because you're poor and you're young, it doesn't mean you can act like an idiot. If you're starting fights at a funeral, I'm talking about you. If you're going to the prom with your [breasts] hanging out, I'm talking about you. If you're having five babies with five different people, I'm talking about you. I've said it before: It's not where you live, it's how you behave."

Preachers and teachers and prominent African Americans such as Bill Cosby and Barack Obama have delivered that message before. But Donaldson, 34, might be a different kind of messenger: a Gen-X'er, a child of the Hip-Hop Age.
The Post article mentioned a TV show that she developed with BET. The name went from Hot Ghetto Mess to We've Got to Do Better. A name change that was made by some uproar over the content of this proposed program, that doesn't seem to be much different than the website from which it is based. As a matter of fact this website called What About Our Daughters was starting a campaign that caused the name change.

Still if you want to know what I think about this website. Well I don't know when I first saw it was entertaining and I suppose very wrong. The message is correct about "doing better", however, I've not decided that this vehicle is the best way to forward that message.

As for BET well this is probably the first time they have actually developed and promoted a program that is generating buzz such as this. I'm not a regular viewer of BET and if I had thought of it, I would have watch the premiere this past week.

Anyway, I'm not a regular viewer. It's just difficult for me to take in the regular viewing of music videos all the time. Once upon a time BET had some good news or public affairs programs with Ed Gordon or Tavis Smiley as hosts, but BET doesn't have that anymore.

So is this the program that might help BET get away from hours of music videos (or at least the hours I have seen of music videos? I guess we'll have to see.

1 comment:

Paradise said...

I checked out the website. Many of the images she finds unflattering, to me seemed like she was making fun of people for positive things. For instance, she shows creative hairstyles, brightly colored or elaborate ones. What's wrong with that? Is she pushing conformity as the only acceptable image? She also seems to have a problem with fashion that isn't current, again are people supposed to conform to the fashion in magazines? She also has it in for big women showing their bodies. Shouldn't big women be as self confident about their bodies as other women who dress in the revealing fashion? Why is it OK for Halle Berry to recieve an Oscar on television in a revealing evening gown, but not OK for large women to wear them to night clubs and parties etc? Much of what she's making fun of are healthy cultural diffences in favor of conformity with the dominant culture.

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