Posted in: Interviews, News, Stars

Spelman Woman Goes After Nelly for Lies and Threats of Violence

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Moya Bailey was a 19-year-old Spelman junior when rapper Nelly wanted to come to her college’s campus in 2004.

She and other students protested, upset that his Tip Drill video featured images like him sliding a credit card down the crack of a woman’s butt. She took to the internet to write an open letter to the rapper, who earlier this week went on HuffPo Live and said he felt robbed when the event to raise awareness for bone marrow was cancelled; his sister died in 2005.

“The Spelman thing, the only thing I feel I would’ve did different is kick somebody’s ass…that’s just how it felt to me, Pimp,” Nelly said to host Marc Lamont Hill. “I don’t have my sister. And I doubt it if half of those girls are still campaigning for what they quote, unquote took advantage for that opportunity for. You [protesters] robbed me of a opportunity. Unfairly, my brother. Because we could’ve still had your conversation after I got my opportunity, but it could’ve been somebody that was coming to that bone marrow drive that day, that was possibly a match for my sister. That didn’t come because of that…”

Moya’s letter — she now is an African American Studies postdoctoral fellow at Penn State University -- is below:

Dear Nelly,

At the urging of others, I am taking a hesitant trip down memory lane. I was a 19 year old junior and president of the feminist group at Spelman College when you decided to hold a bone marrow registration drive on our campus on behalf of your sister, who needed a transplant. Your now-infamous video “Tip Drill” had started airing on shows like BET’s Uncut. It features, most memorably, a scene where you slide a credit card down the crack of a black woman’s butt. My group raised questions about the misogynoir in the video and lyrics, and when we heard that you were invited to campus by our Student Government Association, it seemed fair to us that we could ask you about the dehumanizing treatment of black women while you were asking us for our help. You declined our offer to talk about your music and lyrics. Instead, you chose to go to the press, which made our alleged threat of a protest an international news story. In the time since, whenever asked about the situation, you both mischaracterize what happened and lament not using violence, something you repeated most recently during a Huffpost Live interview earlier this week. Let’s be clear: No student or faculty member of Spelman College canceled your bone marrow registration drive. In fact, we held our own drive after you and your people chose to cancel the bone marrow registration drive for fear that there might have been a protest.

Had you decided to come, to just talk with us, you would have seen fewer than ten “protesters,” all of whom were planning to register to donate bone marrow, despite your refusal to hear us. I say “protesters” because we didn’t actually get to have a conversation. What started as a simple request that you speak with a small group of concerned students about representations of women in your lyrics and videos turned into a national conversation about misogyny, race, and class in hip hop culture. But the dialog our actions started stalled because people remained hung up on the same concerns. People railed against censorship as if our efforts were an attempt to get you banned from the airwaves, when all we really wanted was to have a conversation about the representations you produce and their potential impact on our communities.

Often Black feminists are represented as advocates for censorship. People often portray us as sex-hating, stick-in-the-mud conservatives concerned with respectability. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we like sex so much (NSFW) we dare to think that women should enjoy it and not be subjugated to images that define our sexuality in limited ways. Music videos and lyrics, including yours, often portray women as silent partners and objects of male attention. This silence, Nelly, is not unlike the silence you expected from us regarding your visit. Women are instructed in many songs about what to do, wear, drink, how to dance and behave to make themselves appealing to men.

The heterosexist and cissexist nature of these images reinforces the idea that women’s sexuality, our bodies, are not our own and are ultimately in the service of men’s needs. It must be ya ass cause it ain’t your face,” literally reduces women’s value to the attractiveness of their body parts.

As much as we’d like to rid the world, particularly our safe spaces like Spelman College, of misogyny, we know that censoring music and images is not the solution. We also know that at a private institution devoted to the well-being of women of the African Diaspora we can and should cultivate an environment that doesn’t assault our very humanity. These are two entirely different projects and the later is often confused with the former. We have and had the right to ask questions of you, especially when you are asking something so important of us.

Read the rest of Moya’s letter here.


Your Call

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3 comments
veynahsdad
veynahsdad

There's no need to be black feminist, niether black men or women are fairly treated in America and as long as men and women aren't united we will always fail...

JamesScott83
JamesScott83

Now my question is: How does the feminist view the females of rap and R&B doing the same things they wanted to talk with Nelly about? In today's Atlanta  african females 30 and under only consider THEMSELVES to be a big butt. Either they are pining to become strippers or prostitutes (they call themselves "escorts"). So, where are the fems when it's females objectifying women or when females objectify themselves? I am no Nelly fan nor a fan of this sickness called rap, but I say if you are going to talk about one person talk about them all.

arrancar77
arrancar77

@JamesScott83 As a person who is shaped the way you so disrespectfully put, I take deep offense at what you said. I am a college  graduate who is a case worker with the State with no aspirations of being a stripper or model and its because of mentalities such as yours and Nellys that I and other respectable women have never been comfortable with our bodies growing up. Why? because upon watching videos like that some of you men make the assumption that we're all like that and treat us as such though we've given you no reason to.  To the Spelman girls credit, they were addressing the whole issue.  Im not a fan of Spelman but this time I stand with them. If Nelly  is going to produce garbage like Tip Drill he needs to accept the consequences, especially when he decided to come to a  college of predominately African American women and expected them to help him.  I am truly sorry his sister died but having seen the story unfold, this was never about helping his sister. Because if he was truly about helping his sister he would have just sat down and talked with them or just held his drive at another college. This was about his own wounded male ego and selfishness (something Ive sadly seen in a significant number of black men) thinking he somehow is entitled to use and disrespect black women any way he wants and not be called on it when he comes to us for help. As many people have asked before why didn't he ask all them dancers in the video to donate? Or some of his rap connections. No. he made the decision to come to all womens HBCU that prides itself on setting high examples for education of black women. Of course they were going to have an issue with his video.   He got mad about being made to account for his actions, his sisters tragic death was an excuse a way for him to deflect blame. The same way some of you refer to us as stuck up b**ches and etc. when we refuse to acknowledge you when you come at us with disrespect.