When the #NFL Goes So Wrong, Only Satire Can Make it Right!

  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
― Margaret Atwood

I wish there was more intentionality around posting on my blog, but hey!…”It’s my party and I’ll …” write when I want to. You know why? Teachin and writin’ (like pimpin’but different) ain’t easy. I thought I’d try to be funny this time cuz I am always so serious here.

A reminder about the purpose or mission of my blog. Black Girls YouTube is designed for two things.

  1. To have a space to express my thoughts, feelings and critiques of what’s happening when teen and adolescent black girls YouTube (“YouTube” is a verb in the blog title). I’m thinking of girls under 18 who vlog and/or twerk, who create content and engage with others on the platform, and
  2. To feature other online videos or talks about the social lives of black girls, especially the girls as distinct from women over 18, or that simply speak to issues affecting their self-presentation online.

The Power of Satire in YouTube Vlogs

As I organize the overall class schedule for my latest semester of a digital ethnography course that focuses on black girls who twerk on YouTube, I ran across a great video of satire about the Ray Rice controversy. I’ve basically been too busy to jump into the fray. I was searching through Chescaleigh’s latest videos and playlists and found this gem. It’s not one of her classics. She is now a curator for Upworthy and put together a playlist of her curated content. She writes:

I’m now a content curator at upworthy.com which is a new media site dedicated to promoting content that matters. This playlist contains some of my favorite content from around the web on a variety of important topics and social issues. To see more of my posts on Upworthy visit http://www.upworthy.com/franchesca-ramsey and make sure to “like” us on Facebook for more important content! http://facebook.com/upworthy

The latest in the playlist had me in stitches and got me thinking about the power of satire. As Wikipedia states, satire when some event, person or institution’s:

…vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.[1]

You could read this as a shaming of a professional football player, Ray Rice. But losing his job will serve the purpose of shame very effectively. No satire necessary. You could read it as a shaming of his girlfriend-now-wife, whose name here need not be repeated. She deserves some privacy. No satire necessary there. But the institution, the corporate-person known as the NFL. Well…let’s just saw this satire by Megan MacKay  posted Sept 12th does not fumble the ball about sexual abuse of women by pro ball players.

Teaching about Black Girls in a Predominately White Setting–NYC

I hope that we might find moments of satire in our class discussions since it’s such a pivotal genre on YouTube.

I wish I knew how to make a satire of this fact: I have 18-19 students and only one black student at one of the top public university’s in New York City.  The student, Chris, and I represent [CORRECTION:] 10% of people in the room in a city where black people represent. African Americans represent 19% of the population in NYC, so we’re off by almost  50% [Math is not my forté but I know people who do math!]

The New York City Metropolitan area represents the largest city and metro in America with more than 18 million residents. African Americans have a rich history in this region even before the civil war. The New York Metro Black population is the largest of any city in the United States at close to 3.5 million. This is almost 9% of the entire Black population of the United States. New York City Proper has more than 2.4 million African Americans.

It’s odd to me that we cannot improvise and experiment with other forms of privilege (or even other majorities) in the classroom. The demographic of the college where I work has students from over 120 countries represented. In an average classroom, I have students from 14 different nations. But the black student population seems to be dwindling. So why teach about black girls? Because it matters that we pay attention to the “least” among us.

Hangin on a String

The other day, at an event with a circle of sacred feminine women artists, a string player who is an African American virtuoso shared that a major black pop artist had requested 30 black female string players be hired for a major gala event. They were hired and then 28 were summarily unhired because it didn’t look “diverse” enough for an event in NYC. When was the last time you saw 30 all-black women string players at a major arts event ANYWHERE? Thank god the multicultural censors stepped in. It would have been a tragedy to allow that! We should all thank them for  saving the Metropolitan arts world from black domination one gala at a time!! Big them ONE BIG BAD APPLE for diversity! I <3 NY.

Given all this satirizing, you can probably imagine that i might be concerned about my classroom. If I have only one black student in a class about the ethnography–the first-hand personal study of online behavior–among teen black girls, how do I help the millennials hear the voices of the people we are studying without dominating them with black femaleness? How do we teach non-black students to avoid the trappings of stereotypes and stigmas usually attributed to black girls’ humanity by our mass and social media.  Think about the comments below YouTube videos that feature or talk about race or blackness. Can you say #trolls 3x fast?

Thankfully, I trust in the humanity of my non-black students.


Monday I did this post-it note exercise giving each student a pink, green and yellow post-it (which I call “stickies”). They were asked to write responses to three prompts about themselves.

IMG_2274 IMG_2273

Below is a transcript of their responses. They made me feel like I don’t need to worry much. We have lots of concerns we share and from there we can co-create together AND bring complexity to both what we see and what we share to a quite diverse network no matter what we learn:

Pink: Major/Discipline

Corporate Communication
Political Science/ Philosophy
Accounting (4)
Economics (2)
Math (2)
Sociology (2)
Operation Management
Business Administration

Green: Interest/ Aspect Topic

What is the purpose of posting twerking videos?
Life of young black girls on youtube
Extensivity/ [or the] Reach of youtube
How black girls are affected by racism and their culture
How different races view each other
People and their actions
How young black girls choose to face discrimination against them
Online communication (perception)
Black girl struggle
Philosophy and equality
Interested in how much i can learn about black girls twerking
Sub groups online
Why certain actions are done
Negative stigmas: Origins, solutions, results
Culture vs Society

Yellow: Self Identity/ Fears of YouTube Videos:

Chinese + Vietnamese
Italian + American
Asian American + Chinese American
Albanian + Caucasian
Girls in a man’s world

Peoples Comments
Privacy Issues
Fear of peer opinion
Don’t know what to vlog about never filmed myself before
I view YouTube videos as permanent. if someone quotes you/ screen shots what you say on twitter, its nothing in comparison to YouTube
I fear that my videos won’t be worth seeing
Going viral
Broadcasting myself
If it doesn’t turn out as planned
Fear of sounding like i don’t know what im talking about

BROADCAST!: Are Black Girls’ Voices Out-of-Print…Like Our Books?

Out of print refers to an item, typically a book, but can include any print or visual medium or sound recording, that is no longer being published.

The abbreviation OOP (also OP) is a more general term that encompasses craft, hobby, toy, and collectable items that are out of production. (Wikipedia)


Is a Black Girls’ Dance Her Primary Voice?

Most teen girls never speak with their mouths in their twerking videos. Many viewers misconstrue their mute-ness for a lack of agency. But dance plays such an important role during black adolescence and during youth for many Americans. It makes sense that they learn to “talk” and express themselves with their body. What complicates things is the objectification that a video frame creates for the viewer who is no place (not in the bedroom of the girl, not in their ‘hood, not conscious of their mind or cultural insights into the power of being in one’s body as an articulation of joy and doing your best. It’s the other narratives that come with projecting a teen black female body into a public that we overlook.


YouTube Vlogging: Empowering One’s Voice

This morning I recorded a vlog related to voice and out-of-print concerns.  I posted it after visiting Maria Popova’s brilliant site BrainPickings.org. She wrote a blog post about a book titled BLAST OFF!, which is out-of-print. It’s about a black girl who describes space exploration.  I wrote more than expected below (I always do). I guess I needed to make plain some of the politics of black publications and publishing that surrounds being a black girl/women in the U.S. Voicing those critical politics — using my voice and inviting black girls under 17 and those committed to them to bring voice to such matters — becomes increasingly important as I consider my legacy in life.

I’ve known that my voice is a key to my own empowerment after having people in my youth invade my private journals in ways that thwarted my freedom to write and speak for decades. So considering vlogging as a way out of that mind trap occurred to me years ago as a right of passage to liberation. This really intensified as I started having my students vlog in my anthro classes the last 18 months. But still I’ve resisted vlogging. So, here I go again. Take a listen!



Black Girls Gone (OOP): Blast Off! & Bushmen 

Curious connections occupy my thoughts often and this is no different. The vlog above is the result of a connection made between out-of-print books and visual media by/about  people of African descent esp.  children’s books by/about black girls as well as the seeming lack of voice in user-generated twerking videos by teens.

I was listening to my favorite Sunday morning radio show On Being with Krista Tippett featuring an interview with renowned citizen-cellist musician Yo-Yo Ma. During the interview, Krista mentioned that Yo-Yo Ma had performed with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, a well-documented and abused ethnic group of hunter-gatherers who now reside nationally within South Africa. They are urban and continue to protect and practice values that urban life has encroached upon as their traditional way of life. Anthropology has invested much ink into the research and study of the Kalahari Bushmen and you can find a great deal of video about them on YouTube.

When I searched for the music, I found the name of the project: Distant Echoes: Yo-Yo Ma and the Bushmen, but I found nothing to access the documentary that had once appeared on KLRU-TV, an Austin PBS channel. Nothing was available. Despite Yo-Yo Ma’s commercial success, the DVD was nowhere to be found online. There was barely anything written about the project online either. I found one great article from Harvard Magazine (so students and alumni at the nation’s most elite university were introduced to it). In in Yo-Yo Ma recalled how his obsession began with his undergraduate study in anthropology at Harvard. They described for readers who the Bushmen are and where they reside: The “Ju/Wasi (the name means “the proper people”) [are] a subgroup of the hunter-gatherers known as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, a desert region bordering Namibia and Botswana.” But other than that no evidence of the project is available or for sale, even on Ebay. Nothing public exists. OOP.

What Does a Public Role Mean for Teen Black Girls Who Broadcast?

As I continue to think about how we see adolescent black girls who twerk on YouTube, I constantly confront sociological issues as well as ethnomusicological ones. The word adolescent comes from a Latin word meaning “grow up.” What we do during adolescence tends to be considered critical by teens themselves, by their parents and guardians and by social scientists of every field including childhood studies.

If a quote from Proust tells us anything, then black people and black girls should be among the freest people in public given the constant of out-of-print publications about us.

Certain favourite roles are played by us so often before the public and rehearsed so carefully when we are alone that we find it easier to refer to their fictitious testimony than to that of a reality which we have almost entirely forgotten.

MARCEL PROUST, Within a Budding Grove

But the omission of critical texts about us, written to defy stereotypes and uncollapse how others tend to limit how we are see because of our skin color or myths about our difference as a “race”, is much more restrictive. So when publications go out-of-print, and for reasons too complicated to discuss here, we cannot compete with the dominant public discourse of lies that travels farther than our face-to-face reach can, especially when it comes to online media. We are still a minority in those ecologies as our co-presence with much more dominant media reveals.

It’s been my experience as a mid-career scholar of black culture and history as well as an ethnomusicologist that black and/or African-descent music and literature… let me clarify, that the books and the music of Africans and African Americans tends too often to be out-of-print in United States publications and worse yet when searching among the Internet of supposedly everything. We still don’t exist or are hard to locate despite our myths that the Internet makes everything accessible to all.

More from Wikipedia OOP:

An item goes out of print when a publisher does not reprint, re-press, or reissue after all copies have been sold to retailers. Reasons may include:

  • the perception of the publisher that continuing to produce the work is no longer a commercially viable venture, i.e. that there is no longer a market for it
    [We need targeted marketing to minority groups in publications to create a healthy democratic ideology of e pluribus unum. A diverse public based on white norms will not do in the USA or any other diverse nation. It breeds disintegrated public selves.]
  • a limited print run (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern)
  • antiquation, or the obsolescence of content or format (laserdisc, VHS, compact cassette).
    [Does black lit and visual media about black girls or other mean WE are not viable? WE are obsolete in our American public?]
  • plans for a revised or reformatted edition
  • the presence of errors, flaws, fabrication, offensive content, or plagiarism (sometimes preceded by a recall)
  • banning or censorship
    [This is particularly thorny when it comes to YouTube which rarely bans but they do sort of censor twerking videos with the persistent community "flagging" of twerking videosas "age-restricted content" which is common for videos that feature black girls under 17 . Since these videos will persist on the Internet, it's like tagging or stigmatizing black girls as deviant online. It's becomes a Scarlet letter marking difference or "ratchtness".]
  • intellectual property obstacles, such as the expiration of a publisher’s license to release content owned by another copyright holder. For example, a novelization of a film that was released 10 years ago is likely to go OOP for this reason. See licensing section in The Criterion Collection article for an example.

Out of print items are often pursued by collectors through aftermarket retailers such as used book stores, record shops, and online auction sites.[This has not surfaced much with black lit and visual materials like the old video sellers in Harlem or the cut-outs of records] Sellers of out of print merchandise on auction sites will typically include “OOP” or its equivalent in product descriptions. The designation is sometimes misappropriated—an example is in keyword stuffing, where the acronym is used to generate numerous search results even as it does not apply to the items retrieved. The abbreviation is sometimes placed in descriptions of items whose publication or production status is unclear (such as DVDs said to be returning to the “Disney Vault“) to affect interest in the product.

Competing with the Anaconda: Black Female Rappers Be Like!

In a classic joke of observer bias, scientists of different nationalities studying rats ‘‘discover’’ in the rats the behavioral traits associated with the stereotypical conceptions of the scientists’ own nationalities. One group of scientists sees the rats operating in organized hierarchies, another group of scientists sees the rats responding to the impulses of the moment, yet another group of scientists sees the rats engaging in creative long-term adaptations to the environments in which they are placed, and so on. Each group of scientists sees what its members already ‘‘know’’ to be the nature of mammalian life. Each has difficulty seeing what the other groups of scientists observe. (Joshua Meyrowitz on “Power, Pleasure and Patterns: Intersecting Narratives of Media Influence,”  2008).

Crack Kills: On The Mediation of Booty by Black Female Emcees

Naw, i am trying to make no jokes about hoodrats with the quote above from a scholarly journal article. Instead, I am simply hinting at there are many ways to look at Minaj’s latest video Anaconda. But I would assert that when our biology is triggered with the sugar of sexuality, the choices start to get very narrow and dare I say hard.

Clearly black women see Nicky Minaj’s video Anaconda with a certain set of lenses. But it’s been interesting. It’s easy to find vlogs by black or non-black males on YouTube reacting to the video. I watched one video by HotNewHipHop, some random entertainment news channel on YouTube, that was utterly sexist in the man-on-the-street interviews with men and women including a lesbian woman. The interviewer asked if you’d trade a pair of Air Jordans for a lap dance with Minaj.

This was the first by a black woman. A vlog that really goes in deep with her entertaining analysis of the sexual politics of going the route of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s novelty song “Baby Got Back”. Watch!!



IRMA: Save Me! Discovered on Vimeo #blackgirlsmatter

Think Feist (1234) meets Des’ree (You Gotta Be). Found a version of it on YouTube. It’s quite amazing after searching the Staff Picks on Vimeo to finally find a black actor in a video.

Here name is Irma. Irma Peny. She is a a Cameroonian singer-songwriter living in France. Love it!!

IRMA / Save me from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.

Videos of Protest Can Be Healing – Context is Everything! #Ferguson

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“Your silence will not protect you.”
― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

#Ferguson: On Peaceful Protest and Democracy

Fatigue. Yes, we’ve all been experience attention economy fatigue with videos of police brutality, killing, tear gas, and assaults as well as resistance and disobedience in the name of justice. But we are still biological beings in a social ecology. If that social ecology lacks trust, does not feel fit and serve our needs, we suffer and fatigue comes. You must care for self to be able to hold such visual struggle for long. Take a break OR find a video  that is like a balm in Gilead. THIS!!

Music by Mt. Eden “Oh That I Had”

“Bottoms Up” (film)? Thumbs Down!–Entertainment Info Is Not News

Sara Baartman was a celebrity. Carried on a chair, she went to meet a duke. (73) Elites from out of town came to visit her. On Duke Street, two African children [freak show organizer Alexander] Dunlop had brought from Cape Town, probably in conditions of slavery, served her and the men. On Sundays, she went for rides in a carriage— much more like a woman of the elite than of the working class. Cartoonists represented her, songs were written, and poems were composed.(74)

Baartman was a celebrity who had to endure people poking her bottom and commenting on her figure. Her experience fit that of many performers of freak shows at the time, when freak meant wondrous or strange as much as it did awful and inferior.(75)           — Scully and Crais (2008, 316-317) on the “Venus Hottentot”

Unable to attribute authorship of this image. Any info is welcome.


Connection. Real connection. Everyone of us knows that social media is not giving us the biological connection we truly need to be authentically social. But we keep buying in. LIKING it all. Like. Like. Like. And more Like buttons. And top it off with a Share. What are we sharing for? This week I decided to stop using the LIKE button on Facebook in lieu of actually leaving comments if I liked something a friend or stranger posted on the walls of our daily exchange.

And what a week it’s been of entertainment info while #Ferguson freedom summer has been happening. Nicky Minaj released her Anaconda twerk-fest video and Taylor Swift has been criticized for what doesn’t even come close to twerking in my mind though she has one black woman doin the do. So much hate when what artists do is play with dominant scripts in our consciousness from the words of Kanye to the meme of twerking.

Presently, I’m writing a new article about “ways of seeing” the black bottom though the inherited media of popular music. While searching the web, I learned of a new documentary available that was featured by Madame Noire (August 6) in a CBS entertainment-information piece about butt augmentation. The film Bottoms Up was advertised there.

On the surface, “Bottoms Up” is a documentary film that examines the newest booming trend in aesthetic surgery – big butts. Placed under a microscope, the film explores the media’s impact and other societal pressures that have propelled big butts from a cult fetish to a mainstream phenomenon.

From Sir Mix-a-Lot, whose 1992 hit “Baby Got Back,” sensationalized round posteriors  – I like big butts and I cannot lie – to new artists like 2Chainz – She got a big booty so I call her big booty, it is men who actively pursue women with this new fetishized feature. So who is to blame – the media? Men? Women? – See more.

Baby Got Back is still gettin views, entertainment info traffic, distributing its messages to toddlers and adolescents across all nations who have little contact with black girls or women or recognize the objectification of their bodies they are being taught. A recent video of Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony features a spectacle of mostly white woman shaking their asses like they just don’t care.  Where is the counter cultural critique of this by white women? By conductors at symphonies or the black members? OH! They only have one black musician in the orchestra. That’s another conversation close to my heart as a classically-trained musician. But off-topic here. Twerking — Stay focused, Kyra!




When I began exploring my interest in a practice on YouTube by black girls that most people I meet find repellent …if they even know what twerking is, I never imagined the richness of this study. I have begun to understand the pleasure and escape found in black girls’ who broadcast while they twerk. I still am learning how to represent it ethnographically in a way that honors the exploration of adolescence, the play and sensuality of black dance and sociality, and the complexity of twerking in online video. YouTube seems so liberatory and at the same time its a place of neoliberal exploitation of youth and their expressive cultural traditions and practices.

It’s been complicated by my own parallels as a black woman and formerly black girl adolescent struggling to discover my place in a world that denigrates blackness. Whether it was being called “pretty for a black girl” or being teased by white boys for what was then a small butt by comparison to the one I have grown into now.  This is about me and not about me or my history at all. But what constantly comes up is the emotional injustice and subjective manipulation, dare I say the microaggressive assaults upon the ways others see my body and thereby how I perceive who I may be for others in the world. It dominates who I want to be at times. Worry for what others see and think and how I must overcome that to be free–and the struggle continues. But it’s personal that it’s not at all about me. It’s the sociology of being black and female if you have (or perhaps don’t have) the right big butt.

I often wonder what it would be like to be 13 today with Beyonce singing about surfboards and Kardashians implanting their bodies with what never shined on us.

So when I just discovered this new documentary Bottoms Up available on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon, I find myself trapped in a sort of damned if I do, damned if I don’t mentality. Buy it and contribute to the madness of our objectification in popular music media esp. online participatory video. Ignore it and shirk my objective research agenda. Contradictory #bottomlines if there ever was one.


This form of consumption is entangled with constantly sensing that the body you happen to possess is the object of derision and lascivious attention often masking any real attention to who I really am, the me within this body. And it’s entangled in that everybody is making a profit off it as long as they are not too dark or too black, too sexy or too cultural. Our bodies in some crazy neoliberal reality (not fantasy) is expropriated, extracted, take all the colonializing language of exploitation and globalization and it becomes a metaphor for the mountaintop (or bottom) removal of black women and girls from what’s profitable. We, it seems, are only viable as spectators of the sport or entertainment-info that uses our body for profit whether social or economic capital.

I find this work tiring. Hard. Difficult to parse out. I have to bite my tongue, the very last thing needed for a writer or scholar or for a black girl or woman. Shutting down breeds the bitterness. Better to take the bitter pill and dive in, I keep reminding myself time and time again.

I began to think of this work as being more about cognitive justice as well as emotional, ecological and sociobiological inquiry into violence vs. fitness for black girls (and women). Really for myself, too. This is inner warrior work and staying strong when the entertainment info machine and attention economy uses what houses your live and used to be part of your dance not the focus, takes deep and rigorous courage.

So with that, here is the trailer for the documentary Bottoms Up. If anyone has a way around buying this, I would definitely avoid doing so.

GONE? Handclapping Games, Suggestive Lyrics, and Social Innovation

When we think of African American popular music, our first thought is probably not of double-dutch: girls bouncing between two twirling ropes, keeping time to the tick-tat under their toes. But this book argues that the games black girls play –handclapping songs, cheers, and double-dutch jump rope–both reflect and inspire the principles of black popular musicmaking. – Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D.

Depardon, Harlem 1981


I was searching through my YouTube messages and subscribers today. Never even looked at who’s subscribed to my YouTube account before. Still learning the ropes of the YouTube community. I lucked upon the channel of EbonyJanice Peace who subscribes to my channel. I subscribed to hers and checked out her videos. Lo and behold, she is talking my talk–handclapping game-songs and the underlying meaning of the lyrics we chanted day in and day out.

Joan Morgan’s seminal text When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost inspired EbonyJanice to vlog about several handclapping game chants unpacking the suggestive meanings in all.

She says:

         I thought it was incredible that
0:15 black girls in Chicago, black girls in Virginia, and black girls in Ohio and
0:21 black girls in California
0:23 all had learned these sing-song handgame rhymes
0:26 how did that happen who was transporting these
0:30 messages from Virginia to California
0:33 Miss Mary Mack, for example , who taught black girls in Virginia
0:36 little black girls in Idaho, Miss Mary Mack?


She asks the question that guided my work for my book The Games Black Girls Play. She asked

it made me think about the conversations
that are… are just in our DNA or something(?). How do we just know these things?
Check out my book for my answers. (see below for links to reviews). Suffice it to say, it’s not DNA (exactly). It’s learned.
The Games Black Girls Play illustrates how black musical styles are incorporated into the earliest games African American girls learn–how, in effect, these games contain the DNA of black music. Drawing on interviews, recordings of handclapping games and cheers, and her own observation and memories of gameplaying, Kyra D. Gaunt argues that black girls’ games are connected to long traditions of African and African American musicmaking, and that they teach vital musical and social lessons that are carried into adulthood. In this celebration of playground poetry and childhood choreography, she uncovers the surprisingly rich contributions of girls’ play to black popular culture.



One is that the grapevine of Twitter is not the first time we were so hyperconnected. Patterns of segregation and the impact of patterns of desegregation have led many black families to remain connected in their private and public lives because they were and are still not fully accepted in the public sphere of accomondations. Plus all our folk back in the 1970s were still back in the South or in segregated communities and still are. But the games are not as significant. YouTube videos and online videos on Instagram and VINE have become the 21st century games.
EbonyJanice goes on to say handgames live on and they will be here forever. Well? I haven’t been convinced over the last five years or so. I would suggest that girls handgames ARE declining in significance. They are being replaced by handheld mobile devices and a much more sedentary lifestyle which is not necessarily good for any of us much less black girls.
Black girlhood is changing and my theory about it from studying black girls who twerk from their bedrooms on YouTube is that we are no different that the rest of the wider (whiter) population. Our patterns of participation are online. We moved from the read-only culture of previous music media (BET, Soul Train, radio and TV shows) to read-write culture but black girls tend to not create, invent, or riff as much with their online video production. They don’t even talk as much it seems.


(Think #BlackTwitter)

What complicates things further is that within this category “black girls” are women of various ages who endearingly call themselves “girls” or “gurl” and the demographic categories of adolescents and teens are being drowned out by us.
The games represented, for me, the kind of social innovation that marks the revolution of networked individualism, hyperconnectivity and social media like Black Twitter.
I was an early adopter of the #BlackTwitter hashtag and moniker. I blogged about it first in 2011 with about 12,000 reads on the TED Fellows blog to speak out against the prosecution of Kelley Bolar-Williams, a single mom who was sent to jail after my post, for sending her kids to a white school district and being found guilty.



There is so much work to be done about the loss of culture due to changes in social media. While we are highly active on social media, on mobile media–I just read a report that said black teens interact with celebrities on the Twitter and other social media accounts much more than whites, I think I am as good as an example as most black female teens in that making/creating media vs. consuming media is not our first action.
I am thinking about all the time I spent reading about #Ferguson and black men or women killed by the police the last 7 days. And how much I’ve written or published online myself other than short media. It’s time to reinveest in the creative culture we already have. To convert it into new media. To create more voice, original content, remix, and other from black girls–and I mean black teens and adolescents as well as black women, particularly online video.
More to come as this fall I teach my Anthropological Analysis course and resume by Black Girls Twerking on YouTube project.


Book Reviews: The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop.

  1. Review-a-Day: bitch, Sunday, August 20th, 2006
  2. Review by Matthew Somoroff from Mark Anthony Neal’s MAN-in-Exile Blog.
  3. AllHipHop.com Review by Nadiyah R. Bradshaw

And consider purchasing the book at The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop

2007 Alan Merriam Prize presented by the Society for Ethnomusicology
2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Book Award Finalist

Thoughts on The Shmoney Dance: For a HuffPo Google Chat

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
James Baldwin

“Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance.”  – Ezra Pound


I was asked to be on HuffPost Live tomorrow but I had to decline. H/T to Dr. Marc Lamont Hill who hosts the show and it celebrating 2 years on the set!! Happy Anniversary and congrats on the Morehouse gig!!

The topic is a summer dance craze and viral YouTube video by Bobby Shmurda from East Flatbush.

Given my work on embodied musical blackness from double-dutch to hip-hop and the digital ethnography of twerking, the Shmoney video and the memes associated with it on YouTube and other platforms speaks to the different ways dance and the social body works since advent of participatory media. Everyone wants to be part of a globalizing trend–the summer dance craze or the latest viral thing you can broadcast being a part of from your hood and/or your bedroom.

The Shmoney dance is more or less a novelty dance that will garner 7 million impressions worth of CPMs and digital currency on YouTube/Billboard tracking for Bobby Shmurda. These days this is the only kind of work that seems to pay with such high rates of unemployment in East Flatbush for black boys and men.

The dance reminds me of the novelty of Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance or the Ed Lover Dance from back in the 90s. It’s simple but marked by an irreverent style of self-presentation as part of a larger social phenomenon or meme online. It ain’t that complicated so it allows for a kind of all-together-now moment in online video. That’s the power of participatory media like YouTube.

Black Dance in a Hypernetworked Age of YouTube

But I would ask folk to consider this: When black dances from places like East Flatbush are shared freely with non-black audiences in our hypermediated age, young people of African descent can revel in the fact that their uptown or block party moves are shaking the dance floors of the nation (and perhaps beyond). But most black youth are still dying in the hood literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile non-black people who join in vicariously can remain safe; far from the realities of what goes on before and long after the song ends. Black men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin are losing their lives as are black women like Renisha McBride and others who are getting punched in the face by the cops or gunned down in the name of Stand your Ground even when these citizens throw their the hands in the air waving surrender in the sights of a rifle’s crosshairs. I wish I could be there to hear what this young man is trying to say with his music.

What I also find fascinating about the dance is what one could say about it as a symbolic representation of the social body in America–the black body. The dance requires little mobility in an age where blacks have the least social mobility and suffer from the highest rates of income inequality. The dance shows a kind of bravado in the face of the real life tragedies happening every day in East Flatbush and Ferguson defying the dancehall lyric “nobody move nobody get hurt.” These meme dances are popular because they are so simple to stylize (doesn’t require very sophisticated techniques of the body). They are a kind of open cipher for anyone to join in. And you don’t have to move your feet much; just shuffle from side to side. Anyone could probably get a pass–including your grandmother or father–since the steps are generally open such that even athletes and people with two left feet can join in and not get sharply criticized. Something in us needs this synchrony and some part of it seems so insidious given the legacy of black dance and the kinds of sophistication we have produced dating back to partner dances like the Lindy, through street double-dutch and hip-hop up to the real Harlem Shake. It’s complicated and it ain’t. Wish I could be there.

WATCH the segment here.

Have a great HuffPo conversation!

PS Had to go back to my old school with the kind of tracks that I used to do my irreverant dance to. Bahamadia. True black girl who rocks YouTube.
Dr. Gaunt