Pit Bulls, Bitches or Rudolph: Is the “Dog” Wagging Her Tail? #twerktweens

I am realizing how all the research I’ve been focused on for the last 2 years is about one big idea: the unintended consequences of the “new digital divide” for marginalized groups across new media ecologies. With the ubiquity of the mobile web among African American tweens, unequal literacies about the persistence and searchability of girls’ music-related content on the Internet has become a “new digital divide.”  The consequences or #bottomlines I explore are the participation gaps and critical literacies found beyond mere access.

NOTE:  I’m still playing around with the title of my blog. The aim of my new title is to emphasize my role as an ethnomusicologist as well as the work I do as a social science researcher and digital media ethnographer. Thus: #Bottomlines in the New Digital Divide. The new subtitle plays with the notion of the digital seduction of music and media among marginalized groups in new media ecologies. I am toying with typography in the word “education.” The way it’s stylized–by inserting the “$” sign — signifying economic capital–before the word and inserting the “@” sign in the middle to replace the usual “a” in education–the word can be slyly read as both “seduction” and “education” in the context of “Music & the Media $Educ@tion of Marginalized Groups.”

Why “seduction”? Because seduction remains the dominant possibility without better digital media literacy or education. Participation gaps in editing and in privacy ethics are costing black girls the very power and agency that marginalized groups try to establish with their use of social media. Fan video-making related to rap and R&B videos on YouTube and other platforms helps them develop cultural and social capital within their own communities but it’s their social mobility to other networks that really matters in the long run.

What do you think about my wordplay? Let me know in the comments!! My blog format or structure will continue as usual: I start with quotes, then images and an intro, more or less while highlighting key terms, concepts or links in pink to signify the intersectionality of my interventions.  Let’s get to the point of this post, tween twerking videos and the question What ‘dog‘ is wagging these girls’ tail in kids dance videos of Red Nose? The breed known as a “red nose pit bull”? Hip-hop’s casual but persistent attribution of the word “bitch” to girls and women who are routinely referred to as “females”? Or do the kids here “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” even though it ain’t even Christmas time.

Red nose hook & Rudolph GIF

A GIF meme using an image of Rudolph with the popular hook from Sage the Gemini’s “Red Nose” rap song. Gemini’s video premiered on his SageTheGeminiVEVO YouTube channel on June 10, 2013, a week before “We Can’t Stop” on the MileyCyrusVEVO Channel

Italian scientists found that pups wag their tails to the right when they see something positive, and more toward the left when they see something negative. In their latest study, researchers found that other dogs also pick up on that difference, and their hearts beat faster when they see a pooch wagging its tail to the left. Associated Press, 2013

[The] asymmetry in sexual education maintains men’s power in the myth: They look at women’s bodies, evaluate, move on; their own bodies are not looked at, evaluated, and taken or passed over. But there is no “rock called gender” responsible for that; it can change so that real mutuality–an equal gaze, equal vulnerability, equal desire–brings heterosexual men and women together.”
Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Tweenage Twerking to Red Nose 

The group I presently study — online tweenage Black girls — is marginalized by age, race, and gender. In this blog post, I examine a YouTube video of tweenage girls who are making a “yiking” video for the 2nd time. The first one was removed. I’ll write an upcoming post on the violation of Community Guidelines on YouTube and the unintended consequences of that for marginalized youth.

I found this video while searching for twerking videos on YouTube. Anything with a black girl or woman shaking her hips to music is often titled or tagged “twerking” although this video is actually a style known as “yiking” in the Bay area. The Red Nose dance has become a viral meme on YouTube and this particular video is a testament of its spreadability. The girls in the video talk to the camera with what seems to be a Bajan creole accent. So, I can reasonably argue they are not from the Bay area of Cali. Readers from Barbados or folk from the Bay, correct me if I’m wrong!

TITLE: Red nose children version(CLEAN)
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cfzs_9k5cE
13,090 views, 116 Likes, 14 Dislikes (as of Sat 23 May 2015 8:12pm)
Published on Jul 8, 2013
User Description: All about fun DO NOT PUT ON FACEBOOK
Music “Red Nose” by Sage The Gemini (Google Play • iTunes • AmazonMP3)
Artist Sage the Gemini
Category: Entertainment

The other day, I went searching for tweens dancing to “Red Nose” by Sage the Gemini because there are only 200 songs in my dataset of 800 videos. Red Nose appears multiple times. This summer, I intend to explore these copyrighted songs, the artists and their accompanying videos to get a sense of the relationships between them and the tweens’ dancing in user-generated videos.

The “Red nose” dance [Cue the video above at 1:29″] features an isolated, snake-like gesture of the female torso executed when the fluid motion of her knees from left to right and back again punctuated by syncing up a “tick tock” booty popping motion over 3-4 beats to the lyrics “like-like-like-like a red nose” which is the hook of Gemini’s song.

In the Bay area, where it’s known as “yiking“, the dance generally occurs between a female and male partner with most of the action and attention on the former’s booty moves. There are tons of exceptions In tweenage and teen videos on YouTube where is all girls. But you never see two guys doing the red nose dance together.

Four girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.

Four tween girls doing the red nose in a school bathroom.

In the dance, generally a tween girl bends over at the hips and usually a guy, sometimes older but more often than not a younger brother stands with his hips right behind her squatting position from behind. The partner behind grabs the girl’s waist or shoulders and rides her moves, so to speak, as she were one of those coin-operated pony rides they used to have outside the supermarket.

The partner’s gaze is on the girls’ hip gestures or booty. From a viewer’s gaze, given the physical proximity of the partners–a boys’ private parts are up against a girls’ behind–it is difficult for the mind to avoid the suggestive “doggy style” sex position. When the mediated gender performance between the sexes is observed among children and tweens (ages 8-13) on YouTube, no doubt many viewers are left with a great deal of uneasiness. And, as one of my students suggested, this unease is often projected onto the imagined social identity of black girls–one of the unintended consequences of their online play.

Search Results

When typing a search of “Red nose” on my computer, the first autocorrect choice is “red nose kids dance.” It yields over 97,000 results one day and 100,000 the next (May 24 and 25, 2015). When I filter for 4 min or less videos only, the results increase to over 100,000. The YouTube search algorithm can be a mystery.

Tween YouTubers who upload these videos surely realize that “twerking” is a better tag for YouTube’s search algorithm to find. The factors shaping the algorithmic results include the video title, keywords in the description during the upload, view count and comments, and the trust and authority of the channel owner. The keyword “twerking” is certainly going to pull more results and have more relevance for a broader set of viewers than “yiking”. The cultural capital of getting views or gaming the system is known by even the youngest YouTubers–how can I get people to watch my videos and follow my channel?

The Art? of Rap

“The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally, as raw testimony or autobiography. And sometimes the words we use, nigga, bitch, motherfucker, and the violence of the images overwhelms some listeners. It’s all white noise to them till they hear a bitch or a nigga and then they run off yelling “See!” and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is about.”   Jay-Z, Decoded


(Holy shit)
All this money on me
Come and take it from a G
All she tryna do is get naked (Naked)

Hook: And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Li-li-li-li-like a red nose
And she gon’ shake it, like a red nose
Like a, like a, like a red nose


That booty talkin’ to me, what that shit say?
Shake it for the dojo I’m the sensei
Once you wobble on my song, on replay
Almost got ‘er at house, up off Kingsway
I told her shake it like a red nose Pitbull
And I’mma keep throwin’ money ’til your bank full
Cake-cake-cake-cake birthday suit
Damn in a little I’mma forget your age soon
Whoa, OK, now let’s do it my way
If she don’t go crazy then she walkin’ on the highway
And if she don’t believe me tell that bitch just try me
Bet you she be shakin‘ from the club back to my place whoa

Read more: Sage The Gemini – Red Nose Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The hook of the song is about shaking it like a red nose and like a stripper. Word play is clear here when you read the rest of the lyrics. But a red nose pit bull appears in the VEVO video along with micro-celebrity India Haynes know as #GetItIndy or FunnSizeIndy for her yiking on YouTube.

Unintended Consequences

The question here: What are the unintended consequences of tween girls dancing to these lyrics whether they think they are about pitt bulls, bitches or Rudolph? Each symbolic meaning is there for the taking when sit down and think about the meaning of the lyrics. This cognitive shift from listening to dancing seems to be dichotomous but later it will come back home to roost as a form of misogyny for most older girls and women.

For ages, the passive stance that I like the beats and I don’t listen to the lyrics puts women in an even more passive stance about their involvement in hip-hop listening culture where males pay attention to the patriarchal lyrics and its narratives of black masculinity. There is a “dog” wagging the tail of online adolescent black girls’s dance in YouTube videos and it’s not man’s best friend or a woman or a girl’s. But the dancing is seductive! What has girls so mute in the face of such objectivity?

This video of the two Bajan tweens doing a 2nd video of Red Nose is linked in my mind to two of my students’ analysis in our research project this term. C. and J. coded instructional lyrics in 15 twerking videos of tween and teen girls. The applied the hashtag #poplockanddropit to their project. Watch their final vlog and analysis here: https://youtu.be/t3fVaTJD7vY.

C. and J’s presentation got me thinking about the affinity for pitbulls but not females among black males in urban settings. So I searched Google for something about why black men like pit bulls and found a 2008 law blog post about the racialization of pitbulls. It was tagged under “constitutional law”:

…the rhetoric that surrounds the proponents of Breed Specific Legislation sounds remarkably racial.  Consider the following common statements.  Biology and breed unwaveringly determine behavioral characteristics.  Reduced amounts of the aggressive ancestry decreases the chances for recidivism.  Pitbulls have large mouths and funny looking lips.  It is wise to cross the street when approached by a pitbull.   Pitbulls are lazy until you try to take something away from them.  Mixed breed pitbulls are more intelligent, kind, and gentle than full-breeds.  All pitbulls are from the ghetto.  You can take the dog out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of the dog.

These statements could be equally applied to most any racially marginalized group, but most specifically, it invokes racially charged images of African Americans and Native Americans. The determination of who legally belongs in a racial group has long been the study of my own scholarly work, as well as that of Rose Villazor (SMU), Carla Pratt (Penn State), and Adrienne Davis (WashU).  But could similar theories be extended to that of the animal kingdom? http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2008/02/are-pitbulls-th.html

I had mentioned to my students that in my experience in Brooklyn, it seems that black men often have pitbulls. I don’t dare call them pets. They’re more like guard dogs, an extension of their bravado in most cases.  I added that I’ve never seen a young black man or boy refer to their dogs as a “bitch” in public though the term is technically referring to a female dog, as most people know. In street talk and rap discourse, the term “bitch” is exclusively reserved referring to girls/women or as a way of stigmatizing frienemies and enemies to call into question their masculinity or hardness like some kind of imagined group test. Real men stick together!

I just want to point out to two cues in the Red Nose kids dance video above that I coded. In the video, there is a taller girl in blue jean shorts (about 10) and a shorter girl in fuscia shorts with white trim.

0:43 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Our first one…they deleted only cuz we’re doing it [the red nose dance]” She is interacting with the audience about “YouTube” taking down their first video “Red Nose.” They make a case even at their young age that their video was no more a violation of community guidelines than dozens of other videos by kids dancing to Red Nose. Then she makes an appeal. Shifting from actor to content creator in her speaking she asks the audience to essentially help them get cultural capital or “views” on YouTube, adding

0:59 Girl in fuscia shorts: “Anyways we’re going to do another one, so please do not delete it. Cuz the last one, the first one, it was 248 viewers and 27 subscribers. WE NEVER GET THAT BEFORE! It was our first time, so PLEASE!.” Girl in jean shorts adds “It’s for the children!”

These girls are being strategic in their appeal despite the fact that in over 800 videos I’ve collected with students only 5% feature girls talking to the camera. This isn’t all that strange since they are essentially dance videos. Nobody talks on the dance floor. But they are also vlogs. Vlogs are an opportunity to not only present your body to the YouTube public but also your voice.

The jean shorted girl is trying to appeal to a sympathy for kids from the people out in the audience with power (adults at YouTube or maybe viewers who might show support in their comments). It’s as if she is saying “let us have our cake and eat it, too!” or “let us play online like everybody else who’s doing the Red Nose!” Meanwhile, Sage the Gemini’s music not only gets advertised under their video and the views they accrue count towards his Billboard ranking, and the girls get nothing but a sense of attention and that they might have been on to something on YouTube–real social capital. But that is not possible without monetizing your channel and really preparing. Nine out of ten of the most viral videos on YouTube according to the Wall Street Journal are professionally made and 9 out of 10 of the most popular videos on YouTube are music videos. Girls today have the same impression I did as a teen or tween. One day I’ll be famous like Diana Ross! Today it’s internet famous like Beyoncé, Rihanna or Nicki MInaj!

Get It Indy: Extreme Twerking by India Haynes

I refuse to embed the original Sage the Gemini video here — I will not add to his coffers — but here’s the link if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I-YY5p0uq8.

For me, it’s India Haynes’ appearance in Gemini’s video that interests me. I first learned about yiking from India Haynes aka Get It Indy #getitindy on YouTube around the time she turned 18 according to her channel. Her 2013 video is a guide for understanding twerking vs. yiking vs. bounce. Check out these cues:

Yiking at 10:00″-12:05″
Then she talks about bounce at 12:05″-13:22″
Then the “Tick Tock” at 13:22″ – 14:09″


That’s it for now! Leave your comments!


Tell your tweens that back that thang up when twerking on YouTube should be about privacy not publicity!  Help them change their privacy settings on YouTube to UNLISTED!!  Unlisted allows them to share with their friends but it won’t be available in the YouTube search results.

Theorizing the Web, Day 1: cache flow & code queering & racial standpoints & magic & music & concrete dust

Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.:

Thanks for this run down of various talks! It was a great conference!

Originally posted on skycroeser.net:

'The concrete is great here' - @craigdesson ‘The concrete is great here’ – @craigdesson

Theorizing the Web has been fascinating, but a bit of a shock to the system after AdaCamp. TtW is gloriously DIY, which has a lot of benefits: it’s particularly great to see an academic(ish) conference that’s open to activists and artists, and not hideously expensive to attend. I did miss the efforts AdaCamp went to in building a safe and inclusive space (including having a clear photo policy, pronouns on badges, and marked walkways for accessibility) – TtW has an anti-harassment policy, which is a great start, but I’d love to see a few more active steps around publicising and extending this policy.

As usual with events like this, I’ve tried to summarise a few of my notes for those who couldn’t make it (and Future Me), but I strongly suggest you check out the program, tweets, and livestream for…

View original 2,042 more words

Does My Sassiness Upset You?: Ethics? Meet Pride in Twerking!

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.12.53 AM

“If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed”  ― Paulo Freire
“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption (Freire, 1970, p. 54).”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Werkin‘ the Mind and the Body

My anthro vlogging undergraduates done done it again! We approach twerking with new eyes!  All three sections of my Intro to Cultural Anthropology courses, each with about 25 students, did a final project analyzing black girls’ twerking videos that was worth 50% of their grade the last 4 weeks of our semester.

We should treat human behavior as symbolic action; action, which, like phonation in speech, pigment in painting, line in writing, or sonance in music, signifies; the question as to whether culture is patterned conduct or a frame of mind, or even the two somehow mixed together, loses sense. The thing to ask is what their import is (Geertz 1973, 9-10). …

Culture is public because meaning is, and systems of meanings are what produce culture, they are the collective property of a particular people. When we, either as researchers or simply as human beings, do not understand the beliefs or actions of persons from a foreign culture, we are acknowledging our lack of familiarity with the imaginative universe within which their acts are signs (Geertz 1973, 12-13) We cannot discover the culture’s import or understand its systems of meaning when, as Wittgenstein noted, “We cannot find our feet with them.”

The main outcome of studying twerking videos in an intro course was to learn how to do qualitative data analysis along with participant-observation of YouTube vlogging, both of which are key methods used to conduct ethnography in digital/visual anthropology.

As you may recall from my TEDxUofM talk “Broadcasting Black Girls’ Net Worth”, I had a dataset of over 800 videos collected with former undergrad classes. About 80% of these videos feature adolescent girls 16 and younger. Several feature children aged 8 to 12.

The project included:

  1. Basic certification in the ethics of respect, beneficence, and justice in human subject research.
  2. Using college library journal databases to search and find a good scholarly article that exemplified or explained how to do qualitative coding of videos.
  3. Doing a review of two more scholarly articles;  one article had to be about black girls and the other article could focus on one of the following intersecting domains of our study: YouTube, bedroom culture or twerking/black dance.
    1. At least one of the article had to be written by a black female author.
    2. Articles included work by Treva Lindsey, danah boyd, Alice Marwick, and Rana Emerson as well as my own writing about twerking.
  4. Next, students applied open coding or other methods of analysis they discovered to a batch of 12-16 videos. Each small group was assigned a batch from a larger set of 800 videos. They were required to use an interpretive method of ethnographic analysis known asthick description(c.f., Clifford Geertz)

An insight that one student voiced after completing his ethics certification was that we must remember to include the girls in the audience when reporting our findings. As a result, I came up with an idea. I asked each student to make a final vlog and directly address the girls they study in a kind of “Dear Black Girls” structure or something similar. The video embedded above was one that almost made me cry.

On Ethics: Student’s Reflections

If you teach anthro or sociology or to let my students’ words teach and guide your students in ethnical research, take a look at the following video. Here’s a basic overview of students’ insights from learning how to conduct ethical human subject research and reading about the history of exploitation as a result of scrupulous ethics.

Celebrity and Shame: Harriet Tubman on a $20 Bill

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” ― Harriet Tubman
“Shame is a soul eating emotion.”
C.G. Jung

Today’s topic is shame. And there is much to talk about whether around twerking videos or the new face of the $20 bill. But first a bit about my new blog theme and title.

Most of your know I was trained as an ethnomusicologist and that I wrote a book about black girlhood from double-dutch to hip-hop. The arch of my 20 year career has been spent on the intersectional study of race, gender and sexuality in embodied musical games by girls and that will continue.

The old title “Broadcasting the Bottomlines” worked but the direction of the work I’ve been doing with my undergrads lately is more like the CSI of online black girls. As we qualitatively code and analyze 800 videos of adolescent black girls twerking on YouTube, we examine how their love of dance and expression is overshadowed by shame about their sexuality, shame that comes from the ways their images are exploited by males, by media companies and by mega artists, as well as how the persistence of race and their uploaded content as young girls may come back to haunt their employability in a nation that has no “right to be forgotten” laws about things you did as an adolescent.

You never get a second chance at a first impression.

This blog allows me to share my thoughts about YouTube and digital privacy, about my love of teaching and my interests in empowering online black girls (esp. those ages 13-16 and younger) with digital media literacies. It also allows me to respond to current affairs in social media that intersect with these interests.

So, today’s blog post topic is about a current topic circulating on the web: Raven-Symone’s response to putting the face of Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill.

Celebrity and Shame

A video featuring soon-to-be-thirty-year-old gazillionaire Raven-Symoné has been circulating on Facebook and trending on Twitter since May14th. You, like me, may know her as the adorable child star from the final seasons of The Bill Cosby ShowThe version of the video I saw on FB timeline had over 1.3 million views. Appearing as a guest on ABC’s The View with Rosie Perez and others, Raven gives us her celebrity opinion encapsulated in a caption below the FB video, which read:

America wants Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill—but Raven-Symoné disagrees: “I don’t like that idea… I think we need to move a little bit more forward.”


I doubt seriously that all of America wants Tubman on the bill. Confederate flag wavers are probably not in that line. I’d rather discuss the culture of shame that seems to lurk behind her comments that is reminiscent of many comments I hear from black youth, and non-black youth, who’d rather dismiss the “dark” past of slavery especially since  it draws us back to race which is also taboo. This cultural of shame was something I once resisted in my own youth as a black teenager. I want to discuss this without demonizing Raven-Symoné but I will use her comments to make my points.

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson in His Journals

A culture of shame lurks among black people, especially youth or those ignorant of the powerful lives of enslaved persons. Instead the try to brush of the memory that were are descended from “slaves”. We don’t even call them “African” slaves like we are talking about people and not property. I suspect that since Integration in the late 1960s through the 1980s (there was resistance to federal mandates), segregated, under-resourced and undervalued black youth who strive to be upwardly mobile (i.e. gain individual wealth) have rejected the “dark” past of being a former slave like Harriet Tubman. Generations of youth were taught to reject everything African including people and the traces of its culture and biology including our own skin color and hair. It did this as a child and still suffer its psychological wages. When I was a kid it was “You got African hair” said disparagingly to mean that kinky was not desired, was not good like hair that resembled long white blonde tresses. Only straight hair would satisfy that hegemonic norm. We rejected our own natural textures for straightening combs and perms that burn your scalp again and again. We carry shame in our very existence when it’s up against the backdrop of whiteness.

If Media is Entertainment, What is History?

The media taught us these things while our parents were slaving in menial and then lower management jobs to eek out a living in a racist society. The children like me of the lindy hopping teenagers who had access to handheld transistor radios and TV sets were taught to reject the old for the new while also rejecting the darker skinned entertainers for the light. The mediated screen of televisions helped us learn these visual and cognitive lessons. We rejected black and white silver screen movies for the technicolor of television and the soulful sounds of Motown and disc jockeys on the regional radio.

So when Raven says we need to “move a little bit more forward” by choosing Rosa Parks over Tubman, I interpret that to mean we need to get over that slavery thing, those “things” (treating people like objects) of past generations and strive for what inspires today’s youth. The battle in Ferguson rings of this same generational struggle. The past is the past is what Raven is arguing for. Leave that old darker black woman’s past behind for the lighter, more palatable and respectable likes of a Rosa Parks. No disrespect but 14 year old Claudette Colvin and other dark-skinned black girls who took a seat in the white section of the segregated bus were not deemed sufficient role models by the NAACP. So Rosa was not the first. She was the most acceptable. Respectability politics has roots in our struggle.

Claudette ColvinIn my lessons as a student, a teacher and scholar (and I remain a life-long student), I’ve noticed the shame as a mechanism of control around race and slavery. It’s also part of pop entertainment on-stage and off. A Wikipedia entry on the “shame society” reads that shame is

the primary device for gaining control over children and maintaining social order is the inculcation of shame and the complementary threat of ostracism.

Our relationship to history around entertainment as popular culture has been as a vehicle for a lot shame of artists we no longer wish to see or hear anymore.

In my informed analysis as a scholar, I remember how black folk rejected jazz vocalist and actress Ethel Waters who could sing circles around Lena Horne. Horne was favored because she was lighter and “prettier” though Waters was, for a significant moment in the 1930s into the 40s, much more powerful and prestigious in the entertainment world. Waters, who came from abject poverty in Chester, PA, was the first black entertainer with her own show on television (not Nat King Cole). She integrated Broadway and produced her own shows there. She became the wealthiest woman in Hollywood and on Broadway (notice I did not say “black” woman). Maybe Raven-Symoné would prefer Ethel Waters as the new face of the $20 bill but I wonder if she even knows of her legacy. Because Waters played maids at the end of her career in the advent of television, she was remembered by youth like me not as a legend in entertainment but as a stereotypical role. Whites get stereotyped in a profession of acting. Blacks are stereotyped in all of life. Like black girls twerking on YouTube, they are robbed of their full humanity off-screen.

For Symoné, Rosa Parks is probably a more palatable choice than Harriet Tubman, although Raven and her sympathizers might be convinced if they had had Tubman as a Barbie Doll figure during her youth. Imagine a Nickolodean commercial for Black Moses Barbie (“freedom oars” sold separately). Click the previous link for some humor and critique!

Ethel Waters in fur

Power: Wealth Alone Won’t Do

Raven take note: History of the past is not self-perpetuating but the cultural biases of human interactions sure seem to be. The meme of racial and sexual bias continues unabated as does naïveté. Ethel Waters was the wealthiest woman in Hollywood (not unlike Raven herself might be today) but was eventually rejected because of her age, race and sex despite her social prestige and her wealth. Back then Waters was arguably one of the 1%. The shame comes in when you realize that Ethel Waters was rejected from black cultural memory because of the roles she had to play to survive in the industry at the end of her career. This same pattern is why we don’t really know Paul Robeson.

In the 1954 Edward Murrow interview, Waters recites lines from the play Mamba’s Daughters, based on a novel of the same name written by DuBose Heyward (watch the interview here on YouTube). Waters used her economic capital to produce and star in the play on Broadway circa 1939. I can’t think of a dramatic Broadway play produced by a black woman since then. (H/T to Sara Jones who might fit this category but I don’t know that arena well. If you know, do tell!)  Waters recites these lines in the interview and likens their message to her own life as an entertainer:

Listen, Lissa. We black folks have one thing over white folks …  and that is…there ain’t no problem so big we can’t sing ’bout ’em. Best thing for trouble, honey, is singin’ … and werkin’. And when your werk is singin’, then you is holdin’ a charm against trouble.

The cultural shame about which I write here comes from not knowing these rich details of the lives of black people as people not as characters or roles from our past. Harriet Tubman is a stereotypical slave to someone who has not had much education in how the people we call slaves, or actors (pardon the analogy), really are.

The advent of television meant that skin color privilege would be valued and celebrated in celebrities not the community’s cultural narratives of ethnic power and change. I heard Dhoruba bin Wahad of the former Black Panther Party say that Huey Newton said, “Power is the ability to define phenomena and make it act in a desired fashion.” Of course, in our capitalist economy, money empowers such an ability.

Within black cultural memory over time we have rejected actors for acting, musicians for musicking their inherited traditions and ghettoes (and its people), the products of environmental racism, as personalized problems enacted against us. There will be shame. The young and naïve often collapse the characters celebrities portray on screen with who they might actually be in real life off screen (from buffoons and maids to, for your consideration, Sasha Fierce aka Mrs. Carter). This kind of context collapse disallows the complexities of black lives and their multiple selves.

The Chains of Bondage Remain

Here is a more chilling example.

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985) was a comedian who became the first black actor to become a millionaire of film, but he is stereotypically remembered as a buffoon over early television known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit.

Lincoln Perry

In my youngest years I never learned about Perry’s wealth–a wealth that surely came with no power in the film business of 1940s and 50s, I was simply embarrassed by his portrayals on the television screen. His public identity on screen trumped any knowledge of his humanity as a millionaire or his family life as a father. The logic of shame found in the filters of cognition was borne out to me in a conversation with a colleague at the University of Virginia in my first years of teaching. Prof. Angela Davis, not the black power activist and prison abolitionist we all know, but a former HBCU student who attended college with Perry’s son, told me that Donald Perry made headlines when he killed three people and then committed suicide on the NJ/PA Turnpike. She said he left a note saying he was embarrassed by his father’s image as Stepin Fetchit. We collapse what’s on stage with what’s off and those collisions have repercussions well into the future. That was 1969, decades before his father’s own death.

“Chains and Things” (by BB King, 1970, No. 6 on Billboard R&B)

This week, we lost BB King at the age 89. Shame was registered in a NYTimes article announcing his death. When the blues went out of fashion with young black audiences in the early 1960s, he was booed at the Royal Theater in Baltimore by teenagers who cheered the sweeter sounds of Sam Cooke. As reported in the NYTimes, “They didn’t know about the blues,” he said 40 years after the fact. “They had been taught that the blues was the bottom of the totem pole, done by slaves, and they didn’t want to think along those lines.” (see NYT link above for more).

cartoon3 on abolition and mother

Getting back to Raven and her comments on the $20 Bill and the shame of being descended from the old black Joe news attached to the chains of blackness, what strikes me as an educator is how 29 year-old Symoné (with a cosmopolitan “e” added for stylish flair) uses the characteristic adverbial phrases of twenty-somethings who like to say “super organized” or “super lazy” or when they are not so sure “a little bit more forward.” This kind of discourse among my students tends hide in plain sight their insecurity about their opinion or their desire to find others among them who might back them up–cuz we all know the adolescent or naïve thinker loves to prop up the “underdog” in the fight. This is a common and individualistic approach to personal views in arguments that rarely reflect being informed or demonstrate critical thinking.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers a rich definition of critical thinking, which I intend to use more often from now on. It’s super good! Thanks Google! It reads: “Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it. When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service of one’s own, or one’s groups’, vested interest.” It goes on to add: “everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought,” and let me add, celebrities as well as scholars are prone to these episodes.

While I’d bet money on the latter, scholars are rarely invited guests on The View. We are the wrong age demographic in the wrong cultural climate; news as entertainment is not our bag; sound bytes on talk shows, not our fortés. So today, they offer us Raven-Symoné as commentator on the feminist politics of treasury bills, civil rights agendas and slavery.

shame children cognition

The networks that permit such remarks knowing it’s entertainment news for Twitter water-cooler sessions and social media banter.  But what are we learning culturally, asks the anthropologist in me, about thinking and cognition as a result? What lessons are we being taught? Increasingly, it seems as if celebrities have the answers that circulate, but they never have any questions about their own thinking. We all need this modelled more than ever in a noisy social media landscape of mostly entertainment news. And we all need to practice examining our own logic and our own uninformed thinking…from celebrities to scholars but particularly youth in the fast-pace of social media and globalization online.

The kind of “logic” I mean might be called A Private Universe (1987), to borrow the title of a favorite short academic documentary (see clip below). The narrative of the documentary is about science but it’s really about objectivity or informed thinking and the barriers to it in our learning environments, in the very educational institutions that are supposed to help us be more informed citizens and better human beings. The Harvard grads and professors interviewed in the start of the documentary hold onto a fallacy about the earth’s orbit and without a second thought confidently give the wrong answers and justify them by stating the courses they passed as evidence. I got an A, therefore I am know. This is a form of cognitive bias known as the overconfidence effect. Raven’s comments could fit the description of cognitive bias known as “The Semmelweis Reflex” which is summed up as “if the facts don’t fit the theory, throw out the facts.” (Aside: Found a disconcerting yet provocative blog post about the Semmelweis reflex called: “I’m not gay no more!”)


The kind of “logic” I mean might be called A Private Universe (1987), to borrow the title of a favorite short academic documentary (see clip below). The narrative of the documentary is about science but it’s really about objectivity or informed thinking and the barriers to it in our learning environments, in the very educational institutions that are supposed to help us be more informed citizens and better human beings. The Harvard grads and professors interviewed in the start of the documentary hold onto a fallacy about the earth’s orbit and without a second thought confidently give the wrong answers and justify them by stating the courses they passed as evidence. I got an A, therefore I am know. This is a form of cognitive bias known as “the overconfidence effect“. Raven’s comments could fit the description of cognitive bias known as “The Semmelweis Reflex” which is summed up as “if the facts don’t fit the theory, throw out the facts.” (Aside: Found a disconcerting yet provocative blog post about the Semmelweis reflex called: “I’m not gay no more!”)

On Cognition and Thinking

I often tell my students there is a difference between thinking and thoughting. The former takes more glucose or energy and tired and lazy intellectual practice resorts to thoughting or opinions, fallacies, faulty logic, and over erroneous common knowledge.

Thinking (vs. thoughting — using knowledge you already knew but not incorporating the new things you are not so skilled at using yet in a course) requires more glucose. Without the real thinking, we often resort to stereotypical, short-hand thoughts. The brain does this to preserve glucose, to save you energy. It’s just biologically efficient and your brain knows this. You don’t! The more arrogant or naïve you are, the more likely you are to not realize this and the bigger tendency for you to speak your private universe of opinions to the world. Those thoughts can be costly to you and to others, esp. when you have a microphone that broadcasts to the world called “celebrity”. And you may never know it. This is bigger than you having your own opinion. Everyone does have that right.

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Harlan Ellison

I can only imagine why the cosmopolitan and individual Raven-Simoné (and her accent) prefers Rosa Parks and not… Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Anna Julia Cooper or a Mary McLeod Bethune much less someone like Harriet Tubman who is so directly linked to slavery. It also directly links our of black people (not black skin) to the effects of capitalism on our labor and humanity. I think young people feel feel chained to the past and cannot quite understand esp. given all the state violence we have been witnessing in social media (that black folks have known all our lives), videos that remind us of an era of lynchings and centuries of subjugation by overseers in sharecropping, on plantations and on slave ships.

Mary McLeod Bethune with her students at the Dayton School

Mary McLeod Bethune with her students at the Dayton School

Young people in the black community (and any community) have the most limited vision of our culture, history, memory and ontology–the science of knowing. That is no fault of their own or anyone else’s. It;s how youth works. But they also can be some of the most impulsive and self-centered beings without critical thinking as they attempt to assert their self identity in a larger public. Wisdom soon tells us that we must also learn to defer and collaborate so we all thrive intergenerationally. Specialized understandings of this take time.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.  ― Harriet Tubman
America wants Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill—but Raven-Symoné disagrees: “I don’t like that idea… I think we need to move a little bit more forward.”

Forward past slavery, in my opinion, would mean confronting the biggest wealth inequality gap in the history of our nation that also must be read against the reality of black women’s economic lives today in America.

Small changes like putting the face of Harriet Tubman, a black woman, on a $20 bill is seemingly small but a powerful gesture. The circulation of images in many ways can be a primary tool for instituting ideology and may instigate change over time. Think of all the images that have affected us from billboards to bedroom posters, from TV and  personalized mobile webcams and photography.

Net Worth vs. Negative Worth

Yet, and still, the substantive changes that give rise to access to those very dollars in an age of the most extreme wealth inequalities is a matter not so easily transacted and gained. Women and children, esp. black women and their children, are among the lowest paid, lowest valued and have the lowest examples of net worth — zero net-worth often called “negative net worth” — as demographic groups. From the ages 18 to 64, black women have less than $150 in savings after deducting their debt.
Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 12.29.28 PM

It is possible that women and children seeing Tubman’s face on the $20 bill might “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” more, not something I’d bank on as a solution, but the bigger challenge is not individual net-worth. Leverage comes from systemic change — how black girls and women, as well as women in general, are valued in a patriarchal society. That fact will not change by putting a historic black woman’s face on our currency. It’s more like entertainment than news in that light.
Harriet Tubman took slaves by gunpoint at times to force them out of their mental slavery. The UGGR, an acronym used by enslaved and formerly enslaved people like my great, great grandfather in his emancipation letter of 1855, stands for the Underground Railroad. No one else as Bob Marley sang can free you from those chains and from the chains of shame. The same ends as the colonized mind learns the reality of our lives with full humanity. I never learned that slaves actually had the skills to read and write to a larger degree than I could ever imagine. These 19th centuries media literacies surely contributed the end of the institution of chattel slavery.  Perhaps a similar read/write/create revolution is needed in the 21st century such that once emancipated from our lack of access to digital media literacies (read write create curate develop), would make it hard to maintain control over people with agency. Digital tools can help us organize their lives and adapt to our new online and offline environments and identities. In biology, the process of adaptation to an environment is known as “ecological fitness“. This is what I am after for myself and for online black girls and women.
And all this writing from watching a video of Raven-Symoné.  Thanks Raven!!
I’m supposed to be at a friend’sbarbeque right now. Please excuse my typos or any jumbled sentences. Drop me a note if something is illegible.  And if you made it this far and like something you read, THANK YOU!! Why not leave a comment??!!PLEASE comment!
Tell me what you’d like me to write about next or what you like about my blog or this post. Suggestions are welcome!

And Justice For All: To Protect Children’s Privacy Online

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”    ― Benjamin Franklin
“But the issue of sexual harassment is not the end of it. There are other issues – political issues, gender issues – that people need to be educated about.”   ―Anita Hill
As a result of new technologies and perceived profitability, we can now watch black-and-white movie classics in color. While the tinted images we are offered may be more palatable to the modern viewer, we are still watching the same old movie that was offered to us before. Movie colorization adds little of substance–its contributions remain cosmetic. … Rather than seeing [girls] of color as fully human individuals, [they] are treated as the additive sum of [their] categories.”  ― Patricia Hill Collins, On Intellectual Activism


And Justice for Adolescent Black Girls

When I was in high school back in 1979, I imagined and began to deeply desire becoming a lawyer. I think for my adolescent self it was about a need for control that most children–adolescents and teens–don’t have because of their position in society, because of age. Wanting to be a lawyer also fueled a desire for protection from harm that I saw was missing in the lives of children in their own homes, including my own.

My desire to become a lawyer was threatened off by a major motion picture in 1979. It was my senior year.  The year hip-hop went mainstream with “Rappers’ Delight” and “The Message” both on Sugarhill Records. The feeling I had as I exited the movie theater scared me off completely. Corruption would break me. No justice? No inner peace!

This morning I decided to watch a clip of the final scene from “And Justice for All” starring A list actor Al Pacino (post Serpico fame) and tears welled up in my eyes. The scene dramatically exposed confronting the corruption in a U.S. legal system. I saw that film over 30 years ago and my deep passionate desire for protecting children–especially girls–from harm persists. Now I’m standing for the ethics around studying human subjects in the complicated public spaces of YouTube. And it’s all a remnant of that teenage desire I tried to run from. When I left the theater, I left that dream and my voice behind. A hidden sacrifice I never shared with anyone.

Then, as a singer in my first year of college, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was afraid to express myself publicly. That fear haunted me for 20 years. My diary was violated during my late adolescence and again in grad school. My private thoughts were always intruded upon. Sometimes I think I’m better from blogging and that even the publicly personal style of vlogging brings a kind of safe, constructed intimacy that gives me a sense of control I never had in other situations as an adolescent. Even though I have pronounced all kinds of truths and partial knowledge in front of a classroom before hundreds of strangers who became familiar faces and sometimes friends, something about truth-telling to myself is missing. It has everything to do with being “black” and “female” in the body I was gifted on this ride around the Sun.

Lately, the hegemony of corruption and the lack of concern for the ethical and humane treatment of black people and black girls threatens to rear the head of my silence again. Seeing black people as fully human, as fully enfranchised citizens protesting their unjust treatment, and as expressive beings finding solace in a moment of dance and pleasure like in the twerking videos I code and analyze, seems so foreign to others, to far too many. It frightens me in complicated ways and I am frightened or at least concerned for the girls I wish to impact with my work. Look, I initially didn’t want to study twerking. I had adopted a pornographic lens about it at first that triggered all the usual respectability politics often heard around black girls’ sexuality or actual eroticism in the pleasure of loving to dance. Things have changed.

Yet, that deep-seeded fear still keeps me from stepping out in the limelight with my publishing and my voice. It hides itself from me, it seems, ever elusive when I set out to write an article in which I intend to speak my truth to the power within me and to authorities and listeners out there. Remember, Al Pacino’s character nearly went mad confronting his voice and deep-seeded passion for justice. And I am a sucker for a subjective, romantic narrative that says you can never win. SMH. In the end, as I prefer to tell myself when the fear has me, he ruined his own career because of his truths. I quickly learned back then, or I decided is more accurate, that the moral of the film was that you can never win…and therefore, law was not for me. Wish some guidance counselor at my public high school could have told me there are many types of lawyers. Intellectual property would have been a nice choice for me. lol Hindsight speaks. #20-20

Now I am realizing something invaluable: Madness may not be a choice. You can either go mad hiding or you can use the madness to fight injustice. Either way it seems madness will be close at hand. We humans are always on the verge of it and it’s not because black people are angry thugs or thots (them hoes over there).

Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
– I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
– I shall fear only God.
– I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
– I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
– I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth,
I shall put up with all suffering.”   ― Mahatma Gandhi


I had no memory that the film “And Justice for All” was set in Baltimore. I grew up and went to high school in Rockville, Maryland, just outside D.C. and 40 minutes outside of Baltimore. My grandfather loved to get lost on purpose whenever we took a trip Baltimore. It was his way of discovering new neighborhoods or maybe seeing how other blacks were faring in our home state. Haven’t been to Baltimore much since my senior year in 1979.  Perhaps I should watch this film again given all that’s happening today given that Baltimore’s protest has replaced Ferguson’s along with the distortions and censors of today’s short-sighted news reporting cycles. I saw people complaining about man-on-the-street interviews being censored and interrupted mid-stream on CNN.

While watching clips from “And Justice for all” on YouTube I also noticed its all-white cast and seemingly color-blind portrayals of the roles within the criminal court system — defendants, complaintants, witnesses, power hungry prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks, juries, and crooked judges. It all somehow still spoke to the same issues of blackness, wealth inequality, patriarchy, and sexuality and its accompanying bullying and abuse we see today. The same issues but with people of color filling the screens are all at work in Baltimore today. What I didn’t remember was how Pacino’s character defends a transgender client which I could connect to the fact that the #blacklivesmatter hashtag began as a reaction to the mistreatment and killing of transgender black females. Characters in the film went mad left and right and so are citizens in Baltimore and Ferguson and in transgender black networks. Madness turned within is as destructive as that seen in the rioting.

Society needs protection from such harm and lawyers are a last resort. It begins with planning, organization and even the kind of CSI work I do with my students to figure out what’s actually going on with black girls who twerk on YouTube as far as the digital consequences and meanings of all the players in action there. Think about users, subscribers, viewers, commenters, the people who design the built environment and spaces of YouTube, media players like VEVO who distribute the content black girls who twerk dance to, and more.

Don’t know why these two disparate yet related expressions are coming to mind: “Give me your tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free” and, “Power to People! Power to Black People! Power to All people and to the land!” If I remember it correctly, that’s the chant of the Black Panther Party movement in the stand and message to us all for sovereignty. They were, as too few know, shut down by COINTELPRO. Their history of community progress and development was distorted and misrepresented by the FBI and mass news media.Generations of youth today still fear the black planet the news characterized about them. I had a student tell me he had no idea they were feeding hungry children and providing health care and that the average age of many in the BPP were 14-18, according to Ericka Huggins (listen).

Without doing the critical study for themselves, students today continue to be miseducated. How can you learn anything critical on top of such distortions about our history in the US? But history is not self-perpetuating. And America’s history is messy and complicated like the courtroom scenes and the out of courtroom drama’s in And Justice for All (1979).

Respect, Beneficence, and Justice: Human Subject Research

This blog post came about because I was making a YouTube vlog earlier in the day based on comments from students in my anthro sections on ethics. They all took human subject research training and were certified in basic concepts related to protecting the subjects in our study (black girls ages 13-16 and younger) from harm. I was so moved by the matter-of-fact-ness of their embrace of three principles of The Belmont Report on studying human subjects that this blog is the result. The report insists on three principles that even I didn’t learn in grad school, to be honest. I never had an ethics training during my PhD. Can you believe it? Some of my actions in the past belie this reality.

It’s ironic that the same year I saw Al Pacino’s film, the same year I graduated from high school and the same year rap music went mainstream, The Belmont Report (1979) was released. It is a concise reliable summary and guide for researchers of human subjects which insists on:

RESPECT for persons and their autonomy and the respect of those with limited autonomy (i.e., girls and boys under 13 on YouTube, the homeless, transgender folk, sex workers, etc.)

BENEFICENCE meaning to maximize benefits and minimize risks of harm to subjects (i.e., studying children is a good example of measuring risk of studying their videos in the interest of their future benefit)

JUSTICE or the fair distribution of the benefits and distributions of research; to each person an individual share, to each person according to individual need, to each person according to individual effort, to each person according to societal contribution and to each person according to merit.

The report mentioned the non-consensual treatment or infection of black men with Syphillis. There are a great deal of non-consensual acts happening to girls under 13 on YouTube that I hope to confront with my work. Consent offline matters and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act matters, too!

Voicing Ethics in the Bottomlines Project

After students were certified in these basic tenets of conducting human research, I asked them what they learned and their comments were so insightful.

One student wrote: “It took me 5 hours to complete this training and every step of the way I realized that what i considered public and normal in Youtube can also be harmful and a violation of privacy to the subject.”

Another wrote: “It seems like it would be very easy to violate someone’s privacy if you didn’t know the restrictions and ways to prevent this. Privacy is one of the most sacred things to a person and it would be a shame to violate it on purpose or even by accident.”

Yet another wrote: “When we code YouTube videos of teenage girls twerking, we have to treat them with respect while we do a digital ethnography that includes their videos, whatever their motive for putting the video on the internet was.”

These codes of ethical conduct matter not only in research but in life. The grandfather of Al Pacino’s character (Arthur) played by Lee Strasberg in the film says to his grandson, “If you’re not honest, you’re nothing.” #RESPECT!

I am still learning what is it to be honest to what you spirit calls for you do to and to be true to setting yourself up to win. I didn’t take life’s lessons and I thought it would just all work out. Life doesn’t really work that way. It’s part dream and part work and action. ‪#‎followyourinnervoice and have a plan of execution. Just uploading any old video online can have severe costs later.

You never have a second chance at a first impression!


While making my vlog of students’ comments, one of my students sent me an email at midnight. This student was struggling to recover from a recent sexual abuse incident with a family member. What a horrible thing to be happening during the last 2 weeks of the semester. This left me with a question:

What kind of spaces are we creating for our children that will continue to impact their adult lives and futures? This is why I do what I do around twerking videos. Not because twerking is wrong. It is not. It’s dance. It’s art. It’s erotic expression. I do it because how others perceive what you do, their first impressions, were set long before more of these black girls were ever born. The persistence of racism and sexism in our mediated communication and interactions on- and off-line

Sexual assault and issues of consent or lack there of can shape you and break you. Yet, each of us harmed by such events must still learn how to find our own voice, become an adult, reclaim old desires left behind from fear, and stand up for our SELF when others whom you expect to don’t.

So much about patriarchy and about rites around girls and women in families are norms gone wrong. They are in need of deep societal, familial and community caring-frontation and change. This student’s email reflected how they blamed themselves for not being able to finish their work under such extreme circumstances. Yeah, it’s always you’re fault. Don’t expect any compassion these days.

They wrote to me: “I know there will be penalties for not turning work in on time…”.

This kind of twisted analysis stems from the personalization of blame that haunts American culture and society. It limits our ability to adapt to our greatness by simply making a request under the circumstances without shame or deep explanation. For instance:

“Dear Professor, I had a serious personal issue happen around the assault I mentioned earlier where I missed class. Can I request an extension on my work?”

If they say no, then there’s work to do. While this student has generally kept up with work and is known from their class participation, they have also hugged the wall just near the door and, in hindsight, avoided conversations that infer sexual exploitation of the girls we are studying on YouTube. We are human and we are affected by what we study in ethnographic inquiry.

In response, I invited the student to realize that there are no “penalties” and that students are not “on trial” in my classroom. Yes, there are costs for not turning in work but they are actually beneficial costs (beneficence) not penalties (losses or risks of harm). Such constraints inspire and agitate us to stay on track in coursework.

Maybe we all need to learn more about ethical standards of human interaction so we don’t get the penalties twisted up with the benefits of boundaries and limitations which most adolescents resist with everything in them.

Without a voice, there is no respect, beneficence and justice and that goes for all those in Baltimore and those in my classroom in NYC. And I must remind me.

OUTRO: I’m Angela Davis, I ain’t shakin my buns

Ima let Rah Digga of Newark take us out on this one rapping on the song “Angela Davis.”

I added these lyrics to Rap Genius cuz 1) not a lot of women contribute to the crowd-sourced lyrics and annotations there it seems and 2) no one had put these great lyrics up before. They needed to be there because Rah Digga is a badass and so was and is Angela Davis still!

We need more black female contributors to the participatory culture of Rap Genius, Wikipedia and YouTube. More girls making their own beats to dance to and more criticism of the music they want to get from artists they love! Girls and women run the fan videomaking culture on YouTube!! But the politics of the market never work for them.


Verse 1:
I’m Angela Davis, I ain’t shaking my buns
I’m yelling power to the people and waving ’em guns
I be pumping dat fist, I ain’t running some shit
It ain’t too many o’ you broads got the stomach for dis!

LIMITED OFFER on AMAZON today!! a free book to Protect your Privacy

You never get a second chance at a first impression.

Before online, [it was] private by default, public by effort. After online, public by default, private by effort. ~~ danah boyd

YouTubeSpaceNY Kids

As you all know, I am on a mission to educate girls of color, specifically black girls, and the people who love them to consider protecting your future digital reputation while you grow up online.

Your future depends on what you do today more than ever before.

Your digital reputation is critical to your future net worth in a networked reality. The permanance of what you do on YouTube or other social networks and the searchability of most data is not your friend.

What you say and do online can and surely will ruin your reputation for decades to come and girls of color should be particularly concerned.  Other people’s perceptions of us matter even while we campaign for our own lives mattering to them. #blacklivesmatter #blackgirlsmatter

As a demographic minority, we cannot guarantee the the millions of strangers out there can get us without meeting us in person. In other words, how people tend to perceive black females (cis or transgender) is already stigmatized and latent with stereotypes and symbolic meaning that the youngest black girls online have not yet fully grasped nor learned how to manage. Your reputation is everything! And adolescence is no longer protected given the millions of kids 13 and younger on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms. How do we get kids and adults, alike, in communities of color to start thinking of that I am a brand not just as an individual. I represent more than my present self. I also represent my future selves in perpetuity.

Here’s a quick remedy. Eric Qualman’s book WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS ON YOUTUBE: Privacy is Dead (2014). It’s a must read and a quick one, too! Be sure to download it from Amazon while it’s still free!

Not convinced? Don’t forget what happened to our girls. Think of Rachel Jeantel, Quevenzhané Wallis, Malia Obama, whose selfie that leaked before she knew it, or Mo’ne Davis and the negative attention they received that wasn’t even warranted. What happens to girls who twerk? Nothing wrong with twerking. It’s the broadcasting it online before you’ve even finished high school that threatens a young black girls’ public identity and future net worth (online and off). Mo’ne and Quevenzhané have publicists. Every day people do not.


I bet many of you have YouTube channels but do not have your settings for your History or your Searches “private.” Don’t wait! Do it today!!


YouTube’s 10th Anniversary!! April 23, 2005 – 2015

People are more likely to search for specific books in which they are actively interested and that justify all of that effort of reading them. Electronic images and sounds, however, thrust themselves into people’s environments, and the messages are received with little effort. In a sense, people must go after print messages, but electronic messages reach out and touch people. People will expose themselves to information in electronic media that they would never bother to read about in a book.    ~~ Joshua Meyrowitz, “The Merging of Public Spheres,” No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior, Oxford University Press (1985).


On February 14th, 2005, YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who formerly worked for PayPal. The first video Me at the Zoo was uploaded and published on April 23, 2005. From that moment on everything changed for video online. No more waiting forever for videos to upload on dialup connections or other. YouTube allowed video to be easily stored and shared and you could comment on others’ user generated content. You could post for free on the platform. The first viral video on YouTube was the Hey Clip by Israeli YouTuber Tasha and her best friend dancing in her bedroom lipsyncing a birthday wish to her boyfriend to the sounds of The Pixies. Stay tuned and there’ll be a great bonus for the real YouTube fans at the end.



The Hey Clip video has been viewed over 34 million times. My data collection of 800+ videos of over 1000 girls has collectively only 43 million views. Imagine over 600+ Superdome stadiums to full seating capacity, in either case. Black girls are lip syncing but with the narratives of their booty popping — kinetic orality that tops MIley Cyrus’s tail with no tale.


The YouTube Massive

Today, YouTube has over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. That’s 5 hours uploaded every second of the day. It gets over 1 billion unique visitors a month. It is a massive archive, popular culture network, a TV, a how-to service, a community of creators, and, of course for many a risky graveyard full of future nightmares waiting to happen. The digital persistence of video means our personal media will linger on well past the shelf life of our adolescence (chronological or otherwise), including the stupid jokes, pranks and aggressive acts of hatred or sexism that we once thought was merely funny or might go viral. MIllions of those moments did not.

We all probably gave up lots of personal ID markers that might allow a future college or prospective employer to search and never tell on Google. (Aside: I also learned last night that Google Trends now can filter searches to YouTube videos.) We may lose a prospective and a future job ten years from now for something we did 10 years earlier. A 72-year old Canadian high school drama teacher, who made in film 40 years before YouTube ever existed, was terminated from a position she held for years because of the online publicity of her experience 50 years earlier. It was made public online last June 2014. We are all not ready for the persistent, searchable nature of the contents of the world’s largest video archive and the second-most popular search engine in the world. You can run but you won’t be able to hide. Yes, the Bedroom Intruder is for real, yo!!  It’s Google!


YouTubeSpaceNY Kids


Last night, I attended an event at YouTubeSpaceNY on the new YouTube Kids app. I learned A LOT. Got a number of new ideas for my channel and getting the word out about the CSI work my students and I have been doing around my 800+ twerking videos. That’s 150 hours watched of black girls twerking from the “privacy” of their bedrooms on YouTube. 150 years after the 13th Amendment…but that’s a story for another post.  I hope my students and I will make a video tomorrow in honor of the 10th anniversary and upload it as I can bet lots of YouTubers will be vlogging about it in some way or manner.

Most of my students were 8 years old 10 years ago. Many of the videos in my data collection that most concern us are 8 year olds. So we might make a video about what kinds of things you were doing at 8 compared to now online. In the meantime, enjoy this exclusive YouTube Spotlight video. It describes the community part of YouTube to a “T”.


Happy Anniversary YouTube and the YouTube Nation!!


YouTubeKids Cupcakes

Ten years ago was a big year online and it was also a big year in the history of twerking. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in Dec of 2005. Much to commemorate with the #blacklivesmatter campaigns that might not have been possible in the way they have been without online video and social media platforms.

And just for a treat, the first black viral YouTube star Tay Zonday! We love our black people to be stuck in a stereotype. This is like the Don’t Worry Be Happy of YouTube. Enjoy!


So now, for the bonus!!

The presentation from last night’s YouTubeSpaceNY event about the new YouTube Kids App. This content should appeal to you hard-core YouTubers or up-and-coming vloggers, esp. those interested in the family and kid-friendly spaces of YouTube. Click on the pic on the YouTube Anniversary to access the bonus content.

YouTube Kids PPT

We Die Black not Human: Screening ‪Social Death #blackgirlsmatter

Social death [from Wikipedia] is the condition of people not accepted as fully human by wider society. Used by sociologists like Zygmunt Bauman and historians of slavery and the holocaust to describe the part played by governmental and social segregation in that process.[1][2] Examples of social death are:

“If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that the “Negro” has been inviting whites, as well as civil society’s junior partners, to the dance of social death for hundreds of years, but few have wanted to learn the steps. They have been, and remain today – even in the most anti-racist movements, like the prison abolition movement – invested elsewhere. This is not to say that all oppositional political desire today is pro-white, but it is usually anti-Black, meaning it will not dance with death.”
Frank B. Wilderson III


In class Monday, I shared that these deaths at the hands of the police are numbing my ability to cry it’s happened so much throughout my life since childhood. A naive Puerto Rican/ Dominican male whose been pretending he can get by in the class was gleeful and said “awesome!” after I shared that yet another man was shot dead by the cops on video. Stunned, I asked what was so awesome about it. He naively shared, as Darnell L. Moore, points out in the repost below, that this time would actually prove something. His naive public declaration does more harm to others and himself than he knows. It speaks to a problem I face in higher ed among students and faculty who resist that race/racism intersectionally affects them. This young man said in class weeks back that he doesn’t identify with race or ethnicity ; he doesn’t identify as Dominican or Puerto Rican. He’s American. More power to his right to self identify but his reaction was utterly clueless about not only the history of capturing such abuse on video and the lack of effect it has on structural/state violence but also the very thing I talked about in my TEDx talk on self worth being directly shaped by how others view us as racialized and gendered subjects, as organisms living in an environment.

This numbness in the moment it’s happening leaves me reducing individual lives lost to a nameless black man. I never shared his name Eric Harris was somebody’s son, somebody’s love of their life, somebody’s guardian as well as all his not so favorable acts and connections. It’s why we stand indivisible behind #blacklivesmatter with all who join us.

Tulsa Sheriff’s Office Robert Bates, 73, shot to death suspect Eric Harris in Oklahoma after pulling out his gun instead of his taser, all captured on cop cam. An arresting officer whose knee pinned the head of the violently assaulted man to the concrete said point blank “F*ck your breath!” as the wounded man gasped in shock at being shot and gasping for his last breaths of his life.

‪#‎ericharris‬ ‪#‎trayvonmartin‬ ‪#‎renishamcbride‬ ‪#‎rekiaboyd‬ ‪#‎michaelbrown‬ ‪#‎walterscott‬
Who sat in awe for the last breaths of these human being? Who helped them as they lay suffering without compassion? We die black and not human is on all our screens lately. The fourth screen handheld and mobile and the big screen that bears Oscar’s dead body but not Oscars. #oscargrant #12yearsaslave #passingstrange

It’s only at films mediated by a screen that individuals who are marked as oppressed groups of color are allowed to see ourselves as human in public. At least that’s how it feels.

For me as a child 40 years ago, this began first at home, watching television. First, it was the film “Cornbread, Earl and Me” (1975) with young actor Larry Fishburne when I was in junior high. I remember only the dead son not the surviving mother. Or “Cooley High” (1975). “Boyz in the Hood” when I was pursuing my doctorate.

This is patriarchal hegemony at work. It shapes the algorithms of my memory. Even as a woman I remember all these scenes about the boys and men before I think of the character of Celie in Alice Walker story shot for the big screen by Spielberg — The Color Purple (1985) — which broke my heart when I first saw it on TV while pursuing my master’s degree. Or even Tyler Perry’s 2010 version of For Colored Girls which brought on sobbing tears but left out the realities that matter for black and brown women that were so eloquently represented on stage in Ntozake Shange’s original choreo-poem which I saw when I was in junior high. I don’t remember feeling any way about it then but the I later bought book in grad school? Genius!

Only in the dark, narrowly focused attention of screens mediated by actors distancing the reality from its lived moments did it seem that I/we were allowed the permission or the freedom to mourn publicly and to resist before social death. It was only in the personal space of a private or somewhat segregated theater that I could grieve quietly and publicly mourn and even laugh to resist the hegemony of what has come to always seems like a destiny for us black and brown folk–man, woman, and child. And then there’s us women who are black and brown and the girls.

The more hidden deaths not immortalized often screen–the cis and transgender females and little black girls like Aiyana Stanley-Jones–seem to always matter less to everyone but us black women and our allies. Even black female “actors” on TV, film and the news matter less; little black girls like Quevenzhané Wallis or the president’s daughters Sasha and Malia at Thanksgiving or Racheal Jeantel in court not yet 18 are denied humanity online and in public. ‪#‎blackgirlsmatter‬

Really makes me wanna holler, they way they do our lives, to paraphrase Marvin Gaye. A better quote from Zora Neale Hurtston hits the mark.

I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company! It’s beyond me.

My presence in the classroom matters but I wish I was teaching more black students at CUNY how to be engaged and to ethnographically study this networked public crisis. ‪#‎admissionsmatter‬ ‪#‎CUNY‬

Hip Hop Generation Feminism: A Manifesto

Originally posted on The Crunk Feminist Collective:

We are Hip Hop Generation Feminists.  We unapologetically refer to ourselves as feminist because we believe that gender, and its construction through a white patriarchal capitalist power structure fundamentally shapes our lives and life possibilities as women of color across a range of sexual identities.  We are members of the Hip Hop Generation because we came of age in one of the decades, the 1990s, that can be considered post-Soul and post-Civil Rights. Our political realities have been profoundly shaped by a systematic rollback of the gains of the Civil Rights era with regard to affirmative action policies, reproductive justice policies, the massive deindustrialization of urban areas, the rise and ravages of the drug economy within urban, semi-urban, and rural communities of color, and the full-scale assault on women’s lives through the AIDS epidemic. We have come of age in the era that has witnessed a past-in-present assault on our…

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