During his nationally syndicated radio show on Monday, March 7th, Tom Joyner injected himself in the ongoing debate regarding the NAACP’s Image Award nominations of rap artists that sexually objectify and degrade women, use the “N” word, promote violence, drug use, and criminal activity, and portray Black and Latino men as pimps, gangsters, and thugs. In response to the public comments of Rev. Delman Coates, Organizer of the Enough Is Enough Campaign and Senior Pastor of the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MD, criticizing some of the NAACP’s nominations, Mr. Joyner took to the airwaves to provide a justification for the questionable Image Award nominations. Joyner commented to the effect, “Are you listening Rev.? This is show business…and if you want them (i.e. the NAACP) to be prime time, and air their awards show on a major network, then you’re going to have to have the rappers. You can’t have it both ways Rev. This is entertainment. See what would happen trying to have an awards show and it’s just you.” Then, in a failed and ill-conceived attempt to wax comedicly about the matter, J. Anthony Brown compared the civil rights organization trying to have an awards show without rappers to “the Reverend” having church service without a choir. “You and the first lady try having church without a choir. It’s just going to be you in there. So you got that Rev.?”
Turns out Rev. Coates, an admirer of Joyner and his work for HBCU’s, and many of his 7,000 parishioners were in fact listening. According to Coates, “These sad and unfortunate remarks represent a fissure among African-American progressives regarding the appropriateness of glorifying negative images and offensive messages of Black people in the public square. It is quite unfortunate that Mr. Joyner thinks degrading women, using the ‘N’ word, and portraying today’s youth as pimps, gangsters, and thugs has entertainment value. His veiled attempt to put me in my place was misguided. When artists produce lyrical content that offends other groups, it is edited, remastered, or not marketed at all. Why is it, then, that when artists refer to Black and Latino women as ‘bitches’ and ‘hos,’ use the ‘N’ word, and negatively stereotype young men, we regard this as ‘entertainment.’ While individual artists have the right to make whatever songs they desire, I do not believe the degradation of black humanity in the public square should be celebrated by civil rights organizations and sponsored by American corporations.”
Rev. Coates states that Joyner’s comments represent the NAACP’s spin on why it gave Image Award nominations to artists whose lyrical content goes against the organization’s mission and past stances against offensive and demeaning rap lyrics. According to the Reverend, Mr. Joyner’s on air remarks and the organization’s explanation that nominating such artists is a necessary part of making the Image Awards marketable for primetime television represents an identity crisis for the civil rights organization. He says, “The NAACP is a civil and human rights organization. It is not an entertainment company. We are not talking about the Grammy’s or the AMA’s here. We’re talking about the NAACP. What the people expect of leadership is consistency. They (i.e. the NAACP) are the ones who orchestrated an elaborate ceremony to bury the ‘N’ word. They are the ones with a Stop Campaign designed to end ‘demeaning African American images in the media, particularly with respect to the portrayal of African American women.’ They are the ones claiming on their website to oppose this kind of content in the entertainment industry. They are the ones claiming that the purpose of the Image Awards is to celebrate ‘individuals and groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.’ If a public personality used the ‘N’ word tomorrow, or referred to a Black woman as a ‘bitch’ or ‘ho,’ and the NAACP, and unfortunately, now Tom Joyner took a public stance against it, their credibility would be called into question. We cannot celebrate artists who degrade us on radio, and then get upset when others degrade us on television.”
Joyner continued his apparent support of misogyny and offensive lyrical content on Tuesday morning. On the March 8th show, Joyner’s gossip and entertainment ‘journalist’ Jawn Murray claimed the lyrical content of the rappers nominated for an image award (Jay-Z, Diddy Dirty Money, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West) was not offensive. To a chorus of laughter from Joyner and his co-hosts, Murray remarked, “The NAACP Awards caught some flak for rappers like Jay-Z and Diddy Dirty Money being nominated for various awards, but I think the church here in Clinton, Maryland who started griping was a bit tardy to the party, maybe like a decade late to the party”¦..cause these commercialized rappers, they don’t even fit the references of misogynist, overly violent or overly sexual like they were saying. Now when you start nominating Wacka-Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane, they’ll have something to gripe about.”
According to Coates, Murray’s remarks typify the crux of the problem. “Based upon Mr. Murray’s on air remarks, it’s clear that his entertainment credentials need to be revoked. Anyone who listens to or has actually read the lyrics of the artists in question knows full well that the lyrical content of the nominated artists is in fact misogynistic, laced with the ‘N’ word, and glorifies antisocial behavior. This is a blatant attempt to distract the public by misinforming the public. For Mr. Joyner not to challenge the veracity of his entertainment reporter’s claim that these artists do not use the ‘N’ word and refer to women as ‘bitches’ and ‘hos,’ shows either his ignorance of the subject matter or his willful intent to deceive the public. It would have been better for Mr. Murray to defend the lyrical content than to deny it. The lyrics are everywhere online. They are undeniable.”
Rev. Coates expresses surprise and dismay that Mr. Joyner would not use his very influential media platform to encourage greater responsibility. “Look, I’m 38 years of age. I am a Lifetime member of the NAACP,” Coates said. “I grew up on hip-hop music. I love hip-hop music, and I have a profound appreciation for the creative imagination, rhetorical finesse, and social potential that exists among hip-hop artists past and present. Don’t get it twisted. The issue here is not with hip-hop, or with individual rappers. The issue is with certain elements of commercial rap music. Rap music is a corporate creation that perverts the heart and soul of hip-hop by using negative messages and stereotypical images for commercial gain. Most of our artists don’t want to make music that degrades their own community, but they feel pressure to do so because it’s what has become so commercially successful. It is the responsibility of thought influencers within the African-American community to support these young people by creating a public atmosphere in which the degradation of Black life and humanity in the public square is not acceptable.”
The Enough Is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment is calling on the NAACP to make changes in the nomination process for its Image Awards. According to Rev. Coates, “The NAACP should use the strength of its brand, legacy, and public influence to promote artists whose content is consistent with its mission, is positive, inspirational, and provides good examples for our youth to emulate.” The Campaign also expects other faith and civil right leaders to continue the 20 year goal started by the late C. Delores Tucker to end the celebration of misogyny and offensive lyrical content in the popular culture. Lastly, the Campaign is also calling on American corporations to stop using its advertising budgets to market, promote, and sponsor musical content that glorifies violence, criminal behavior, and degrades women.
The Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D. is the Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., and the Organizer of the Enough is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment. (www.enoughisenoughcampaign.com) He is also an advisory board member of the Parents Television Council.