Nelly gives us a perfect example of how you when you believe that it is your right to treat a black woman any kind of way and still expect her to treat you better than she treats herself.
In 2004, Nelly wanted to have a bone marrow transplant drive at Spelman College. For those of you who are unaware, Spelman is a historically black college for black women in Atlanta, GA. The bone marrow drive was one of many that Nelly had helped organize in an attempt to find a compatible donor for his sister, Jacqueline Donahue, who was battling leukemia, a fight she lost her life to in 2005.
Around the same time of this drive on the Spelman campus, Nelly’s video for “Tip Drill was released. The “Tip Drill” imagery was so lewd it was deemed only suitable to be shown on late night TV, in part because of the infamous image of Nelly swiping a credit card down the buxom behind of a thong wearing black woman. The black women of Spelman were incensed at the video and the way that black women were depicted, so they planned a demonstration against Nelly’s appearance on the campus unless the rapper was also willing to have a public sit down about the video. Please note: the ladies of Spelman were not saying that Nelly could not come to campus, but they felt that if he came for this marrow drive then he should also be willing to speak with the women who were running the campus he was only visiting.
Nelly was having none of it.
Nelly felt like he should have to talk to those self-respecting, critically-thinking, organized black woman of Spelman in order to have a drive on their campus. So in lieu of having the marrow drive AND doing a sort-of Q&A beforehand, he just cancelled the drive and then blamed Spelman for his sisters’ death the following year after no donor had been found.
You would think that time would have made Nelly reflect a bit and come to realize his own bad attitude, immaturity, self-righteous, and sexist behavior was the reason he didn’t have his marrow drive at Spelman 9 years ago, but unfortunately not everyone grows up and learns to analyze their mistakes to find the lesson. Nelly sure didn’t learn a damn thing.
In a recent interview for Huffpost Live with Marc Lamont Hill, Nelly was asked what he would have done differently. And his response was a version of “not a damn thing, if was those angry irrational Spelman women who messed everything up!” His actual words are as follows:
“The Spelman thing, the only thing I feel I would’ve did different is kick somebody’s ass…that’s just how it felt to me, Pimp,” he said to host Marc Lamont Hill. “I don’t have my sister. And I doubt it if half of those girls are still campaigning for what they quote, unquote took advantage for that opportunity for.”
“You [protesters] robbed me of a opportunity. Unfairly, my brother. Because we could’ve still had your conversation after I got my opportunity, but it could’ve been somebody that was coming to that bone marrow drive that day, that was possibly a match for my sister.”
These words are akin to telling. What he is saying that he should have been allowed to come to Spelman, do whatever the hell he wanted, not get asked any hard questions. It’s Nelly’s world, and the black women of Spelman are just living in it. Nelly couldn’t swallow his pride and at least talk to the women of Spelman in a bid to quell forthcoming demonstration. No, his pride meant more to him than having a bone marrow drive which might have found a donor to save his sisters’ life. And even after all these years he still blames this all on the ladies of Spelman. Maybe the ass he should want to kick is his own.
Asha Jennings, a former member of the Spelman Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), is having none of what Nelly is selling. “We are a historically black, all women’s institution,” Jennings told Marc Lamont Hill. “If there’s anybody that has an obligation to young black girls in the community, it’s us.”
Leana Cabral, another former member of the Spelman Feminist Majority Alliance said, “Black women have been challenging and resisting images [sic] these degrading images of ourselves for years. There’s a history of this.”
“Our important message was to show the African-American community we shouldn’t have to choose between these issues,” Jennings said. “They are all equally as important, we can do both. And so we fought, tooth and nail in order to, before I graduated in May of 2004, put on our own bone marrow drive.”
Watch the video from HuffPost Live, which contains parts of Nelly’s original interview and the response of several members of the Spelman community below. Oh, and get a bottle of water to drink while watching it because your blood will boil at the audacity of the statements made by Nelly.
Jamila Akil is a Community Manager at Beyond Black and White. She can be found on Twitter @jamilaakil