Yesterday, while choosing to stay off social media, my mother, Dante, and I watched On The Record,” a documentary film directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. It centers allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against hip hop mogul Russell Simmons.”
We get to know a bit about Drew Dixon, a Black woman whose love for hip hop, ear and eye for musical talent, and passion ‘for the culture’ got her into rooms with the most powerful men in hip hop, specifically Russell Simmons and LA Reid. She was arguably on her way to becoming one of the most influential women in music when she was forced to leave the industry due to rape, sexual harassment, and abuse of power by Simmons and Reid (after thinking she could get a fresh start after the tragedies of working for Russell Simmons, the patriarchy and misogyny that’s baked into the culture resulted in LA Reid exhibiting the same behavior). Watching Drew Dixon light up while talking about her professional accomplishments in the music industry before her exit, I was left feeling so overwhelmed with grief. I was thinking about how many sacrifices black women have to make while trying to fulfill our destinies and chase our passions. We live in a society that forces you to be conventionally attractive (according to western standards of beauty) in order to succeed and gain opportunities, while also punishing you for being attractive. If you choose to leave like Drew, you’ll never know what you could’ve done with more time, but if you choose to stay and do what you can, you’ll never feel like your accomplishments are your own. You are truly damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Although I watched this film yesterday, I decided not to post encouraging folks to watch with me, because my timeline was filled with posts addressing the murders of unarmed Black men, especially the most recent killing of George Floyd, at the hands of the police. I am devastated by the continuous disregard and destruction of BLACK LIVES. I can’t help but notice the public outcry and community support for justice for Black men, and the lack of that same energy supporting Black women. Like Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old American emergency medical technician, who was shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police Department officers.”
That is usually the plight for Black women, issues concerning us are always viewed as something we will address once the community at large is taken care of.
I noticed my apprehension against posting about On The Record, and I was sick to my stomach. As a Black woman, I cannot be more black than I am woman. I continue to champion for the health/wellness, the liberation, the sexual exploration and autonomy, the financial success, and the LOVE for Black women. I have made peace with this fact: WE ALL WE GOT.
Black women shouldn’t be casualties of the journey to a Black man’s success. Over the last few years, some of the most influential black men have been accused and even convicted of sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment. A few of those men have had television and film projects made about them, as well as huge media stories that detail the accusations, and instead of reading or engaging with those projects and stories, they are met with deflections and responses like, ‘they’re just trying to bring a black man down’, ‘where’s the documentary about (insert white man here)?’. Those responses have shown me that many of the Black men I once loved and had respect for just want to be able to assume the position of oppressor equal to the white men who have oppressed for centuries.
The revolution will be Black and woman and queer.
I must acknowledge this: Before the film’s release on HBO Max, there was controversy when former executive producer, Oprah
Winfrey , publicly withdrew from the film shortly before it was released, citing "creative differences".
Despite Oprah’s separation, I recommend the film to ALL. Only 23% of my following identify as men, and I’m not sure how many of them are Black, but they need to watch the film as much as anyone else does. Everything I addressed in this caption was addressed in the film, and we must continue to talk and work to heal all of the things that plague our community, especially the things in our control. I appreciate Drew Dixon and all of the women who were a part of this film, especially Joan Morgan, the original Hip-hop feminist, who is one of the reasons why I’m HOODRAT FEMINIST. You all sparked a new fire for me.
HBO Max is a new platform that launched yesterday. I was a little disappointed with the choice to go with a new monthly subscription platform, instead of a reputable preexisting streaming platform. I know opportunities for work like this to be shared are limited, but I don’t want HBO’s newest cash grab to be used as an excuse to not watch the film. I signed up for a free trial that will be cancelled expeditiously, but the start of another free trial is worth it for this film! I put that on me. I am planning a discussion of the film for June 14th’s Link up, which will be recorded and shared, hopefully giving those who are interested enough time to engage with the film. Let’s watch On The Record and work to make sure all women are able to tell their stories, not just the rich white ones.