A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

N.Y. MINISTER COMBATS NEGATIVE RAP LYRICS  –  REV. CALVIN BUTTS, III

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, MAY 21, 1993  by PAT LEFEVERE

TENAFLY, N.J. – Reaction has been swift and supportive to a New York minister’s charge that certain rap artists negatively influence black youth by glamorizing sex, misogyny and violence.

Since the Rev. Calvin Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, launched his drive against rap artists 2 Live Crew, Apache, Scarface and N.W.A on May 7, he has been flooded with telephone calls offering support.

Many callers intend to bring tapes, videos and compact discs of the above-named artists to his church at 10 a.m. on June 1. Butts has promised to have a steamroller outside for a “symbolic crushing-out of these negative words and images that are eroding the moral fabric of our community.”

Butts sees a “direct relationship” between sexually explicit rap lyrics and teen pregnancies. The minister, who has previously protested cigarette and liquor marketing strategies in African-American areas of the city, said that gun-toting black youths have taken their cue from rap videos, believing that they are combating oppression when they have no real understanding of what constitutes “revolution.”

Blacks must not permit their children’s values to be corroded by other blacks who often call one another “niggers,” refer to women as “bitches” and glorify problem-solving with guns, he said.

Rosalyn Ferguson, who directs youth services for the Brooklyn diocese, backs Butts’ objective, saying that many Catholic are concerned by the negative messages propagated by certain rappers. “The lyrics go against our Afro-centrist principles,” she said, noting that they convey that “life, women and children are unimportant.”

Ferguson, an African-American and mother of teenage children, likes rap in general and called its creative, speak-song poetry a complex, cultural expression. However, she noted that groups like those cited by Butts “perpetuate wrong notions” and “confuse” black youths by their audacious gestures and “sensationalizing of taboo words.” Many youths use these “maladoptive cultural attributes” to express their own rage – the most common way being the use of threatening behavior around other youths.

“Butts is on the right track” in trying to point out the negativity and “false sense of power” conveyed by some rap music, she said. “His is not a censorship agenda; it’s an effort to get people to think.”

Does good rap exist? “Absolutely,” Ferguson said, pointing to a special tape composed by a former Brooklyn Catholic Charities worker that has been used by the diocese to promote racial harmony. She also cited Arrested Development’s rap song about a homeless man, which she said delivers a positive message and also devotes a percentage of its earnings to aid the homeless.

COPYRIGHT 1993 National Catholic Reporter
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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