Dr. Wilmer Leon: From Paul Robeson to Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter

robeson-wayne

By

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

The one word to describe Paul Robeson is “giant”.  He was born April 9, 1898 and died January 23, 1976.  He was a person of extraordinary power, significance, and importance; a man of enormous strength and stature.  Paul Robeson was an artist of the highest order; a singer, actor, scholar, and activist.  He was considered by many to be one of the most important figures of the twentieth century.

Robeson was “race man.”  He was an African American who used his enormous strength and stature as an artist, intellect, and international figure to represent the race, disproving at every turn bigoted notions of White power and Black inferiority.  Robeson was socially conscious, socially responsible, and socially relevant. James Baldwin once wrote, “Robeson…lives, overwhelmingly, in the hearts and minds of the people whom he touched, the people who gained from him the power to perceive and the courage to resist…He lived in our times, we live in his…”

In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, singer, actor, and life-long activist Harry Belafonte stated, unlike Robeson (whom Belafonte knew quite well) “I think one of the greatest abuses of this modern time is that we have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility.”

One of the current examples of a socially irresponsible high-profile artist is Dwayne Carter, Jr. akaLil’ Wayne”.  Cater is a rapper; a hip hop artist.  Dwayne was born in 1982, eighty-four years after Robeson. One would only expect artists to become better educated, better informed, more socially conscious and aware. Unfortunately, Carter and his ilk take us back.

While working with rapper Nayvadius Wilburn aka “Future” on his “Karate Chop” remix, “Lil’ Wayne” drops the line, “beat the p—y up like Emmett Till…”  Does “Lil” Wayne, Epic Records Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid, or any rational adult in their inner circle have any idea how disgusting, demeaning, and socially irresponsible this is?  Have they no shame?

Emmett till was a 14 year-old African American boy from Chicago, IL who was visiting relatives for the summer in the small town of Money, Mississippi.  On August 24, 1955 while out playing with his cousins young Till was accused of whistling at or flirting with a White woman, 21 year old Carolyn Bryant. On August 28, 1955 in response to the alleged whistling incident, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.

The brutal murder of Emmett Till was a seminal moment in African Americans struggle for human rights, a turning point.  Tens of thousands attended Till’s funeral. Images of his mutilated body were published in black magazines and newspapers, rallying popular support and sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of African American civil rights in Mississippi and throughout the entire country, with newspapers around the country critical of the state.

Paul Robeson the artist dedicated his entire life to fighting the hatred and racism that motivated Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam to brutalize and murder an African American teenager.  Lil’ Wayne the so-called artist decided to trivialize that horrific and historic event by using it to make sick, caviler, sexist, and misogynistic references to woman.  I ask again, has he no shame?

Future makes a feeble attempt to defend the indefensible by telling MTV News “The record it was done from a good place, good art, he ain’t have no bad intentions when he was thinking about it like that.”  Relative to this ignorance, there is no good place; this is not good art; and their intentions are irrelevant.

Gil Scott Heron, one of the original rappers wrote in Message to the Messengers, “We got respect for you rappers… But if you’re gon’ be teachin’ folks things, make sure you know what you’re sayin’… Because if you’re gonna be speakin’ for a whole generation; And you know enough to try and handle their education; Be sure you know the real deal about past situations… Four letter words or four syllable words won’t make you important; It’ll only magnify how shallow you are and let everybody know it…”

This is a current example of how far we as a community have strayed from standards of conduct and decency.  Anything goes for the sake of a dollar, a record sale, a fleeting moment of fame.  Ignorant rappers can demean our history and demean our women.  They can use our history to demean our women and claim “it was done from a good place, good art…”

Paul Robeson was a giant!  Dwayne Carter, Jr. has turned his back on social responsibility; he is shallow and has let everybody know it. He is by his own admission and moniker just,Lil”.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues With Leon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at HowardUniversity in Washington, D.C.  Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: wjl3us@yahoo.com. www.twitter.com/drwleon

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16 comments

  1. “Lil” most aptly describes this self-hating, tatooed, dope smoking, ignorant, brain dead person!!! It was for people like him the term “Ni22ger” was coined and in his case, his pictured placed next to it in the dictionary!!!!!

  2. He reminds me of one of the characters in Spike Lee’s film “Bamboozled”. A performer acting in a modern day minstrel show. All that he is and represents is nothing but buffoonery. “Long as the money’s right, I’ll dance for ya, rap for ya, coon for ya all night”.

  3. Rappers have been regressing black culture for decades ,black folks should have been protesting back then when rappers were N wording and B wording all over the airwaves with their garbage .The Till family should sue all those involved.Lil Wayne or Payne could,nt lick Paul Roebsons boots.This current generation does,nt have the balls like men such as Paul Roebson or MalcolmX and any other great black men that laid it on the line.

  4. I lived down the stree from Gil Scott Heron when I was growing up in teh 60s. He was “Scottie” to me and he would allow me read all of his wonderful poetry. I miss the 60s and the 70s when we were more together as a people. The struggle was long and hard and we accomplished some of the things we so rightly deserved; but somewhere along the way, we dropped the ball. We forgeot to educate the generations coming behind us about our struggles since we were brought to this country and for some of us, since our land was stolen from us. We succumbed to the ills of the main stream society because we wnated to be “accepted” and moved out of our community. We forgot to teach the generations coming behind us that money does not make you credible or respectful. It’s bad enough when we have to constantly struggle against the misconception that others have about us; it becomes unbearable when the generations (our Black chldren) that come behind us disrespect the accomplishments we as the elders have made by disrespecting the horrors our ancestors have endured just to live day by day.

  5. For you word smithies out there, there are a few typos in my previous post. It’s becasue I am so upset and disgusted that I didn’t do a spell check. Forgive me

    • Dr.Mayes-Buckley, I also find it difficult to type in these small boxes, but you do not need to apologize for not spelling anything correctly, every word you said was pure truth. It is so painful to watch what we have created within the last few generations. They are like this because we failed to teach–now what do we do? I think black men should begin now to initiate Rites of Passage programs to try to change the ‘dying young’ mindset of our boys. Women should do the same with our girls to turn around their “hoe and bitch” mentality. Someone has to stop the girls from thinking to have a baby is a rite of passage. We promote this insanity. As soon as our girls get pregnant we hasten to give them a baby shower.
      Further, I think that the fraternities, sororities, 100 black men, churches, and other established organizations should take the lead.

      We promote this insanity. As soon as our girls get pregnancy we hasten to give them a baby shower. What kind of insanity is that? Our nation of black people must do what is necessary to stop this insanity!

  6. To Mr Lil WHATEVER….I am APPALLED! I had never heard of you until you sung that stupid azz comment in your last song about Mr Till. I reseached some of your other songs and ….OMG!!! All I can say to you is…..JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS AND GOD BLESS YOU!!

  7. Do not speak his name!
    Do not purchase his words
    Do not give him DAP, or shake his hand
    If he comes in the room, you leave
    Look pass him not at him

    He is nothing! Treat him as such!

    Everyone tell someone!

  8. Rappers like Li’l Wayne are shallow and no nothing of social conscience, because they grew up in a society where they can whistle at, be seen with and marry white women today. Their minds spew the filth of what is acceptable to the generations that have no respect for the fight black people went through just to drink water from a fountain or shop were they pleased and it’s hard to fathom to them that white people were that outright vicious. No one wants to show the” black American holacaust” or teach it but rather discuss black achievement. He’s a black achievement that’s popularizing exactly what the mindset of so many young people adore.

  9. If the truth must be told! This is an abomination!

  10. The coon show continues and our great leaders have been shoved in the ground. Some of them love being clowns, coons and buffoons. The total disrespect from the mines, bodies, and soul.

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