Keeping It Real…

It’s Tuesday, and I still haven’t been able to shake this whole “cornrow” situation that blew up on Twitter regarding NK. My anger is rooted in her reaction to the backlash, not the action of wearing the hairstyle. Correct everyone makes mistakes, but how one goes about the situation, in the end, is what can deem one noble. The case here is that NK feels she did no wrong; therefore, she will never take responsibility for her offensive actions. There wasn’t a drop of nobility to her response to the backlash, which is essential because most of it came from the same black and brown people in the community she claims to care for. Her excuses, invalid points, and retweets from clueless supporters shined a bright light on her white supremacy and entitlement. Rather than listen and attempt to have a constructive conversation about her use of the term “ghetto” and cultural appropriation, she jumped right into defense mode. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was her having the audacity to call one of the most dedicated people to diversity in the scene right now, who also happens to be a black woman, a racist. That’s the point when I lost all respect.

“How dare you speak to me this way” NK tweeted in response to one of the tweets critiquing her actions. It’s clear to me that this woman has never had anyone check her ass, and she folded under pressure- I, for one, am not surprised. People like her spend their careers profiting off black culture, yet when it comes down to it, our concerns are invalid to them. This entire situation reflects that. These are the same type of folks who will run around screaming “black lives matter,” yet when it’s time to a be a real ally MF’s are SILENT. Personally, what I want to know is, where are all of the top white feminist DJ’s in this conversation? The social justice warrior types who always have something to say about every political thing yet won’t use their platform and white privilege to denounce their peers’ inappropriate actions. Again, not surprised. When sticking up for black people is convenient, everyone is on top of it, but I suppose this situation isn’t the most convenient one (being the power of the woman in question), so they don’t say shit. Isn’t that a bitch?

This entire situation has been equally draining and nauseating. I like to consider myself a strong person, but I won’t lie, this situation has hit me to my core. It’s one thing to have internet trolls coming for me, but for another black woman and DJ that I at one point admired and looked up to, go at me publicly telling me that I’m speaking out on all of this in hopes of “attention” or “accolades” is disappointing. My initial tweet on this topic (that just happened to blow up on Twitter), received way more attention than I imagined. I was in a heated mental state and typed the first thing that came to mind. I don’t need attention, I’m not a hater, nor am I jealous. I’m a black woman who is passionate about my culture, dance music, and braids for that matter- I rock them about 60% of the time. I’m wondering if this person, someone I’ve known for years and is a fellow black woman, would have had my back the same way had I been in question about something? Now I’m not here to disrespect anyone, but I am indeed a grown-ass woman who is not afraid to speak to my mind. As I mentioned above, the silence and ignorant statements from many on this issue are VERY telling. Scary to think that these are some of the same folks we rub elbows at clubs and festivals worldwide.

As a black woman who wears cornrows regularly, I find pride and strength in rocking the style, and it often feels like a form of resistance against the white society that tells me I need to wear my hair straight to be accepted. Perhaps this is what makes the topic a sensitive one because, to me, the style is not merely a fad or a costume for the night- it’s my heritage. Here’s a quick story for reference; when Resident Advisor reached out to me to contribute to their infamous podcast series I was elated, I felt like it would be the perfect opportunity for me to put some shine on my DJ career. When it came time to select a photo to accompany the podcast, I immediately told myself I would go with one of my more “polished” photos wearing straight hair- I said to myself this was “prettier” and would draw more attention to the mix. I soon realized how stupid I was being and that I was playing into society’s preference for European beauty standards. Eventually, I said the hell with it; I’m going to rep for the culture like I’ve been doing, I mean, that is what my platform, Underground & Black is all about. So yeah, the decision to use a picture with me wearing cornrows was a conscious one, one that was rooted in much more than merely being “cool,” “badass” or “ghetto” for the night. At the end of the day, though, I realize that no matter how shitty NK’s cornrows looked, me, a black woman in the same industry with the same style, would never, and will never receive the same amount of love and compliments for doing it.

Why is it so often that white people get applauded for doing the same things that black people have been doing for centuries? It’s genuinely absurd how so many seem to be completely unaware of how frustrating it is for black people. We literally cannot have ANYTHING to ourselves. We live in a world where people get upset that we get one measly month to celebrate our culture. We live in a world where non-black people think it is acceptable to use the “N” word simply because we do. We live in a world where non-black people profit off our culture, language, music, style, etc., every day, all the while, many of us still struggle on the sidelines. White people run our society, have a much better chance at successfully navigating through this tainted world, and are somehow still upset about black people wanting to keep certain things solely in our community. The white entitlement is clear as day, and way too many folks feel so openly entitled to everything.

This is the world we live in, and I realize some of you will never know what it’s like to be a black man or woman living in a white man’s world. From day 1 of stepping into DJing, I knew I’d never be the most popular or make the most money even if I indeed was the best at it, and honestly, I’m okay with that. Unbeknownst to some, I’m not in this game for fame and fortune; I’m in this shit because of my passion. Since I am a black woman born and raised in Detroit, this is my roots, my upbringing- I’ve been involved in this shit since I was a kid, and it’s important to me that folks know that. That they know my sheer commitment to everything dance music related, whether it be this very blog, my radio show, an interview I conduct, or a black artist I book. I am someone out here making an actual contribution, as is Frankie of Discwoman, yet here we are being shaded for speaking out on what is right and what is wrong. The irony.

A lot of people genuinely do not understand the concept of bullying. Holding someone accountable for shitty mistakes is NOT bullying. A critique of someone’s careless actions is not hating or reflecting what someone thinks of this person’s musical ability. People are turning this thing into something that is not without realizing the bigger picture, which is that this conversation is much bigger than NK. It is is not the first and not the last time this discussion will happen; trust me.

As I wrap all of this up, I want to say, LISTEN. Listen when black people or minority groups get offended about specific words, behaviors, or actions; show us the respect of hearing us. Writing us off and ignoring our concerns is not conducive to growth and understanding. Also, if you call yourself an “ally,” stand up for us. SAY SOMETHING. White silence on these sorts of issues is one of the main reasons why things like cultural appropriation bother us. This idea that it’s okay to mimic black people when its time to look “cool” and “have fun,” but when shit gets real many of yall are nowhere to be found. I could talk about this shit all day, to be honest, but I’m choosing to move forward. Many of us have our points, and thank you to those that stood up and showed solidarity. The black community came together on this, and we must remember to come together ALL OF THE TIME, not just when these types of battles arise.

It was vital for me to use my platform to talk about this because we all know every other outlet is going to tiptoe around it and wait for it to blow over just like every other “Techno Twitter” battle. These are valid discussions, and the work doesn’t stop with this post. All of my Underground & Black projects have been about CELEBRATING and INSPIRING, and that is what I plan to continue to do. And hey, if I have to call bullshit on certain things from time to time, I’m down for that. Although my blackness may be a trend and novelty to you, it is not to me, and I take it very seriously. I am not shocked to see how offended some get when a black woman speaks her mind; that’s how the story goes! Today, I still stand head high, knowing that I got the cities of Detroit and Atlanta behind me. I’m going to keep doing me yall.

Peace.

16 Replies to “Keeping It Real…”

  1. Well said my fellow Detroiter! Keep doing what you are doing Ash! You are a great DJ with your own Vibe which I love! I became a fan of yours at the 2019 Charivari festival in Detroit. Anytime when you doing something positive here comes the haters! You are a beautiful black woman that God made special on this Earth! Good Bless You Sister!

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  2. I founded my labels in the spirit of U.R. speaking truth to power. Once the “underground community” realized I actually walked the talk; I was literally black-balled. No pun indented.
    I can do nothing but applaud your courage and the way that you so eloquently stated these uncomfortable truths. It is a bit sad that we are marginalized in this thing our people created.
    I almost fell out of my chair when I read your words about the SJW self righteous types who always have something to say, until now.
    I was also saddened to read that a fellow black woman would come at you like that.
    God bless you sista. The industry/community needs a legion more of strong proud women of color just like you.

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  3. Thank you for all of this!! If there is one thing I’ve learned this year its that POC can’t fix racism or “solve” racism for white people. Only white people can solve it. Its up to them. And its up to the ones who call themselves allies to stand up when needed and actually BE that ally. Be an anti-racist. This was so powerful and so well written. Thank you again! I hope to come see you play in NYC sometime soon!!! Much love and RESPECT!!! ❤

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  4. thank you for writing this, it’s so frustrating as a POC being told what we’re allowed to be upset by. It’s tiring and upsetting to be shut down by white people all the time but we just got to keep going

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  5. Very well put. Your message was conveyed clearly and concisely. Easy to read and comprehend. Thank you for sharing. I had not considered much of this until reading your blog. I hope I am not offending you when I say this, but your writing would be more powerful with less swearing. Swear words are more often distracting in writing rather than supportive of your argument. Ultimately, these words result in weakening your overall message.

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  6. Great article…NK is a silly girl and best ignored outside the dj box.. Having said that and regarding your line “We live in a world where non-black people profit off our culture”Which is undisputed in regards to a lot of music especially rock & hiphop. Having said that I thought the term techno was invented in Detroit but the style originated with Kraftwerk,Manuel Göttsching ect ect (krautrock) and introduced to Detroit via Electrifying Mojo…To me a lot of early techno sounds like straight up synth/drummachine presets probably made by a Japaneese guy in the lab…What I am trying to get at is..Doesn’t all cultures seem to borrow a little from each other…or am I totally in the dark here. Love!!

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  7. We are not the minority but the majority of the world. Your article I appreciate very much n I feel you n understand the flow. Remember as a whole mix black people of color we will always be the narrative N the majority of the world. No matter how many citizens were told to say white they know they are of black decent

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