Yesterday I wrote an article addressing how NIkki Minaj ill-advisedly used a picture of Malcolm X to promote her new single. In that article, I discussed three reasons why her use of Malcolm’s picture was inappropriate and unacceptable.
Naturally, those of us who deeply respect Malcolm X, ourselves and our history took great offense at Minaj and we proclaimed our feelings all over Twitter, Facebook. We also signed two separate petitions created by longtime activists and intellectuals Rosa Clemente and Kevin Powell. Thanks to the tremendous outpouring of outage and thousands of petition signatures over the internet, Minaj was compelled to respond, apologize, and ultimately remove the picture from her instagram. I for one and adamantly happy about this, and about the ability of the Hip Hop community to stand together around the pivotal issues of historical memory, respect for our ancestors, and inappropriate methods of corporate branding.
But alas: All is still not well. This young sister apologized, but apparently does not understand why she needs to apologize. In fact, her apology reeked of arrogance. Besides everyone knows that an apology followed by justification isn’t really an apology at all. Note her actual words:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin A– N—–?
Does this introduction sound humble or remorseful to you? Actually she seems incredulous that anyone found her actions reprehensible. The fact that she asks what is the issue now, reveals that she doesn’t truly understand the nature of her violation. And if you don’t understand what you’re apologizing for, well, that makes your apology insincere and invalid as a result.
Next, she wrote:
I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy.
Clearly the young lady is confused. The fact that she doesn’t understand how the dynamics and implications of Malcolm’s original picture and hers are different, in addition to how her use of his image does undermine his efforts and legacy, again reveals that she doesn’t understand his efforts and legacy!
The elements that targeted brother Malcolm were intelligence agencies of the United States government and rival political factions. Secondly, Malcolm did not physically attack his dissidents. Who exactly are the people Minaj is attacking, these “Looking Ass Niggas?” Based on her song’s lyrics, these are people that gawk at her physical assets ( which she gratuitously reveals in most of her videos ), men that falsely boast of their sexual prowess, wealth, or street credibility. Such individuals might need a hug, dose of self-esteem and some therapy, but certainly not the automatic rounds Minaj shoots at them in her video! Also, she must realize that her “opponents” are not the CIA, FBI or political detractors as were Malcolm’s.
So the next time anyone runs into Nikki, please share with her the following. You were supposed to apologize because:
“Your opportunistic use of Malcolm’s image to promote a song and video promoting the word nigga and shooting at Black men contradicts and mischaracterizes Malcolm’s political ideals and practice.”
I for one say that her apology was not sincere or satisfactory and we should boycott her “Pink Print” album, her new perfume, and every other product of hers until she gets the point. And perhaps as an act of good faith, she should donate some money to the Malcolm and Betty Shabazz Center located in the building where Malcolm was killed and publicly urge people to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Rosa Clemente suggested.
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Last year, Agyei wrote, “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” to teach leadership principles to Black Student Unions. Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak to your organization, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.