Prompted by calls to censor the words “bitch,” “ho” and the “N word” from hip-hop music, National Action Network founder Reverend Al Sharpton and Director of Decency Tamika Mallory led a demonstration last night (May 3) in New York. Sharpton, Mallory and over 300 demonstrators made stops at three of the four major record labels, calling for “decency” in rap lyrics.
“This is not about censorship — it is about standards,” Sharpton said through a bullhorn to the crowd at Columbus Circle, the march’s final destination. “There’s a standard that says Ice-T can’t rap against police. There’s a standard that says you can’t rap about gays, and you shouldn’t. They had standards against Michael Jackson saying things anti-Semitic. Where is the standard against ‘n*gger,’ ‘ho’ and ‘bitches?'”
The march, which commenced in front of the Sony Music offices on the corner of 55th Street and Madison Avenue shortly after 6 p.m., was led by police escorts on motorbikes. Marchers held signs that read “No Justice, No Peace” and “Do I Look Like a Ho To You?,” as they chanted “dirty lyrics must go” and “record industries: you played yourself.”
“I think media conglomerates should balance their distribution, their promotion and marketing money with something positive and constructive,” said a demonstrator named Radio Raheem.
Brooklyn City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy and rap legend Kurtis Blow walked arm-in-arm with Sharpton as they made stops at the Warner Music Group headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza and then the Universal Music Group building on 8th Avenue and 50th Street. “This march cannot hurt,” said Blow. “It can only help.”
Five of James Brown’s children also marched with Mallory and Sharpton on what would have marked Brown’s 74th birthday. “In the last conversation I had with James Brown, he said to me, ‘We have to clean up the music,” Sharpton said. “This is a birthday gift for him.”