As was reported in multiple news outlets a few days ago, musician Rick Ross was attending a meeting at the White House for “My Brother’s Keeper.” MBK (as it is called) is an initiative created by President Obama, ostensibly to assist young people, mostly disenfranchised young people, with building themselves a better future with more opportunities.
“That’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about. Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.” – President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014
In fact, MBK is focused on six particular missions, called milestones on the Keeper website, one of them being to “keep kids on track and give them second chances.” Celebrity names litter the My Brother’s Keeper website and conferences that are held: Stephen Curry, Kendrick Lamar, Michael B. Jordan, Nicki Minaj… and DJ Khaled… and Rick Ross? It get sketchier by the name. My Brother’s Keeper doesn’t seem to have any problem being selective about who they have headlining their events or inviting as notable guests. Yes, you read that correctly: inviting.
Khaled and Ross, among more than a few notable names in the music industry, were invited to the White House a few days ago for the MBK meeting. Reportedly, right after President Obama finished speaking, Ross’ ankle monitor beeped loudly. Yes, Rick Ross, the dude with the ankle monitor he was assigned after allegedly kidnapping and pistol whipping someone. Yes, Rick Ross, the musician who warbled such delightful lyrics as: “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it.” Yes, Rick Ross, the guy who only apologized for promoting date rape in his music after losing endorsement money from shoe manufacturers, hearing backlash from fans online, and, amazingly enough, not being called to the carpet by other well known musicians. This Rick Ross, in all his glory, was actually invited to the White House by My Brother’s Keeper.
How are we to trust the My Brother’s Keeper initiative truly aims to lead, guide, and teach impressionable youth, who are already at a disadvantage, if the people they choose to invite are the kind who make a living preaching through their music about illicit drug use, extreme amounts of violence, and even objectifying women through lyrics about and music videos featuring sexual violence? Are those the people we’d like teaching our children, well, anything?
Where are the teachers and the writers? Where are the scientists and engineers of color? Where are the religious and devout, the community organizers and the street activists? Where, in these MBK meetings are the men and women who came from prisons and bad decisions to turn their own lives around before beginning to live their lives teaching others how not to make the same mistakes? Where are the inspirational and encouraging speakers, the authors of worlds of fiction and photos of history?
Let’s be realistic: people are people, and we all make mistakes. This isn’t about dehumanizing Ross or engaging in respectability politics, this is about the best men and women for the job. When we think of First Lady Obama’s initiative, Let’s Move, we think of people who are actually moving. Her photo-ops are filled with dancing, smiling, laughing adults and children doing exactly what Let’s Move is about: getting active and staying that way. They aren’t talking about moving and then going home to pump themselves and their kids full of junk while they lounge on the sofa binge-watching Netflix and picking up the pounds faster than the quarter pounders.
Is Rick Ross, the man who is in hot water for violence, the man who was proud of lyrics describing how he would rape a woman, the man who has made his living rapping about illicit drugs and guns the best man for the job of educating our children and sharing hope with them?
Is DJ Khaled, the man who put out a song featuring the Lil’ Wayne lyrics, “I’m killing these hoes… I’m trying to stop the violence,” the man for the job?
Maybe MBK shouldn’t worry about keeping up with the top of the rap and pop charts and should start thinking about spending time and brainstorming with people who are using their actual brains. The think tank should be filled with people who are thinking about our children, about more and various opportunities for them, and about how and what to teach them. I mean, come on, there were even comments online about how smartly Ross dressed in order to hide the ankle monitor. Photos are all over the internet of his looking proud and puffed up, in his natty suit, smiling and Much Cooler Than All Of Us at the White House.
I guess even our President has stars in his eyes – I just wish more of those stars were actually the type that shine.
Tansy is a writer and professional nail artist. She lives in Kansas with her husband HB, shih-tzu Missus, and shares her writings, advocacy work with the Shirley Ann Sullivan Educational Foundation, and nail art with the world at @TheRealTansy on Instagram and The Real Tansy on both Facebook and Tumblr.