Monday, September 08, 2008

Living Down to Expectations

By Natalie Y. Moore (

During his first term, his nicknames in the local media ran the gamut: "Big Diamond," "thug," "pimp," "player," "Kwame Soprano," "Swami," "his thugness," "ghetto," "gangsta," "inept club crawler," "hustler," "Puffy Kilpatrick." Often it was just plain ole Kwame—the reverent title of "Mayor," "Mr. Mayor" or "Mr. Kilpatrick" chucked aside.

Back then, stereotypical characterizations like that made me cringe and embarrassed for my colleagues in the news media. Now, as Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced his resignation and heads to jail, all I can do is just shake my head. He is fulfilling a prophecy the media laid out for him long before the indictment, before the jail stint, before he sent enough sordid text messages to his married chief of staff to fill a bookcase full of Zane novels.

Black politicians of the world, especially the upcoming generation of leadership, please, please! Listen closely: Stop letting the media write your script! This was the message in the first chapter of my book, "Deconstructing Tyrone," a profile of Kilpatrick that doubled as a cautionary media tale.

Monday, April 30, 2007

You're Grounded!

Blame Imus for the heightened passions flowing after our final DT event: a film screening and panel discussion at University of Chicago, part of a 2-day symposium that asked, "Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?" The Natalies were sitting on a panel of academics when an older black gentleman stood up in the audience, his tan tailored suit suggesting his marched-with-King Civil Rights bonafides. The man proceeded to trash, then dismiss hip-hop with a wave of his hand. Then he stormed off.
*Deep sigh*
Let's be clear: our pre-Imus book contains many, many rants against the misogyny rampant in some kinds of commercial rap--at times subtle, other times expletive-filled. But with all due respect, The Natalies could not sit quietly as our elders condemned the entire culture and generation that we call hip-hop without taking the time to learn anything about it. So Nat. M tried to shed some light:
"You know, I'm really tired of hearing from these Civil Rights Generation folks, who are really smug..."
Yes, as our fellow panelist Mark Anthony Neal remarked later--Nat M. went there.
As the event winded down, a 60-year-old black woman made a beeline down the auditorium steps toward Nat. M, interrupting her conversation with another jaded CRM audience member. "You were out of line!" the woman scolded Nat.
She might as well have sent her outside to fetch a switch off the tree.
Somehow, some people seem to have the mistaken impression that those of us in the Hip-Hop Generation are still children. Um, The Natalies are 30 YEARS OLD! One of us even got kids! We are too damn old to be grounded.
Ironic because the overwhelmingly positive response to the book from our parents' generation has been the most surprising and heartening development we've seen on the book tour. We will take the fact that this little fisticuff happened on our final out of town event as progress.

Turns out we actually are grounded--kinda. We've had a blast touring these past several months, jetting from coast to coast to promote Tyrone. It's been grand, but it is time for us say goodbye. In the words of Megan: 'Well, Mr. Berger - I guess this is it...'

This Spring we both will be starting new gigs--Natalie M. has accepted a position covering Chicago's South Side for Chicago Public Radio. Natalie H. has taken a position as an assignment editor in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section.
So...all those snotty jabs you heard us make against mainstream media? How we said there was no one media C-O-N-spiracy because we've worked in MSM and they are not that organized? That stereotypes don't die because they have always worked and media types are too lazy to figure out something new? How the MSM are "not evil," but have "evil-like qualities"?
Just kidding! We will be putting hot sauce on our crow.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gender & Hip-Hop at U of Chicago

CLICK the image for more details...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The B-word

This photo was taken before a DT event at Illinois Service Federal, one of the oldest black banks in Chicago. In this shot, Nat M. is assuring Ty Andrews, the bank's incredulous assistant V.P. that it is totally OK if he reads the word "bitch"-- out loud-- while he introduced us. Caution is always advised when dealing with that word, but in this case, Bitch is a magazine that has published Nat M.'s work. We always get a kick out of watching people squirm when reading that part of her bio.

Maven, Nat. H's 3-year-old (and Nat. M's goddaughter) came along for this leg of the DT tour in Chicago. She was in good spirits at the bank Friday night--despite dealing with three cancelled flights in one week (#%^$@!@! airlines!). She took her job of handing us the books to sign very seriously. But Maven wasn't feeling well at the next day's DT lecture at Englewood library for the Public Square, part of the Illinois Humanities Council's "Know More" series. She curled up in mommy's lap and slept throughout the lecture and Q&A that followed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Madame Walker Theatre Center

On March 10, we were the featured authors for the Madame Walker Theatre Center's spring literary series in Indianapolis. It was a homecoming of sorts: Natalie H's mom Serena was the business manager at the historic theater in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She signed the Hopkinson girls up for creative writing, drama and dance in the center's Youth In Arts program. Pictured here are our Indianapolis Fam: Back, from Left to Right: We have Bruce L. Williams, V.P. of the Walker, Serena Hopkinson, Rev. Moja Ajabu (Debo's dad), Kelli & Diana Daniels, Angie & Ann Brown. Front row: Shannon from the Indianapolis Recorder, which co-sponsored the event, and The Natalies. Thanks everyone who came out and Mr. and Mrs. Daniels for the hospitality!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Live From West Palm Beach

Nat. H has NOT defected to the broadcast side of the news business; She is just giving an interview with a local station that filmed a reception and booksigning at her family's home in West Palm Beach, FL. Many city officials stopped by to wish The Natalies well and also see the the progress of the restoration of the house built in 1926 by a Renaissance-Era Tyrone: James Jerome "Cracker" Johnson, a a black man, who made his fortune in real estate and as a bootlegger/numbers runner. Historians say he loaned (bribed?) the city of West Palm Beach $50,000 to balance the budget during the Depression. West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel stopped by, bought a book and delivered some really kind remarks about Deconstructing Tyrone and the family's restoration efforts. Thanks to the Palm Beach Post, especially C.B. Hanif for coming out to Pyramids Bookstore the editor/historian Jan Tuckwood for stopping by the house and publishing this review. Thanks so much to Nat. H's mom Serena Hopkinson for hosting and organizing!
Update: Click HERE to read the article in the Palm Beach Post about the restoration project.

Friday, February 02, 2007

United States of Hip-Hop

Did we dream it?
Jump off yet another plane, open up the Sunday paper, skip to the Washington Post Book World section and here is this cover illustration for the Jan. 28 issue headlined "The United States of Hip-Hop." Inside are reviews three hip-hop related books, including Deconstructing Tyrone and To the Break of Dawn, a new book on hip-hop by our new BFF William Jelani Cobb. Must be a dream, since we just got back home from kicking it in Atlanta. Also: when Jelani agreed to blurb our book back in Feb. 2006, he jokingly predicted that our books might end up getting grouped together for reviews.
Was NOT a dream, which means that he must be clairvoyant, too...The layout in the print edition of Book World inside had pics of a fedora-and-blinged out Kwame Kilpatrick and other hip-hop generation folk. You can check out the dreamy-but-real review to our book HERE.
Later that week, the Natalies appeared on a panel discussion about black masculinity in hip-hop on Thursday (2/1) at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery which followed an advance screening of "Beyond Beats and Rhymes," Byron Hurt's fantastic documentary which will have its PBS premier on Feb. 20. Michael Eric Dyson was supposed to appear on the panel with us and Byron but he had a last-minute scheduling conflict. We still had a great discussion.
Well folks, our Tyrone done made it to the Smithsonian. Whodathunkit?