November hasn't been the best month for Bay Area rappers. Last week Allhiphop.com reported that Planet Asia, Grammy nominee and member of Skhoolyard, was assaulted at a club in Minneapolis on the 10th. "Asia charges that eight security guards assaulted him after a performance on Sunday, as he tried to reenter backstage without a pass," says the site. It's not clear exactly what happened, since at this point neither side is talking anymore in the wake of a possible lawsuit. But one source says Asia reported choking on his own blood, adding "and security wouldn't stop until I hollered out, "I can't breathe.'"
Asia and the rest of his crew are known for being, shall we say, "outspoken," and it wouldn't be out of character for Asia to have a verbal altercation with the security guard. But then the employee in question allegedly called for seven backup guys, all white. "It wouldn't have happened if it was Paul McCartney," says hip-hop think-tank operator Davey D. "I've seen many larger acts throw major hissy fits. I witnessed Diana Ross curse out some people -- clubs allow this stuff to go on. It's not an unusual thing when you are dealing with artists, who are often temperamental people. But what does Planet Asia mean to these guys? Nothing. Even though they just saw him perform, they asked him for backstage passes. Guards push that limit in clubs; it's kind of like a sport. "Who the hell do these guys think they are? We're security.'"
Indeed, many clubs seem to go out of their way to hire Stanford Prison Experiment rejects to provide the muscle -- guys who are just waiting for someone to fuck up, and who are itchier than a skinhead at an NAACP parade. But smart club owners know that a good door guy is not brawn over brains, but brains over brawn. Good security defuses a situation instead of igniting it.
"There's also a cultural divide," says Davey. "Black or Latino artists show up at a club that mostly hosts rock 'n' roll, and the whole vibe and exchange is different." Translation: People are racist. And black artists, to paraphrase Chris Rock, are born suspects, guilty until proven innocent.
Just ask Deep Dickollective, the queer Oakland hip-hop group that Planet Clair profiled in February as being, at least in the eyes of the mostly white gay community, black first and queer second ("Straight Trippin'," February 6). Early this month they were asked to perform at InterPride, a conference that brings together pride groups from cities all over the world. "InterPride is a chance for all the different festivals to come together and make community, trade information," says Juba Kalamka, a member of the Dickollective. "We decided to perform -- I thought, okay, they're not paying any money on this gig, but if this means there's some fags in Johannesburg that we can make connections with, then it's worth it for me."
When he and his fellow crewmembers entered the Ramada Plaza Hotel for the event, no one greeted them, no one told them where to set up. After flagging down a sound technician, they loaded in their equipment and then proceeded to wander around the conference, killing time before their set. Like most of the attendees -- of whom 90 percent were white, Kalamka says -- he headed for the buffet. He was enjoying his chicken and salad when some guy in a suit walked up to him and asked, "Who are you? Why are you here?"
"I'm from Deep Dickollective," Kalamka recalls saying. "'Who are you? And why do you need to know?' Then he said something about ... that there were homeless people that had been wandering through the hotel. So I said, 'You need to to go talk to security about that.' He asked if we had laminates. I said, 'Do you have a laminate for me? Who are you? Why are you talking to me when there are forty people right around here in this conference who don't have laminates either?'"
Immediately after the man walked away, SF Pride's Joshua Smith walked up to Kalamka and apologized, but not for what had just happened. It seemed the other three members of the Dickollective had also been messed with by people from the conference. (They weren't hotel security, apparently, since the guards were later identified for Kalamka and his harasser wasn't among them.)
The members of Deep Dickollective were incensed, but not surprised. Pride groups are dominated by white men, partly because blacks and Latinos have a harder time coming out in their cultures, and partly because most pride groups don't go out of their way to make people of color feel welcome.
For those who stuck around to hear the hip-hop group perform, they got an earful. "I was pissed," says Kalamka. "I made sure to make mention of it several times onstage. I said, 'It's good to be here, and nice to know that even after you get invited to an InterPride event that you are still just a bunch of scary niggers walking into a room in San Francisco.'"
This whole fiasco has been very embarrassing for SF Pride, the event's host. "We are investigating the incident," says executive director Teddy Witherington, "and are committed to following through on that. This is a matter that San Francisco Pride takes very seriously, because we have been at the forefront of pushing the envelope of inclusion, and when events like this happen it's horrific for us, it's horrific for Deep Dickollective, it's horrific for everyone."
East Bay Pride has officially recused itself from attending future InterPride events as a result of Deep Dick's experience. But the rappers themselves aren't sure they're ready to stop performing for what amounts to the "gay establishment."
"It's really a whole issue of being visible," says Kalamka. "It meant something to me to have a fiftyish woman come up to me and do cartwheels that night, saying that she had never seen a group like us. That's why we do it. I spoke up about this not because I thought there was something that could be done about it, or should be done. I wanted people to know, and to expose the hypocrisy."
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