Rapper/actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges stirred major controversy at the third annual VIBE awards when it aired on UPN Tuesday, November 15 last week.
The rapper donned a confederate flag across his shoulders as he performed "Georgia," alongside fellow Atlanta-based hip hop group Field Mob. Ludacris’ display of the confederate flag caused outraged viewers, to say that his attire signified the apparent ignorance of hip hop artists.
The rapper performed, "Georgia,"which features a sample of Ray Charles’ classic of the same name. The song lyrics both praise and criticize Georgia, it acclaims the the food, women, and traditions of the "dirty south," but notes the racism of the past and present.
Ludacris’ lyrics included some attributes of Georgia the artist sees as positive: "Where Gladys Knight took a Midnight Train/ The birthplace of Martin Luther King/ Where the a** so plump and the hips are thick/ Where ‘lac trucks sit on 26’s." The song highlights negative features of southern life as well: "When you see them confederate flags/ You know what it is/ Your folks picked cotton here/ That’s why we call it the Field."
In response to public outrage and criticism over the performance, Ludacris released a formal statement in defense of his actions on Wednesday night. "The discussions that have been sparked after my performance of "Georgia" at the 2005 VIBE Awards is my exact reason for wearing a depiction of the Confederate Flag," he said.
"This flag represents the oppression that we as African Americans have endured for years. This is a symbol of segregation and the racism that reigned not only throughout the South but throughout the entire United States." Ludacris asserted that he wore the flag not in glorification of oppression in the past, but in honor of the struggle out of it.
"I wore it to represent where we came from, to remind people that Ray Charles’ original "Georgia" was written because of that racism. At the end of the performance, I removed and stomped on the flag to reveal my version of the flag; a flag comprised of black, red and green. Those are the colors of Africa. It is a representation and my interpretation of where we were and where we need to go. Racism is just as prevalent now and if we are not constantly mindful of our history and take charge of it, history is destined to repeat itself because of ignorance. In order to move forward, we must never forget where we were."
Many viewers claim not to have seen Ludacris remove the flag and stomp on it. The VIBE Awards show was pre-taped, and edited for time and content. It is unclear whether the footage was shown. Ludacris believes the controversy sparked by his carrying the flag is just what is needed to get a dialogue going among people about what goes on in the world around them.
"I hope people continue to question and challenge authority, media and themselves because questioning and challenging can only lead to enlightenment," he said.