Students at Spelman College, the historically Black women’scollege in Atlanta, protested an appearance at their bone-marrowdrive by St. Louis rapper Nelly and his foundation 4 sho 4 kids,last Friday. The bone-marrow drive, which was being sponsored byNelly’s foundation, was immediately canceled after the foundationwas told the administration could not guarantee a protest-freearrival.
In a statement released to the press, VicePresident of Student Affairs Dr. Zenobia Hikes said, “Spelman isconcerned about the negative images of women in popular culture,particularly the misogynistic lyrics and images that constantlyportray women in a sexual nature.”
The point of contention for many students wasNelly’s latest video “Tip Drill,” which has only been approved toair on BET’s after-hours video program Uncut and local rapvideo shows due to its racy content. Throughout the video, womenare dressed in bikinis, run around topless, and are shown makingout with one another. One scene in particular shows Nelly swiping acredit card down the middle of a woman’s backside.
No stranger to controversy, Nelly put manyleaders of the Black community in an uproar last fall when he wasset to release a new line of energy drinks called Pimp Juice, aname taken from one of his hit singles. But unlike thecontroversial business venture last fall, Nelly’s agenda forbone-marrow donors stems from his relationship with Jackie Donahue,his sister who was diagnosed with Leukemia last summer.
According to a 2003 CBS News report,African-Americans are the most difficult minorities to find bonemarrow matches, with four out of 10 going unmatched.
Knowing these facts, some felt Spelmanstudents who took action were being fickle. A report from MTV Newseven went as far as to point the finger at the students, stating:”Upset over the way he portrays women in his videos, [Spelman] haspressured the rapper and his foundation … to cancel a bone marrowdrive on campus.” In addition to the story, a message board wasposted on MTV’s website in response to the story. The message boardwas ablaze with negative remarks about the students’ actions.
“It is sad that these students can’t put theirbeef with Nelly on hold for a greater cause,” read one of themessages from a user identified as Marchelle.
To the students who protested, Nelly’sappearance would have compromised Spelman’s reputation of being oneof the most prominent educational institutions of its kind, and thepush for more bone-marrow donors in the African-American communitycould be met in other ways.
“We’re all about saving lives and getting themessage out about the need for bone marrow donors,” said KatrinaRogers, a junior majoring in English at Spelman, who claims she wasnot a part of the protest. “But we’re seen as a haven for women,and not everyone wants to see a person like Nelly appear.”Representatives from 4 sho 4 Kids were unavailable for comment.