What was Russell Simmons thinking?

Or was he thinking at all when he allowed his new YouTube channel to post a video that purportedly showed Harriet Tubman having sex with a white slave master and blackmailing him into letting her start the Underground Railroad?

The notion of a sex tape involving Harriet Tubman, who helped lead dozens of slaves to freedom through a series of routes and safe houses that stretched from the American South to the North, is incomprehensible. This warrior woman was an abolitionist whose name should never be associated with such trash. Now, when schoolchildren learning about her search Google they will first come across Tubman’s name and “sex tape.”

That is truly a sin and a shame.

Simmons now says he is sorry for what he saw as satire. It was no doubt designed to grab attention for the launch of his new channel, “All Def Digital.” Oh it’s “Def” alright — tone deaf. Someone working for the channel should have thought better of posting a video billed as an off the record account of how Tubman blackmailed her “Massa” into letting her run the Underground Railroad. In it, we see a large-busted black woman is sitting in bed smoking a cigarette and talking junk to her slave master about how she now had him over a barrel. Meanwhile, another slave is videotaping the sex act from the closet.

After the video was posted on Aug. 14, some members of the NAACP called Simmons and asked him to take it down post-haste.

The video was quickly yanked, but not before it was viewed by the masses. Russell, my brother, this was wrong on so many levels and a verbal apology isn’t enough to undo the damage.

I heard about the sex tape controversy Thursday night while driving home from Birmingham. We’d spent the day learning about the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and hundreds of young people who risked life and limb to protest segregated conditions in Birmingham. We strolled through Kelly Ingram Park, a place where police blasted children with water hoses and released dogs on people who were simply trying to be free.

If this is what I suspect it was — a crude attempt to draw attention to a new product — perhaps Russell Simmons and his staff should take a field trip to Birmingham or Montgomery, Ala. or to Jackson, Miss. Better yet, maybe they should visit the center in Cincinnati, OH dedicated to the Underground Railroad. Maybe then they would fully respect the history of our people and realize the institution of slavery brought too much pain and misery to our people to ever be viewed in a joking manner.

To learn more about the real Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad go to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center at: http://freedomcenter.org/

3 thoughts on “What was Russell Simmons thinking?

  1. Soror,I love this blog!! I saw a ton of chatter on Twitter about this Tubman tape, and thanks to you, now I understand all the outrage. Wow, when are we going to stop going for the shock to get the exposure. Sad..very sad and incredibly disappointing! Love ya!!

    • Love you too Clarissa. I am disappointed in Russell. Remember the flap about an artist using Rosa Parks in a song. I think her estate may have sued. I’m all for free speech but with his level of power and influence comes more responsible decision making.

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