Well, at least so it seems, what with the enthusiasm that prevailed over participants on the â€œHappy Funeralâ€ of N-Word.
By: Michael H. Cottman DETROIT â€“ The “N-word,” so says the NAACP, is dead. Thousands of NAACP delegates at the organization’s 98th annual convention here marched downtown Monday behind a horse-drawn carriage pulling a pine casket symbolizing the death of the N-word, cheering as it was “laid to rest.”
The coffin will be placed at Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery, complete with headstone. There were no tears, no remorse, and nobody had anything good to say about the deceased. “Today we’re not just burying the N-word, we’re taking it out of our spirit,” Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told the crowd at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. “We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the ‘pimps’ and the ‘hos’ that go with it. You have to bury all the nonsense that comes with it,” Kilpatrick said.
“Good riddance,” Kilpatrick said. “Die, N-word. We donâ€™t want to see you around here no more.” The mock funeral is a part of the NAACP “STOP” Campaign, an initiative of the NAACP Youth & College Division that seeks to prevent the demeaning images of African-Americans in the media, particularly with respect to the portrayal of black women. The N-word has been used as a slur against black people for more than a century. It remains a symbol of racism, but also is used by some blacks when referring to other blacks, especially in comedy routines and rap music. “This is the first funeral Iâ€™ve attended where weâ€™re happy to be here,” Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACPâ€™s national board of directors, told a cheering crowd in the sweltering heat. “The N-word deserves to be dead.” Rap industry legend Kurtis Blow joined the NAACP in eliminating the use of derogatory terms and images aimed at and used by African-Americans. Blow was among a number of entertainers, intellectuals and community leaders who participated in the Monday event. “This is truly a happy funeral,” Blow told the audience. “Letâ€™s bury the N-word and bury the mindset. Blow, who said he is now a licensed minister, told the crowd that after recording about 150 rap songs over 35 years, he did not use profane language. “I never used the N-word,” Blow said. “Iâ€™m living proof that itâ€™s possible to rap or do hip-hop and not offend anyone.” Bond said vulgar lyrics in rap and on the radio must end. “Weâ€™ve always been objectors to the part of our culture that denigrates African-Americans,” Bond told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “Burying the N-word and not using disgusting language applies to everyone — from Don Imus to rappers.” Bond said the controversy surrounding Don Imus, the radio talk show host who was fired after he called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos,” underscored why a national movement to ban the N-word was necessary. “Seven young people are on our board of directors, and they are spearheading this initiative,” Bond said. “This is the continuation of a long fight against the denigration of African-Americans in popular culture. If it’s someone black or someone white, it’s equally wrong.” Several cities including New York have recently passed resolutions to ban the word. Last weekend in Houston, a group of black residents gathered at a local cemetery to bury the N-word in a coffin. In Detroit, NAACP Vice Chairman Roslyn Brock said Mondayâ€™s mock funeral is important for black self esteem. “Itâ€™s important for us to take the N-word out of our vocabulary because we canâ€™t expect other people to respect us if we donâ€™t respect ourselves,” Brock told BlackAmericaWeb.com. Brock said the mock funeral to bury the N-word is symbolic, and the gesture itself has a history in the NAACP. In 1944, the NAACP Detroit chapter staged a mock funeral to bury Jim Crow. Mondayâ€™s event, Brock said, “connects us with our history and ties us to our past.” Public discussion on the use of the word and other racially insensitive remarks increased last year following a tirade by “Seinfeld” actor Michael Richards, who used the slur repeatedly during a Los Angeles comedy routine. The issue heated up earlier this year after Imus used derogatory language to describe black members of the Rutgers University womens basketball team on his now-canceled radio show. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and others have challenged the entertainment industry and the American public to stop using the N-word and other racial slurs. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, appeared on CNN Monday and said it will be “difficult to legislate the N-word” because many blacks — and black men in particular — consider the N-word “as a term of endearment.” Indeed, just days before the NAACP’s N-word burial in Detroit, some residents of the South Georgia town of Barnesville, celebrated what has become known as Nigga Day. The event formally dubbed the Barnesville Heritage Festival was held Saturday in its Ritz Park, featuring band performances, inspirational dancers and a few vendors. But on one side of town, youths and young adults wondered aimlessly in the streets, and when asked by a visitor taping the events â€˜whatâ€™s going on?â€™ they replied repeatedly, “Itâ€™s Nigga Day.”
â€œRegardless of what the NAACP attempts to do by burying the N word, it still will be widely used because it is so engrained in the psyche of our youths,â€ said Dr. Mike Weaver, an Atlanta-based researcher.
Weaver, who travels the country conducting seminars on empowerment and self-esteem, said he had heard about Nigga Day and decided to go and check it out for himself with camera in hand. Other small towns in South Georgia are said to have similar events that began as a way of commemmorating when slaves on the area’s plantations learned that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
â€œAn event like this needs to include seminars to help young people raise their self-esteem and learn more about their heritage,â€ Weaver told BlackAmericaWeb.com. Then they will understand why they should not use degrading terms to describe and relate to themselves, he said.
Dyson said among black Americans “there are differences, complexities and nuances.” But, he added, the N-word “is not a term white people can use.” Stephanie L. Brown, director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, brought the crowd to its feet at Hart Plaza. “The use of the N-word is unacceptable,” she said. “Every time we use the N-word, we disgrace the ancestors who came before us.” —
Sherrel Wheeler Stewart and Associated Press contributed to this story.