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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

American poetry at the WH -tempest in a tea party pot

Some of you may have read DKos diarist LaurenMonica’s FoxNews’ outrage: Black rapper performing at the WH

Here is the actual event:

 A transcript of the President’s introductory remarks remarks can be found  at

As a lover of poetry I concur with this statement by the President:

The power of poetry is that everybody experiences it differently.  There are no rules for what makes a great poem.  Understanding it isn’t just about metaphor or meter.  Instead, a great poem is one that resonates with us, that challenges us and that teaches us something about ourselves and the world that we live in.

Artists at the event were: Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann, Jill Scott and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Lawrence O’ Donnell and Melissa Harris-Perry did a great take-down on right wing reactions to hip-hop culture (and Common) this last night.

Of course – the focus or racialists and teahadists was on Common.  

Harris-Perry points out that the Tea Party has no problem using rhetoric about resistance to government but when they cherry pick the body of Common’s work and find one line which sounds just like many they have made – they freak out.  

Why?  Cause Common is black – and a rapper.

Thankfully, Barack and Michelle understand that a celebration of American  poetry includes multiple perspectives – including those of African Americans.

Click Track – WaPo’s music blog by Chris Richards had this piece on Common:

Lists: Are the lyrics from Common’s five biggest hits really all that “vile”?

Richard’s calls Common “cuddly” and points to lyrics from his most popular tracks:

Yesterday, Common’s critics took to airwaves, zeroing in on a political poem the rapper delivered at a Def Poetry Jam event during the Bush years. But a look at his lyric book shows a much different guy. Here are some lyrics from Common’s five highest-charting songs – some of which posit him as a man of values.

– “Reminding Me (of Sef),” in which he gets nostalgic for the good old days in his hometown of Chicago: “Before these minds got a hold to some drugs/And start thinkin’ they thugs/ We’d be at the Bismarck, and the Racquetball club.”

– “The Light,” in which he builds a romantic relationship with the help of God: “They say the end is near, it’s important that we close to the most, high/ Regardless of what happens, on him let’s rely.”

– “Come Close,” in which he promotes fidelity and matrimony: “I just want you to know/ Your whole being is beautiful/ I’m going to do the best I can do/ Cause I’m my best when I’m with you.”

– “Go!” in which he gets a little freaky, but far from filthy : “Free love I wanna see/Uh, hot sex in the third degree/Uh, you gettin’ served while servin’ me/Uh, dirty words encourage me…”

– “Universal Mind Control,” in which he recycles old school hip-hop-isms: “Some pop, some lock, some move robotic/Like cash money, I stay in pocket/You MCs ra-ra-ra rock, don’t stop it.”

I am encouraged that every event of this type at the White House reflects the diversity of American art, poetry and music, and am especially encouraged by the fact that FLOTUS has held workshops with HS students before each event.

I have not linked to any of the racist remarks, comments or news articles surrounding this event.  A simple google will get you to them quickly, should you be so inclined.

This teahadist tempest is simply another furor fingering the POTUS and the First Lady as besmirchers of the purity of a white house that is from their perspective only supposed to have white inhabitants.  Yet another “othering” of us.  

How does their perspective  differ from the DAR  ban on Marian Anderson in 1939?  It doesn’t.

We’ve come a long way since 1939 – but we still have a long way to go.  

Thank you POTUS and FLOTUS for moving us forward.

cross posted to Daily Kos


  1. DeniseVelez

    if they have a “suggestion box”?  I can think of quite a few young poets I’d like to see there.

  2. jsfox

    over Commons has been a  astounding, but unsurprising. Let’s face it if you are black and a hip hop artist you are a gangsta by default in the minds of Faux news it’s consumers.

    John Stewart also took Foxs to task over this last night.

  3. not because I don’t find poetry interesting. I read the diary and comments with interest. The main reason I wasn’t going to leave a comment is because I am so tired of responding to the latest faux outrage from the right. There has been a constant barrage of manufactured outrage ever since President Obama won the election.

    Every day brings a new outrage. First the outrage then the outrage on the left over the outrage. It’s almost like we end up validating their complaints. I’m done. The only response their going to get from me from now on is a mocking laugh at their more egregious efforts.

  4. HappyinVT

    Fox news alerts concerned white people everywhere that there is a new common enemy (not apologizing) for their two minute hate. This time it is Rev. Wright Barack Obama Michelle Obama Eric Holder Van Jones Shirley Sherrod black farmers the new Black Panther Party Charlie Rangel DesirĂ©e Rogers Rev. Joseph Lowery ACDC’s Back in Black Black Hole Sun The Man in Blackblack black BLACK BLACKITY BLACK BLACK! rapper Common:


    Sarah Palin took issue with the White House inviting Grammy Award-winning rapper and actor Common, born Lonnie Rashin Lynn Jr., to a poetry event hosted by the first lady on Wednesday night.

       During an appearance on Fox News’ “On the Record,” Palin said, “The White House’s judgment on inviting someone who would glorify cop killing during Police Memorial Week, of all times, you know, the judgment, it’s just so lacking of class and decency.”

    The next part I simply find impossible to spoof:


    In weighing in on the matter, Palin said despite her criticism she’s “not a proponent of stifling any kind of free speech.” She added, “I’m not anti-rap. In fact, like Bret Baier, I know the lyrics to ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ too.

    The Sugarhill Gang, rap artist of choice for the wingnut set.

  5. spacemanspiff

    This is him in 1995.

    See how consistent he is.


    Verse One:

    I stagger in the gathering possessed by a patter-in

    That be scatterin

    Over the global my vocals be travellin

    Unravellin my abdomen it’s slime that’s babblin

    Grammatics that are masculine

    I grab them in, verbally badgerin broads

    I wish that Madelline, was back on Video LP

    I went against all odds and got it even steven

    Proceed to read and not believin everything I’m readin

    But my brain was bleedin, needin feedin, and exercise

    I didn’t seek the best of buys, it’s a lie to textualize

    I analyze where I rest my eyes

    And chastise the best of guys with punchlines

    I’m Nestle when it’s Crunch-time

    For your mind like one time

    If poetry was pussy I’d be sunshine

    cause I deliver like the Sun-Times

    Confined in once-mines on dumb rhymes I combine

    I’m hype like I’m unsigned, my diet I unswine

    Eatin beef sometimes I try to cut back on that shit

    This rap shit is truly outta control

    My style is too developed to be arrested

    It’s the freestyle, so now it’s out on parole

    They tried to hold my soul in a holding cell so I would sell

    I bonded with a break and had enough to make bail

    A misdemeanor fell on his knee for the jury

    I asked No for his ID and the judge thought there was two of me

    Motion for a recess to retest my fingerprints

    They relinquished since, cause I was guilty in a sense


    Mos Def and Talib Kwali are others who come to mind.

    Immortal Technique and even Zach De La Rocha from Rage Against The Machine too.

    But they are a bit to, uh, volatile? (lol!) for the mainstream.

  6. HappyinVT

    Because it’s not enough that Common is advocating for killing cop but, by extension, the president is, too.

  7. Rashaverak

    “It was a kick ass mentality too,” says the former Fox News insider. “It was relentless and it never went away. If one controversy faded, goddamn it they would find another one. They were in search of these points of friction real or imagined. And most of them were imagined or fabricated. You always have to seem to be under siege. You always have to seem like your values are under attack. The brain trust just knew instinctively which stories to do, like the War on Christmas.”

    Just like the gossip columnists always need fresh gossip.

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