Earlier this year, Rapper Lil’ Wayne was lost PepsiCo as a sponsor and received backlash from iconic legends like Stevie Wonder for a lyric that disrespected Emmett Till, a Black teenager whose racially-charged death in 1955 incited the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
In disrespecting important figures in Black history it looks like Russell Simmons is next. The hip-hop mogul said that a few of his “buddies” at the NAACP encouraged him to remove what is being criticized as an offensive video spoof starring Black abolitionist Harriet Tubman from his new YouTube channel, All Def Digital (ADD). He later posted an apology on GlobalGrind.com, a website on which he serves as editor-in-chief.
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” Simmons wrote. “My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me.”
The “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” parodies how Tubman was able to lead hundreds of slaves through secret routes of the Underground Railroad to freedom by suggesting that Tubman built her legacy by having sex with plantation owners and later blackmailing them.
“This our only chance to getting freedoms,” the actress playing Tubman, Shanna Malcolm, tells a hopeful slave, played by YouTube personality DeStorm Power.
Camera in hand, the slave sings famous spiritual “Wade in the Water” as he watches Tubman seduce her slave owner, played by Jason Horton, from a nearby closet.
“All these years I’ve been actin’ like I didn’t love our special time together,” Tubman tells her “master,” implying that he has forced her to have sex with him before. “Tonight that’s all gon’ be different.”
After the aggressive encounter, the lens of camera emerges from the closet as Tubman tells the slave owner that now she has “leverage,” and can blackmail him if he did not do as she wished.
“I’m gon’ be telling everybody about your Negro love,” she says.
In reality, Tubman faced re-enslavement and death each of the 19 times returned South to serve as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad and guide slaves to the northern, free states, according to her biography published on PBS.org. In March of this year, President Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, where she lived for most of her life.
Both Malcolm and Power have both responded to the criticism spoof has received via Twitter.
Malcolm tweeted: “I dont say I hold no accountability as an actor in a project but I know that the idea was to turn history on its head & as such the manipulation/exploitation of the ‘white man’ character instead of a historically accurate reenactment. It failed…”
Power, who has more than one million followers on Twitter, was less apologetic: “The ppl, the woman and fans in my life know what I stand for. Apologizing o twitter to ppl not even following me is, dumb.”
The NAACP did not release a statement regarding the matter, but a spokesperson confirmed with the AmNews that an official from the NAACP did call Simmons to say that the video was “inappropriate.”