By NICK CHILES
UPDATE: Oxygen officially announced it has cancelled Shawty Lo’s “All My Babies’ Mamas,” a reality show that was to chronicle the relationship between the rapper and the 10 mothers of his 11 children. Oxygen’s official statement is at the end of this post.
Let’s all say a big “Amen” to the power of the people.
With word that Oxygen has come to its senses and decided to cancel the almost-aired Shawty Lo debacle “All My Babies’ Mamas,” as reported by Allison Samuels on the Daily Beast, let us acknowledge that the final word, the ultimate authority, in our consumer-driven culture is, blessedly, the consumer.
It is fitting that in the week we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and give thanks for the changes that he wrought in this nation with his singular vision and courage, we should see evidence once again that when we marshal our voices and demand change, the powers-that-be have no choice but to fall back.
Some might cringe at the idea that King’s legacy to black America is that he gave us the tools to fight such mind-bending craziness as the Shawty Lo show, which was poised to exploit the dramas of a house containing the rapper’s 10 baby mamas and their 11 kids. But it would only be cringe-inducing if we let it stop with Oxygen and Shawty Lo.
No, the real lesson of this movement should be that we have an undeniable power that we can use to bring about change wherever we see the need. In a time of self-centered frivolity, it is easy to get lost in our own little worlds of guilty pleasures—television shows, movies, books that celebrate our worst instincts and don’t challenge us to think very deeply about the world we live in and the things we can do to make it better. But every once in a while something so outrageous penetrates our little bubbles of selfish preoccupation and we are inspired to do something about it. Maybe Oxygen provided us this week with the wake-up call to realize we can also apply our power in other areas.
Author Sabrina Lamb started a hugely successful petition drive to show Oxygen how offended we were by their plans. She explained her motives here on MyBrownBaby two weeks ago and ultimately got nearly 40,000 signatures. We extend a hearty “kudos” to her!
Perhaps we can corral our collective outrage and direct it next at the gun manufacturers flooding our communities with weapons and help along the fight for meaningful gun control policy. Or maybe the police departments in cities like Chicago, where they are not putting a stop to the violence our young black men are inflicting on each other—and everybody else in the city. Or we could pick the 10 lowest-performing school districts in Black America and petition the mayors, city councils and Congresspeople in those municipalities to make changes so black children can thrive in these failing schools. Or get justice for Jordan Jordan, Trayvon Martin and other young black men killed at the hands of whites for just… being.
In other words, let this Oxygen story be a reminder to us of how powerful we are. We have a trillion dollars in spending power, so how dramatic would it be to take a lesson from our elders in the Civil Rights Movement and start using boycotts to bring about change?
We watch more television than any other community in America, so maybe we could start demanding more shows with positive images. It’s something we complain about all the time, but Sabrina Lamb and the thousands who signed petitions and wrote pieces like the one I did on New Year’s Day all demonstrated that when we move beyond the complaint stage and actually commit ourselves to a cause, we can get anything we want.
Oxygen heard our roar and backed down from the latest attempt at exploiting us. Let’s not stop there. Who’s next? Who do you think should be our next target?
As Gandhi instructed us, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
UPDATE: The following statement was made by an Oxygen spokesperson, who released it to The Griot.
“As part of our development process, we have reviewed casting and decided not to move forward with the special. We will continue to develop compelling content that resonates with our young female viewers and drives the cultural conversation.”