Yesterday, August 14th, Russell Simmons‘ All Def Digital (ADD) YouTube Network launched, a channel that was spawned from collaboration between Rush Digital Media, Simmons’ media company, and Dreamworks’ massively popular auxillary channel Awesomeness TV. “YouTube will benefit from having a network that reflects the incredible diversity of the new America,” Simmons stated in a press release about ADD. Also collaborating closely with Google and Global Grind, the project seeks to promote and showcase new music, poetry, and comedy.
But it is this last portion that has Uncle Rush in some very hot water.
As part of yesterday’s launch, All Def Digital uploaded a scandalous Harriet Tubman sex tape parody, in which the historical figure is depicted seducing and having sex with her White master in order to help free another male slave. Weak jokes and historical inaccuracies aside, the three minute video is also egregiously offensive because of the sad construction of Black female sexual dynamics it seemingly promotes. Critics of the clip included the NAACP, Black feminist groups, the twitterverse, and beyond, who were disgusted by the blatant reduction of Black history and slave rape into tasteless humor for clicks.
Several big names also responded, including John Legend, who tweeted “Harriet Tubman?? Say it ain’t so,
@UncleRUSH“. Roland Martin also took to Twitter, saying: “Bruh @unclerush, Harriet Tubman is SACRED to our people. Anyone even thinking this skit up should have been cussed out with the quickness…Harriet’s OUR hero! 2nd @unclerush, too many Black women paid the ultimate price during slavery w/heir bodies, & we as Black men were powerless. This is WRONG.”
Bearing the burden of the backlash (and the effects of this change.org petition), Simmons apologized for the video and retracted comments like his previous “funniest thing I’ve ever seen“. Simmons, who has very recently advocated for causes like Trayvon Martin’s and domestic violence wrote on Global Grind:
“In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian. When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.
I’m a very liberal person with thick skin and it’s hard to offend me. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of the actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master, I thought that was politically correct. Silly me. I guess I’m older now and instead of fighting for one piece of content, I can understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.”
Though the video has since been removed from the ADD channel, it is still available on other Youtube channels.
–Ese Olumhense (@140LetterEssay)