The audacity, the utter unmitigated gall of white men knows no bounds and that was on full display when Fireside Fiction released an audio version of an essay written by Dr. Regina Bradley and edited by Maurice Broaddus.
Bradley, a southern, Black woman professor currently shaping minds and building new futures at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, has located her work at the intersections of Blackness, womanhood, and southern Hip-Hop. Her book, Chronicling Stankonia: the Rise of the Hip Hop South, explores how OutKast and southern Hip-Hop influences renderings of the Black American South after the formally organized Civil Rights Movement.
She delves into this rich, gumbo-thick legacy and the afrofuturistic possibilities that are birthed from it in the essay, “Da Art of Speculatin'” — the title itself a play on OutKast’s classic “Da Art of Storytellin’.
Fireside Fiction’s publisher, Pablo Defendini, for some reason unknown to any rational, anti-racist human being, decided to commission Kevin Rineer, a white man, to narrate Bradley’s essay. Not only that, Defendini claims that he didn’t listen to Rineer’s interpretation of Bradley’s work before publishing it on his website.
That was a grave error, but one that could be expected in a society that cares infinitely more about Black women’s labor than Black women.
Rineer moves from a horrible (and fake) Caribbean accent to pure minstrel show. His interpretation of a southern, Black woman’s accent is plantation porn, mammy mimicry, and the kind ignorant, racist imagining of Black southern dialect that one would expect to hear from the caliber of white man who would accept the job in the first place.
Defendini offered an apology on Twitter.
“My personal neglect allowed racist violence to be perpetrated on a Black author, which makes me not just complicit in anti-Black racism, but racist as well. I have to grapple with that, and make amends. I’m not sure exactly how, yet, but some kind of concrete reparation is absolutely called for. I’m speaking with various folks who have reached out (and who I’ve reached out to as well), in order to figure out what that looks like.”
Bradley, rightfully so, does not accept Defendini’s apology. She tweeted:
“I’ve ran the entire gamut of emotions today. And the best I have to offer in terms of commentary is ‘all the women in me – ancestral, present, and future – are tired.’ Today has been exhausting. To have my truth taken from me and minstrelized is just….Jesus Devonte Christ.
“I even questioned if my writing was not up to part like I thought: could the narrative be that mangled and wrecked that dude found room to so callously interpret my words. My truth. My power. I questioned every damn thing. My voice, my word choice, my accent.
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“I think about the countless other moments past and present where silence is the preferred and forced language for Black women. From Phillis Wheatley and Sojourner Truth to Fannie Lou Hamer, my great grandmother, Mary Jones Barkley, Mary Turner and Meg thee Stallion. I’m seething.
“I saw the apology. I don’t care. I am angry. Seething from centuries of silenced Black women angry. The voice I speak with and write with is not my own. To have that taken away is unacceptable. Unforgivable. And to ask me to consider it is equally trifling and unforgivable.”
Something like this does not occur in a vacuum. It is wrought from generations of violating, dehumanizing, subjugating, and erasing southern, Black womanhood. As we speak, there are people lifting up that during the 2020 presidential election Black women in Georgia—from Mary Hooks to Nse Ufot to LaTosha Brown to Stacey Abrams, and so many more—saved this nation from itself. And they are fighting through exhaustion to do it again as the January 5 Senate run-offs approach.
Still, in this moment, we have a publication that purports to have a mission of resisting fascism, far-right populism, and bigotry violently erasing a Black woman’s voice—Dr. Regina Bradley’s voice—that has been passed down through generations, time and space.
The scholar, though, refused to allow her labor, her work, or her voice, which is so clear on the page, be rendered illegible.
Click here to support Bradley and her book, Chronicling Stankonia: the Rise of the Hip Hop South.