The Buzz Online

September 25th, 2009

Commenting about the July/August cover story, "The Truth About Hip-Hop," which described the work of Professor of Africana Studies Tricia Rose '93 PhD, Lara Saint-Louis, an alumna of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, praised Rose as a kind of ambassador between black America and white America:

"I loved [Tricia Rose's] perspective on the black community. She's in a suit but she's got a 'hood mentality. Or at least she has the ability to understand the 'hood mentality. She, like all others who are an amalgamation of the races, offers necessary insight into the dualism of America because, by nature of her biology, she stands on the cultural fence that's dividing white America from black America.... Like me and the people I hang with who came from the 'hood but went to college, Rose is clearly a translator between two worlds. At home, we get down with the best of them. But when it comes to formal forums, we have to be able to use educated language to critique ourselves to the rest of the world. A lot of kids in the 'hood won't agree: they think if you speak like white America then you can't relate to black America. But what kids in the 'hood don't know is that people like Tricia Rose are a buffer, and she's representing them, and representing them well. She's helping closed-minded people understand that hip-hop's violent lyrics have more dimensions than a simple choice to be malicious."

"J" from the class of '98 addressed people who dislike hip-hop music without ever having really listened to it. Describing his own early dislike of country music, J wrote that he began to appreciate the genre while riding a "country-music-blasting" train from Tanzania to Zambia. "I'm white," he notes, "and wrote off country until black Africans explained to me that they loved this 'danceable American style of music.' " He concludes:

"We all have our own tastes in music, which reflect our larger cultural affiliations and interests. Like what you like, but don't write off what you don't know... Many of my friends don't listen to hip-hop because it's all 'violent,' 'sexist,' 'thuggish,' etc. (But please note they will dance to it at a club.) Whenever I've shared my favorite hip-hop albums with self-declared haters I hear this: 'Oh, wow. I've never heard this kind of hip-hop before. These lyrics are so smart/clever/funny/thoughtful...' To all the folks who actually hate hip-hop, I'm most certain you haven't dug very deep."

Two of the great things about are that the website makes old articles from the print BAM more easily accessible and that those articles are found by readers outside the Brown community. For example, the March/April profile of Catherine Wolf '72 AM, '74 PhD describing her battle with Lou Gehrig's disease continues to attract comments. Recently, a former elementary-school classmate reconnected with Wolf on the website, writing: "I would still recognize you; you look the same! You are so intelligent, very brave and [an] inspiration to all of us."

The online magazine also allows us to print more material than the economics of the print BAM permits. Joan Hoost McMaster '60 lamented that the three additional Commencement profiles we included in the online July/August issue did not make it into print. Even though the profiles were focused on students who "ran into potentially overwhelming obstacles and beat the odds," McMaster questioned our choices. "I am ... amazed that Billy Shore, student extraordinaire, two degrees in three years, magna cum laude and math prizes galore, was not profiled in the BAM ... article! What are your priorities?"

Keep the letters and online comments coming.

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Related Issue
September/October 2009