Community Talk Back: Orange Is The New Black



In November of 2013, FAAN Mail held a community talk back about the Netflix show, Orange Is The New Black, a drama series set in a women’s prison. Community members who are personally affected by and concerned about mass incarceration shared their perspectives after watching episode 12 from Season 1. We explored the following questions and more…

Does this show offer any value in the movement to end mass incarceration? What aspects of the show are realistic or fantasy? What do people need to know about mass incarceration?



(watch a shorter recap here.)

Attendees were invited to bring books to donate to Books Thru Bars, which sends quality reading material to prisoners and encourages creative dialogue on the criminal justice system, thereby educating those living inside and outside of prison walls.

This event was CoSponsored by:


Talk Back: Rick Ross’ Hold Me Back (Nigeria)

In this talk back, we respond to Rick Ross’ video “Hold Me Back: Nigeria.”

We raise questions about the concept of a “global ghetto,” capitalism and exploitation, artist responsibility and accountability in the hip hop industry. We refer to an article titled “Confessions of a Failed Hip Hop Publicist” written by Sebastian Elkouby at

FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!) is a media literacy/activist project formed by women of color and based in Philadelphia. Together with our allies, we critique and create media with social change in mind.

Music/Visuals credit: “Hold Me back: Nigeria” by Rick Ross, Universal Music Group. FAIR USE.

Talk Back: Scandal

scandal_2012_624x351 This talk back is for the Scandal fans (and FAANS)! We explore why we love (and sometimes hate) the popular tv drama, Scandal. *Spoiler Alert*

FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!) is a media literacy/activist project formed by women of color and based in Philadelphia. Together with our allies, we critique and create media with social change in mind.

Talk Back: Rick Ross & Universal Music Group Promote Rape Culture

“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”
– Rick Ross of Def Jam Records, Universal Music Group


Rick Ross, @rickyrozay

As the Steubenville case has recently reminded us, THIS is rape.

And it is in a rape culture where a top selling artist like Rick Ross, can glorify sexual violence and grace the covers of Rolling Stone Magazine at the same time.

Why do gatekeepers at UMG and Def Jam Records give these sexually violent messages a platform? Who else is responsible?  When will this stop?

Universal Music Group was silent when we called out their CEO Lucien Grainge for promoting music that routinely degrades women of color.

Universal Music Group was silent when Lil Wayne’s sexually violent lyric about Emmett  Till was released on the internet.


Lucien Grainge, @UMG

Will UMG stay silent now, as their artist Rick Ross promotes rape? Will Def Jam simply apologize and allow another artist to glorify rape three months from now? Will Rolling Stone Magazine continue to refer to Rick Ross as “hip hop’s most lovable don?”

Join us to demand that Def Jam and Universal Music Group publicly denounce sexual violence and make a commitment to ending the promotion of sexual violence in their music. Enough is enough. It is time to hold these labels, corporations and their artists — accountable.

And for the advertisers and media outlets, from print and digital to television and radio, that give a platform to artists who promote sexual violence, know that you are part of this problem.

Let hip hop activist Rosa Clemente’s response below inspire you as she calls on men to join us and speak out against rape culture.

Join us and tweet @DefJamRecords and @UMG that you are #NotBuyingIt until they stop promoting rape culture.


We support the following petitions/efforts:

Talk Back: Our Conversation with CLEAR CHANNEL about Misogyny, Balance & Diversity

225227_587260824634583_223237697_nRecently, two members of  FAAN Mail joined the Director of News and Community Affairs at Clear Channel  for a taped interview to discuss our concerns about the onslaught of misogyny and lack of diversity and balance on mainstream urban radio.  The interview aired last Sunday on POWER 99 in Philadelphia.

Tune in to the 10 minute podcast HERE.

Special thanks to Loraine Ballard Morrill from Clear Channel and Women’s Way for helping to facilitate this first step of dialogue. We hope to have more opportunities to continue this conversation with Clear Channel about what steps they will take to counter their misogyny with a more diverse and balanced reflection of our community, supporting their commitment to “treat people with respect, fairness and humanity”.

Check out our community dialogue on radio politics to learn about the barriers independent artists face and how we can change this by taking collective responsibility. Yes, audiences, artists and radio industry professionals have a role to play if we want to see change.

So please join us and tell Clear Channel your concerns in the comments below or tweet your concerns to @ClearChannel. We will keep you posted about our efforts and progress.


Talk Back: Lil Wayne and the Corporations Behind Him

Rapper Lil Wayne’s music is in heavy rotation on most urban radio stations in the US.  His misogynistic lyrics are generally (not always) tolerated and celebrated.

But when he released a track last week with the artist Future that trivialized the violent killing of civil rights icon Emmett Till, the misogyny and disrespect sparked public outrage. Although L.A. Reid, CEO of Epic Records (Future’s label, not Wayne’s) has apologized and promised to remove the offensive content from the track, Lil Wayne has been silent.  The family of Emmett Till is demanding an apology from the artist.


We believe Emmett Till’s family and the black community deserve more than an apology — from Lil Wayne and the corporations that back him.

We want answers and real action from Epic Records, Cash Money Records, Sony Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Clear Channel, Radio One, and Viacom —  media corporations that consistently provide a platform for misogynistic and hateful messages about black and brown communities.

We encourage others to join us and talk back to these corporations. How? Here are some ideas:

Share or create your own memes.  Express yourself in an Open Letter and post it to your blog.  Talk about this with your friends, film it and upload it to youtube. Make a PSA. Create a remix or mashup that gets people thinking. Use satire to critique what you see. Organize a petition. Organize direct action. Do something totally creative and unexpected to get people talking about this. Support the media that is reflective of who we are as a diverse people.

And use twitter to call out not only @LilTunechi, but @epic_records @UMG, @SonyEntNet, @ClearChannel, Radio One and @Viacom.

Together, let us TALK BACK – through our words and actions-  and be heard.

Collectively, we are strong. The question is —  are we willing to act?

Talk Back: K’NAAN & Self Censorship

Illustration by Jimmy Turrell, from a photograph by Steve C. Mitchell/European Pressphoto Agency

Illustration by Jimmy Turrell, from a photograph by Steve C. Mitchell/European Pressphoto Agency

“I now suspect that packaging me as an idolized star to the pop market in America cannot work; while one can dumb down his lyrics, what one cannot do without being found out is hide his historical baggage.” – K’NAAN

On December 8, 2012, Somali born Canadian hip hop artist K’naan wrote an Op Ed in the New York Times about how his record label (A&M/Octone Records) has pressured him to censor his message. In his powerful and honest essay, K’Naan questions the meaning of success. FAAN Mail responds to his words in this talk back.

Music credit: “People Like Me” by K’Naan. 2010 A&M/Octone.
Check out K’Naan here.

Talk Back: “Birthday Song”

These videos are a response to “Birthday Song” and all other “hits” that dehumanize our people. We advocate for collective responsibility and urge one another to speak up, to talk back to powerful media corporations and to support media that values our humanity and diversity. Join the movement. #TALKBACK.

All I want for my Birthday:

Most of all, WE want a meeting with Lucien Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, to discuss these concerns and others raised in our Open Letter.

all i want


It’s Time for Women of Color to Talk Back via Huffington Post

Media Literacy Group Fights Back Against Negative Images of Women of Color via Clutch Magazine

Women Of Color Tell 2 Chainz What They Want For Their Birthday via Jasiri X at The Black Youth Project

Women of Color Activists Take On 2 Chainz’s ‘Birthday Song’ via Colorlines

(VIDEO) Women Of Color Talk Back via Huffington Post LIVE 

FAAN Mail is Talking Back: No “Big Booty Hoes” for 2 Chainz’ Birthday this Year via BUST Magazine

Hip Hop Feminism and FAAN Mail via the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South at Tulane Univ.

FAAN Mail Interview with Occupy The Hood Radio via Progressive Radio Network

Media outlets, community groups, academic institutions, educators & allies help us by sharing/writing about our TALK BACKS and provoking dialogue. They are an important piece of this movement.


respect my humanity

5 Ways you can help:

1. Share the talk back videos, memes or Open Letter on your blog, tumblr, Facebook or online magazine!

2. Tweet this:  Women of color demand accountability from @UMG & @clearchannel, media corporations:  via @faanmail

3. Create your own Talk Back (via video, meme, etc.) and send it to us!

4. Share and discuss this talk back with your college and high school students.

5. Email faanmail(at) or tweet us at @faanmail to get involved and stay in the loop.

Why Do Record Labels

For Corporations, When Colored Girls are Degraded: An Open Letter to CEO Lucien Grainge of Universal Music Group

“All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe.” – 2 Chainz, rapper

Well all I want for my birthday is for music corporations to be held accountable for routinely degrading women of color.

Four powerful corporations are behind the majority of music we hear on the radio and the videos we see on tv. Four Corporations are behind the artists who get rightfully criticized — and then quickly forgotten. But how often do these corporations get called out?

Let’s keep this in mind as we watch the recently released music video “Birthday Song” performed by rappers 2 Chainz and Kanye West. The song is owned by Universal Music Group  (UMG), the world’s largest music corporation.

Okay, so most of us probably know rappers Kanye and 2 Chainz. And we definitely know what they want for their birthday. But let’s turn our attention to someone less familiar, someone else who helped get this song/video in front of your eyeballs and ears — because well, he and his team of senior executives produce, market, distribute and profit from it. Let’s meet Lucian Grainge, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Music Group. He is regarded as the most powerful executive in the music industry.

Mr. Grainge, I will cut to the chase: Have you watched any of the videos, listened to any of the music you own lately?

Why do you (and your staff and board members) think it is acceptable to routinely exploit women of color in your music?

Do you ever think of the black and brown girls navigating the lifestyles and values that your music glorify?

Do you consider the historical and present day context in which your music circulates?

After all, women of color being degraded, dehumanized and reduced to ASS — is nothing new. We live in a world where black and brown women’s bodies have been exploited since slavery. Where 19th century European freak shows exhibited the “unusual” body of Saartjie Baartman, a South African woman whose remains were finally returned to her homeland in 2002 after legal battles with the French government. Mr. Grainge, your disregard for black and brown women’s bodies is the same disregard that enabled a history of forced sterilization, the shackling of birthing black mothers in prison. Mr. Grainge, your indifference resembles the indifference of a rape culture that overlooks the men who rape, while blaming the women and girls of color, who experience sexual violence at disproportionate rates.  Research[1] has proven that the objectification of women in today’s toxic media environment has harmful effects on women and girls.

It is in this greater context of sexual exploitation where the dehumanization of black and brown women has become standard in commercial hip hop. The “Birthday Song” is simply one example. There are countless others.

For decades, artists, fans, and scholar activists have been writing and making films about this exploitation, rallying against it, provoking dialogue, engaging community and offering alternative messages that are rarely celebrated by corporations like UMG. Even young girls are speaking up (see  Spark Summit and Watoto from the Nile). Are you listening to them?

Together we are fighting this exploitation and the internalized oppression that it reinforces in communities of color and our greater society. In your mansion, Mr. Grainge, you probably never concern yourself with the struggles of black and brown girls or something called internalized oppression. But this reality is too close for many of us to ignore.

Mr. Grainge, as CEO of the largest music company in America, be clear that you, your senior executives and board members are contributing to a legacy of exploitation.

Now, I realize that considering questions and providing a moral response would compromise your bottom line. Your bottom line is more important than any black and brown girls and women who are internalizing the harmful messages YOU own and distribute.

Given this logic, it is clear that you will ONLY support change if your bottom line is at stake. And that’s why I’m writing this. I’m calling on advertisers & consumers to stop supporting your company, Universal Music Group, until you stop exploiting black and brown women in your music. It’s that simple.

I am also asking educators everywhere to help young people understand the role that corporations play in our mediated lives. Young people need to understand why it is that UMG’s music, songs like “Birthday Song” – flood our radio, youtube and music television. Educators, parents and peers need to have conversations about the meaning of popular music, unpack the harsh and complicated realities these messages reveal.  Ultimately, it’s bigger than one corporation. One artist. One song.

Still, Mr. Lucian Grainge, as CEO of Universal Music Group you cannot deny your power as a leader in the music industry. Therefore, you must do something.

Right now, you, your board members, your staff —  are a critical part of the problem. I’m calling on you to be part of the solution. And I hope others join me.

What is your response?

Nuala Cabral, FAAN Mail

Work Cited:

[1] Halliwell, E., Malson, H., Tischner, I. (2011). Are contemporary media images which seem to display women as sexually empowered actually harmful to women? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(1) 38-45.

Talk Back: Melissa Harris Perry on Surviving

%d bloggers like this: