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Why Did You (Ba)Du That?

Erykah Badu has just been charged with disorderly conduct by the Dallas Police Department for the naked, public video she recently shot near the JFK memorial. The video for “Window Seat” has garnered all sorts of publicity – much of it negative in her home city of Dallas. Today (Friday, April 2nd), Sergeant Warren Mitchell said, “After much decision we feel that these charges best fit her conduct. When she disrobed in a public place without disregard to individuals and small children who were close by. An at-large citation will be issued to Ms. Badu in the near future.” Translation – Badu will be sent a $500 ticket in the mail. Check out the original blog (Tuesday, March 30) below…

OK – this whole  nudist colony concept is not meant to be taken literally. The goal is not naked frolicking around  the planet; it is instead a forum for people to be completely free to enjoy music the way it was meant to be. For you that could be alone on the couch with a glass of wine and an open mind, or maybe it’s full-on expressive Woodstock-like dancing with a group of total strangers absorbing the moment. Wherever you fall in the spectrum – the colony welcomes you.

Perhaps Erykah Badu didn’t get this message. For her new video “Window Seat” off her just-released album, New Amerykah Pt. 2, Return of the Ankh, Badu strips down to her bare essentials in the middle of an unsuspecting crowd on a street in Dallas. The video is stirring up all kinds of controversy. While it should be celebrated for its commitment to artistic expression, there is some concern about the context of this video shoot that are worth debating…

“Window Seat” was inspired  by Matt and Kim’s “Lessons Learned” – a video with a similar plot filmed in Times Square. Badu’s video begins with her driving a 1960’s era car on a Dallas street listening to the radio as the announcer broadcasts JFK’s final ride. She parks the vehicle along the same corner where Kennedy was shot, and then gets out onto the sidewalk in a purple hooded sweatshirt. A single camera tracks each introspective step in slow motion as she discards her clothing one article at a time. The word “EVOLVING” is revealed on her bare shoulder blades as she continues her journey. Finally, in front of dozens of random onlookers, Badu sheds her black underwear. Completely naked for just six seconds, she at first appears cleansed. But then her head snaps back in a hauntingly familiar way, and her body jolts from the societal bullet that has pierced her soul. Sprawled out on the ground, Badu is paralyzed by fear.

The video speaks volumes about gender, race and a long history of restricted expression. The guerilla style and grainy, documentary feel give it layers of texture. But many people are upset by this video. It clearly brings up imagery from the murder of an American president, and it was filmed at the same grassy knoll where JFK was gunned down. Families were touring the memorial site at the time, and they had no warning about the Badu shoot. Plus, the city was never notified, meaning tax and liability permits were not granted. For now, no criminal charges have been filed, but Dallas PD says if witnesses come forward, then Badu could be charged with “indecent exposure.”

At its core “Window Seat” is a song about liberating yourself from layers of skin or demons that hinder your growth, freedom or evolution. Badu says the setting was a testiment to the character assassination many experience when they show themselves completely. The video concludes with an off-camera Badu voiceover: “They play it safe… are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel most comfortable in groups – less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become. Afraid to respect the individual. A single person within a circumstance can move one to change. To love herself. To evolve.”

Whether she broke the law or not… Badu is confident in her statement. The blue graffiti in the video next to her “dead” body spells out “groupthink.” “Window Seat” is her middle finger waving at the constrictive groups that use this practice – whether it be bone-headed bloggers, biased media, corrupt political institutions or any organization that succeeds in killing an individual’s spirit. So Erykah Badu, you didn’t need to get butt-booty naked for us, but in the name of art and for the love of music… this colony salutes you!

Written by: Ben Bamsey

2 Comments

  1. Max Eternity says:

    It’s not enough to think it, or even feel it. In order to be it, you have to live it…whatever it is. The Honorable Cynthia McKinney, who was congresswoman–re-elected more than 5 times–from my hometown, Atlanta, found out first hand what happens when one breaks away from “groupthink.” Once upon a time, she dared to question what Bush knew and when did he know it, in relation to Operation 911, the September 11th attacks. McKinney was vilified and ran out of the halls of congress for asking a simple question. Things got even worse for her when she refused to give a yea vote to the Iraq invasion.

    But political assassination has not silenced Mckinney. As recently, in an interview with Chris Hedges of TruthDig, she responds to a question concerning how one identifies the source of social ills saying:

    “It is time for us to stop talking about right and left. The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from the white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. Citizens United did not come from white supremacists, it came from the Supreme Court. Our problem is a problem of governance. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

    In the video, Badu deconstructs the “organized system” by breaking one of the cardinal sins of heard mentality. Badu, as a woman, affirms and declares in broad daylight that she owns her own body, mind and soul.

    She is not beholden.

    The month of March is Women’s History Month. And I wonder, is it a coincidence that the video was released now–during the month of March? Though I’m male, I’m especially tuned to events affecting women right now, because in March I’ve attended two separate exhibitions–groups of women artist coming together to exhibit their work. For one of the shows, I wrote an article/review entitled “The Silent Voice That Roars.”

    Badu is the essence of this idea in every way, shape and form. She is the lioness roaring, declaring her autonomy. More women and men should dare to be so bold.

    – Max Eternity

    ***

    Read “The Silent Voice That Roars” here: http://blackartproject.blogspot.com/2010/03/silent-voice-that-roars-by-max-eternity.html

    • JP says:

      I applaud her in taking your nudist colony seriously. Eklektx is big time! Ms. Badu isn’t being very environmentally friendly with littering her clothes all over the city. How ’bout that dude in the background, snagging em all up. Thief!

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