Archives for category: Sound Off
Was this commercial screaming racism? Or was it blown completely out of proportion?

By: Taren Vaughan

Performing in front of sold out crowds and making cameo appearances in movies and TV shows, music artists are always down to showcase their talents in various arenas. Singer Mary J. Blige has done all these things and more as she has continued to be a dominating force in the industry. But now “The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” is under fire for her appearance in one of Burger King’s latest commercials for their new Crispy Chicken Snack Wrap. And needless to say, some people were highly upset while others well…found their anger to be quite ridiculous.

“I’m a Black woman and I by no means was offended by this commercial. All she was doing was singing about a product that just so happened to be chicken. I don’t see what the fuss is about. If she was up there singing about shackles and chains, maybe my thoughts would be totally different.”

Alicia C.
Age: 23
Silver Springs, MD

“Come on are people really serious right now? Where is the racism in this commercial? The real problem with this commercial was the singing. I love Mary J. Blige just like the next fan, but that was what I found bad about the whole thing, not the fact that it was being so “disrespectful” to Black people because it obviously was not.”

Jennifer M.
Age: 33
Salem, OR

“So tell me, how is this any different from the Black actors and actresses that we see rapping on the McDonald’s commercials? Was that the product of a racist’s mind? I didn’t see people getting all outraged about that and those commercials have continued to air. If a white, Hispanic or a person of any other race was singing about chicken, I guess it would be okay then. The race card can not be pulled in every situation and this is one where it doesn’t need to be.”

Latisha E.
Age: 25
Yonkers, NY

“I may be reaching a little bit here but I think the commercial was very distasteful due to the fact that she was singing about chicken. It is a known fact that chicken is coined as “black food”, right along with watermelon so to see Mary J. Blige participate in something like this is feeding into the negative stereotype that is placed on us already. And God knows, we don’t need anyone else doing that.”

Ashlee T.
Age: 27
Boston, MA

The commercial was quickly snatched off the air after the heavy criticism that it received. And was followed by a statement from the singer, assuring fans and critics that what they saw was not “MJB” certified:

“I agreed to be a part of a fun and creative campaign that was supposed to feature a dream sequence. Unfortunately, that’s not what was happening in that clip.”

“I understand my fans being upset by what they saw. But, if you’re a Mary fan, you have to know I would never allow an unfinished spot like the one you saw go out.”

Was it really that serious?

Take a look for yourself:

Is the anger justified?

Marching and taking pictures with hoodies on is not the final solution to this ongoing problem…Continued activism is.

By: Taren Vaughan

Deeply saddened and completely taken back, reactions have surfaced from millions across the nation in reference to the shooting death of Florida native Trayvon Martin. Prayers have been said and numerous protests have been held in honor of the 17 year-old boy’s memory, one of the most moving protests being the “Million Hoodie March”.

The march attracted the attention of a massive amount of Americans of all races and gender. And it created a chain reaction amongst U.S. citizens all over. College campuses have been flooded with student protestors and professional athletic teams have also taken a stand in the search for justice on behalf of the Martin Family as the Miami Heat players gathered dressed in hoodies, displaying a profound team effort to honor the cause. The wearing of a hoodie is symbolic as it was what Trayvon was wearing when he was killed. And as a way to show support, hoodies have become apart of many people’s attire. The wave has stormed the Internet as well, with changing of Facebook profile pics and Twitter avatars.

Constant outpourings of emotion have been witnessed from school aged children to those of celebrity status so it is obvious the masses of us have been touched by what has happened to this young man. But after the gatherings settle down, will Trayvon’s story be placed on the back burner, not to be brought up for years to come?

His tragic passing will be fresh in our heads for awhile. But will we continue on with true activism in his name and in the name of others who have lost their lives to false accusations and stereotyping? Or to the hands of those who look exactly like them? Black on Black crime is still alive and well too did we forget?

You see, without continued activism, this strong, powerful message that we are currently trying to send becomes faint over time. People begin to forget about the cause as things begin to die down. And that just opens the door up for yet another tragic loss to occur within our community.

And what are we risking when we do that? Another young life.

We are talking about a teenager who had his whole future ahead of him. He was not a common criminal, roaming the streets looking for trouble. Minding his business was what he was doing. And because an overzealous neighbor of his decided to defy police orders and take matters into his own hands, a family has endured a painful loss.

Zimmerman’s freedom remains one of the most infuriating parts of this whole situation as the arguments that many have posed certainly don’t lean in favor of his actions. But aside from that, back to the real question of: Should we stop at the hoodie march?

The answer is quite clear. It can’t stop at a march with hoodie wearing protestors. And it can’t stop with posted pictures on social media networks. It must stem far beyond that.

We must talk to our children about the ugly truths of our society and how certain people already expect you to behave a certain way because of how you look, talk, walk or dress. We must inform them that this is the country where a woman can be detained by security for flour bombing a Kardashian within the blink of an eye but a man can have every ounce of his freedom after taking the life of his innocent, unarmed neighbor. With that being said, it is most important for them to be watchful of their surroundings.

Sadly, Trayvon’s life was not spared but with a continuous effort to inform our young Black men and women about situations like this and what they could possibly have to deal with or face in this world, hopefully this vicious cycle will be broken.

Has Dr. King’s dream finally become a reality or do we still have a long way to go?

By: Taren Vaughan

So much can be said about the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His powerful speeches have been recited and replayed years after their deliveries, having the same impact on people that they had initially. And his extreme determination to create tranquility amongst people of all racial backgrounds, striving for equality for all mankind has never been overlooked. There is no doubt that Dr. King had a special gift that he continued to use up until his death in 1968.

Although he did not live a long life, the accomplishments of Dr. King were of such magnitude that we dedicate a day to him and what he did for our race.

MLK Day is used as a day to revisit the past and how Dr. King and other civil rights leaders came together to fight for a worthy cause, one that affected our well being tremendously.

As we celebrated MLK Day in various ways though, did you think to yourself: Can we really say that the dream that King had is now a reality?

“Dr. King was a visionary. He thought on levels that many of his peers did not, especially when it came to forming relationships with people of other races. To this day, some of us don’t necessarily believe in some of the things that he preached about but I feel as though what he was striving for was so positive and beneficial to our generation. As far as his dream actually coming true, I think we have made progress but we still have a long way to go”

Arianna B.
Age: 33
Boston, MA

“I believe that the dream is slowly becoming a reality. The election of President Obama led me to say that. What people need to keep in mind though is that his election didn’t 100% solidify progress for Black people as a whole. That’s why I used the word “slowly””

Troy W.
Age: 38
Portland, OR

“I don’t think the Dr. King’s vision has been fully brought to life for many reasons. Yes, we as African Americans have way more opportunities than we once had back in the day. We have better job opportunities now, we are able to receive higher forms of education and we are becoming president of the United States. But despite all those great things, we are still very much prejudged merely because of the color of our skin and are not granted the same things that other races are without having to work extra hard for them. As wonderful as his vision was, there will always be some things that we can’t change”

Maliyah D.
Age: 19
Milwaukee, WI

“Honestly, I think that Dr. King’s dream has been disrupted by the very ones that he was standing up for, African Americans. He wanted us all to live in peace and harmony, love one another. Are we doing that now though? Black on black crime continues to skyrocket and we don’t shy away from an opportunity to tear one another down. King spoke strongly on educational advancement for African Americans yet we are dropping out of high school left and right. Is it me or is something very wrong with this picture?”

Roderick R.
Age: 24
Atlanta, GA

Have we forgotten the struggle?

Or is King’s dream still in the process of being reached?

Since when did football have anything to do with grown men sexually abusing little boys?

By: Taren Vaughan

College football is by far one of the most watched sports in the nation. And it brings the current students and past alumni of institutions together, cheering on their team front and center in the stands or in the comfort of their homes and local bars. Sports fanatics stand behind their teams through wins and losses. But there is a point when the actions of those who run the teams stem far beyond what happens on the gridiron.

Legendary Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno’s era has finally come to an end. And it came just shy of his retirement. On Wednesday, the Board of Trustees at the university fired 84 year old coach for his knowledge of his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexual abusing young males.

His response to not saying anything about this despicable act:

“I Wish I Had Done More”

You think Joe? With all this power that Joe Paterno had at that school, couldn’t he have spoken up and said something? If he had of let his moral instincts kick in and exposed that coach for the true pervert he was, that man would gotten caught a long time ago. But for the sake of the program, he remained silent. And his unspoken words have potentially scarred the lives of these young men.

To no surprise, not everybody felt that the dismissal of JoePa was necessary.

Turning on the television this morning and what did you see? Hundreds of students with picket signs reading “We Love Joe” and “Please Don’t Go Joe”. Broken car windows and raging emotions were the result of the gathering, the want for Paterno to stay and finish out his last games with the Nittany Lions.

I understand the love of winning but I hope that these students see the severity of what is going on here. Paterno didn’t get fired for something petty. We are talking about a man who knew that a member of his coaching staff was molesting innocent young boys, engaging in sexual acts with them. That is a criminal act, one in which was brushed off for several years too many.

Words have been spoken and some of them I can’t even believe people let leave their mouths. One comment in particular was to the tune of football being to blame for this all taking place.

So tell me, what the hell does this pervert’s actions have to do with the game of football?

“Man, you have got to be kidding me. All of these people are walking around here talking about all the great things that JoePa did while he was at Penn State but they are saying little about the fact that he knew this BS was going on and didn’t bother to say anything at all about it. But the point is that it has nothing to do with the game of football, period”

-Bryan S.
Age: 31
Marion, SC

“Joe Paterno ought to be ashamed of himself. How could you look in the mirror everyday and call yourself a man of morals having the knowledge of this situation? There is no way that I would know something like this was going on within my program and not do anything about it. And I’m sure other people on his staff knew about what was going on too and they should be held just as responsible”

-Janaya L.
Age: 21
Port Arthur, TX

“I’m not surprised at all that people are speaking more about JoePa’s accomplishments than about the fact that he literally turned his back on a group of innocent children. That’s how some college programs roll, rant and rave about the good and try to conceal the bad. It’s funny to me how Michael Vick is still being dragged threw the mud for his knowledge of dog fighting taking place on his property, which he served time in jail for but didn’t JoePa turn his back on eight kids who are getting sexually abused by one of his coaches? And all we can talk about his how great of a coach he was. Help me understand this please”

-Marcus W.
Age: 19
Jackson, MS

“Imagine if one of those boys was your child. How would you feel about JoePa then? Would you be parading around, talking about this man’s 409 wins? I don’t think you would. I know the parents of these boys are so hurt by what has happened to their children. I don’t know how I would be able to handle that. And to those who say that football itself is to blame, give me a reason why because I don’t see one”

-Ashlee D.
Age: 28
Brooklyn, NY

“I played football all through high school and college. And I’m here to say that people can not blame a sport for someone doing something like this. Sandusky has his own personal issues and unfortunately they are a reflection of the athletic program that he was associated with. So to bash football as a whole to me is wrong. But to fire Joe Paterno was the right thing to do”

-Marshall R.
Age: 32
Miami, FL

ANYBODY, and I do mean ANYBODY, can commit a demoralizing, despicable act like that so let’s not blame this on the sport itself because it has absolutely nothing to do with that.

It’s not about the power of the pigskin so let’s not go bashing other football programs for the shortcomings of another. It’s about the pervert who committed these acts that is the culprit in this situation and those who knew about it, along with a huge lack of moral responsibility to top it all off. Most importantly, it’s about the children. It’s about what they are suffering from, physically, mentally and emotionally.

So will Penn State ever live this down? Probably.

Will Michael Vick ever live what he did down? Probably Not.

Marinate on that…

From his long list of hits, readers give their take on late Hip-Hop superstar Tupac Shakur’s best song of all time.

By: Taren Vaughan

This week, many people’s focus was centered on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. Special ceremonies and gatherings to honor those who lost their lives in the tragic event took place all over the country. As September 11th marked a grave loss for hundreds of families, 15 years ago today, the world of Hip-Hop lost a heavyweight in the game; some even claim him to be the greatest of all time.

Truth teller, street poet, rebel, philosopher…Tupac Shakur has been said to have taken on these titles and much more. Often the center of controversy, Shakur was no stranger to troublesome behavior but that doesn’t mask the fact that he had raw talent when it came to lyrics. 2Pac told stories and kept it real with fans about what was going on in the world. He had the ability to create a track that was coined a club hit, and at the same time, he could leave you with a song that really made you think and even led you to the point of tears. Looking back on the legacy that he left behind, some of our readers were asked which one of his songs they would deem as his greatest of all time:

“Dear Mama is the best dedication song that any rapper has ever done. This song relates to me on so many different levels. I have the utmost respect for my mother and all that she has done for me and every time I hear this track, I can’t help but to shed a tear or two. This song is just a solid reminder of how talented Tupac Shakur really was”

Rodney B.
Age: 32
Marietta, GA

“Unlike many artists of today, Tupac Shakur rapped about real life situations. To me, Brenda’s Got A Baby was his greatest hit. The song and the video were both huge eye openers to many important issues that some young black women are enduring every day; having to prostitute themselves to feed their families, watching their parents abuse drugs right in front of their eyes and becoming a teenage mother. The song kept it real about the things that were going on. To me that’s one thing Pac did best was bring truth and realism to his lyrics”

Brayden C.
Age: 24
Columbia, SC

“We all know 2Pac was a philosopher, a poet in his own right. But one thing I always loved about him was that he also had a fun side to him. When I Get Around came out, I remember first hearing the song at a pool party in my neighborhood. From that day on, I kept that song on repeat for like a month. By far, one of, if not his greatest hit of all time”

Xavier R.
Age: 35
Oakland, CA

“Just like many G.O.A.T.’s, Tupac’s list of hits goes on for days. His serious songs were timeless and so were his club bangers. They still get airplay even years after his death. After some real thought and hearing some of his songs on the radio this morning, I would have to say that Keep Ya Head Up was his greatest song of all time. Who could forget Jada Pinkett-Smith’s cameo appearance in the video? Keep Ya Head Up showed Pac’s sensitive side. It was nice to see a rapper uplift the black woman, taking a moment away from all the disrespectful s**t that floods the airwaves nowadays. It also touched on world issues of poverty too which is still a huge problem today”

Alyssa W.
Age: 38
Knoxville, TN

What do think was Pac’s greatest hit?

Readers give their thoughts on Wiz Khalifa’s excessive love for the green…Not money but weed.

By: Taren Vaughan

Rapper Wiz Khalifa topped the Rap charts with his hit single “Black and Yellow”, a hometown anthem for his stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And ever since, he hasn’t come down from the top spot with his album “Rolling Papers” approaching platinum status. With all the success that Khalifa was seen, he manages to keep it real with the media and his fans. So real in fact that he had no problem at all vocalizing his love for the sticky in an interview with and even went on to encourage his fans to well, “Roll Up”:

“When the venues are not [ok with people smoking weed], we respect it and the fans respect it. And when it is friendly, then people know. The high, I don’t think that ruins anything, it makes people chill out,”

“And then when you tell them they can’t smoke weed, they find other creative ways to get high that’s less constructive.”

He went on to say that everybody puts one in the air from time to time, even the wealthy:

“Everybody smokes weed. My music and my fan base is really built off of my lifestyle – and from older people to doctors, plenty of really successful people function off weed.”

Something tells me that he would be all for legalizing it…

Is Wiz Khalifa really responsible for the new found Hip-Hop weed heads?

“It’s not like Wiz is the first to promote weed smoking. Snoop has let it be known for years that he smokes weed and has never tried to hide the fact that he did. But I guess Wiz is catching more heat for it because he actually came out and told his fans that it was okay to light one”

-Bryan K.

Age: 23

Newark, NJ

“I am a fan of Wiz Khalifa and really like his music but I am not okay with the fact that he encourages his fans to smoke weed. It’d be nice to see a rapper promo something other than drugs, sex or money”

-Alayna H.

Age: 21

Albany, NY

“Wiz Khalifa is a one of the hottest rappers out right now but really, can we be surprised that he made such a bold statement? I mean he has managed to wife up Amber Rose. What did you expect?”

-Jaylen B.

Age: 20

Jacksonville, FL

“Some of these rappers let anything come out of their mouths. I can’t say that I am shocked that Wiz Khalifa would say something like this to his fans. I’m more so disturbed that he could have potentially started a mass of druggies with his comments”

-Charmaine L.

Age: 27

Hampton, VA

“Let’s be clear, rappers are in no shape, form or fashion God, even though some of them think they are. But the one thing about what their position in our society is that they have a lot of power. Even when they say and do outrageous things, you can almost count on a fan or two to go out and mimic their lifestyles. And because of that, they should be mindful of the messages that they are relaying to their fans”

-Kelvin G.

Age: 31

San Diego, CA

Regardless of whether or not they want to admit it, music artists have a lot more influence over their fans than they think they do.

Why do you think Nicki Minaj has a band of pink wigged “Barbies” following in her every footstep? And why do you think there are hundreds of young Black men parading around in skinny jeans? Lil’ Wayne is the only grown man that could pull that off.

Their influence can be so heavy that whatever they say goes in the minds of the brainwashed and overly loyal fanatics.

Wiz Khalifa is making much noise in the Rap game right now. His flow is undeniable hands down. But openly telling your fans to take a few hits? Not quite sure about that one.

Hip-Hop heads reminisce on some of their favorite songs from The Notorious B.I.G.

By: Taren Vaughan

Today marks the 14 year anniversary of the death of one of the most incredible rappers to ever touch a mic, Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. Often referred to as Biggie Smalls or just plan B.I.G., he was responsible for launching the career of a female heavyweight in the game, Lil’ Kim and the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A. which she was a member of. Biggie quickly claimed the top spot in the game with his debut album “Ready To Die”. But his promising career tragically came to an end on March 9, 1997 when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California after leaving a party.

His untimely death stunned the Hip-Hop nation and left family, friends and his mass of fans mourning the loss of one of the best to ever do it. As this time period was one that was filled with much sorrow, it did strike up some positive things, leading to various movements fighting against violence in the music industry. Biggie’s murder came almost a year after that of yet another lyricist whose talents were unmatchable, the late great Tupac Shakur. As many take their time out to pay tribute to the rapper in their own way, readers reflect on some of their favorite Biggie songs:

“Juicy was by far one of my favorite songs from Biggie. His rhymes spoke not only for himself and what he went through trying to make it on the streets but it spoke for everybody else who was going through the same struggle too. You could always count on him to spit the truth, no sugar coating it. R.I.P. Biggie. You will forever be remembered”

-Dalvin R.
Age: 27
Yonkers, NY

“Man, do I have to pick just one? I love all of Biggie’s songs, from when he first came out up until his death. There is not one song I can think of that I wasn’t feelin’ from him. His style was just so raw and his delivery was always on point. There will never be another like him”

-Shamika L.
Age: 19
Fort Lauderdale, FL

“Warning went hard. The beat of the track mixed with Big’s rhymes was untouchable, making it, to me, one of his best songs hands down. I liked the video a lot too”

-Keenan H.
Age: 24
San Antonio, TX

“Sky’s The Limit is a Biggie classic. I find a lot of inspiration from this song, especially the chorus. I keep it on repeat every time I listen to it. Unlike most rap songs today, Sky’s The Limit had a real message behind it. The little kids in the video were too cute. I loved the concept of the song and the video. The day we lost this man was the day apart of Hip-Hop died. We’ll always love you Big Poppa”

-Renee J.
Age: 22
Cheyenne, WY

What’s your favorite song from the late Brooklyn rap star?