Past Event

Don Imus, Race, Gender, Class & the Power of Words

Guest Speaker Announcement: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Columbia College Chicago,and the Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council are excited to present guest speakers at Café Society for this week’s topic concerningDon Imus’s comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Tuesday, May 1, Intelligentsia

Guest speaker: Natalie Moore (journalist and author of Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation)

Wednesday, May 2, Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Street Café

Guest speaker: Jerry Quickley (Hip-Hop spoken word artist and radio correspondent)

Thursday, May 3, Valois

Guest speakers: We Got Issues (an international leadership development network designed for young women)

Friday, May 4, Ron’s Barber Shop

Guest Speakers: Rha Goddess (artist, writer, poet and social activist) with We Got Issues

For more information on the speakers see below.

Topic Description: Don Imus, Race, Gender, Class & the Power of Words

After a firestorm erupted over comments he made on his show, one of the county’s leading radio talk show hosts, Don Imus, was fired by CBS. The program, “Imus in the Morning,” had been on the air for more than 30 years, and Imus’s salary was estimated at $10 million a year.

On April 4, Imus referred to African-American athletes on the Rutgers women’s basketball team using racist, sexist, and classist slurs. Protests around the country organized by black leaders and journalists, along with women’s groups, led advertisers to pull sponsorship from Imus’s show. The day before his show was cancelled, NBC dropped MSNBC’s simulcast of the program. Is the public’s intolerance of this incident a new fad sparked by recent Hollywood outbursts or a signal of real social change?

This was not the only time the famous shock jock made such remarks. This was how he carved out his niche radio and what drew many of the 2.25 million listeners to his show. Imus has been visited by U.S. Presidents, senators, and highly-regarded authors and journalists from across the political spectrum. He was once named by Time magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential People in America. His words have long been valued by the media and the public. Yet, Deborah Douglas, editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, asks, “He’s an idiot. What’s our excuse?” Why did this particular incident lead to his dismissal? ShouldImushave been fired?

Others, including Imus himself, have used this incident to cast a spotlight on hypocrisy in the media and within the African-American community. A number of other talk show hosts embrace this same brand of hateful, oppressive commentary. What responsibility do news corporations owe the public? Should the Federal Communications Commission regulate such language? Some critics charge hip-hop and rap music with encouraging its young audience to adopt and internalize similar racist and sexist words and imagery. If people in the African-American community use such language, why can’t others?

Please join us at a café near you to share your thoughts on race, gender, class, and the power and ownership of words.

Suggested Readings:

The Power That Was

Don’t think twice: Media inured to subtler smears, pervasive sexism

Essay 2005

Imus shouldn’t have been fired

Firing of Imus removes leader of sorry band

Don Imus and Hip-Hop

More About Our Speakers:

A performing artist and social activist, Rha Goddess is known for combining linguistic brilliance with hip-hop rhythms and unflappable honesty. As founder and CEO of Divine Dime Entertainment, Ltd., she was one of the first women in hip-hop to co-create, independently market, and commercially distribute her own music worldwide.

Natalie Y. Mooreis a freelance journalist who has worked for theSt. PaulPioneer Press, the Detroit News, and the Associated Press. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reporter, Black Enterprise, and In These Times. She is a graduate of Howard University, has a Master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and is an adjunct instructor of media studies at Columbia College.

Jerry Quickleyis one of the most well-known and well-regarded performance poets in the United States. He has appeared twice on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, in addition to performing for the Royal National Theater Company in London, and on the PBS documentary series Senior Year. Quickley made two trips to Iraq immediately prior to, during, and after the start of the coalition invasion in March of 2003.

We Got Issuesis the traveling performance arm of the New York-based Next Wave of Women and Power (NWWP). The group maintains, “We do not push for a political agenda or some sort of program for a specific type of women to feel at home; we welcome the entire population of women. Our stories are our views.”

Rha Goddess, Jerry Quickley, and We Got Issues will also be performing at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s second annual Hip-Hop Theater Festival, May 1-6. For more information visit their website

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.