Friday, August 13, 2010

Our Fascination with the Antoine Dodson Situation

Antoine received his own Brown Twitter Bird. He's Our Hero.
So, I was trying to at least partially explain why Black people love Twitter and what we do on the medium when I decided to include the overnight sensation of Antoine Dodson.



Thus, I wrote the following:
Thus, if they can't understand something so simple, then they wouldn't understand why, even though we are really (really!!!) appalled by both home invasion and rape, we love the Antoine Dodson story and find he, his sister, Kelly, (and his other family members) so funny.

And if that's the case, they REALLY wouldn't understand why a remix (auto-tune) song was made of his rant, why Antoine has 13 Twitter accounts, a website, is selling T-shirts and has a hotline---all this from the attempted rape of his sister by a roving rapist in their Huntsville, Alabama, Lincoln Park neighborhood. America, gotta love it.
But I couldn't let that be the end of my commentary on Antoine. His story, how and why he became an overnight sensation says so much about America, Black folks, race, class, gender and sexuality, so I HAD to write on it.

The Reasons Why We Love Antoine And Think He's Funny is Because:

1. His sister, Kelly Dodson, said she was "attacked by some idiot from out here in the projects...and it ain't just 'cause I'm cute. I KNOW that! Okay, first, we all know an idiot in our community but we think it's hilarious that she applied this term to an attempted rapist. Second, saying "in the projects" is just funny, period, probably because it's unnecessary or maybe because it's even funnier that she pointed it out. Third, because unlike the popularized notion that poor people who need public housing are synonymous with lacking intellect or reason, Kelly is here to let you know otherwise, hence the distinction---and we love it! Kelly also seems to have a very healthy self-esteem...

2. Antoine begins the (aired) phase of his interview with "Well, OBVIOUSLY, we have a rapist in Lincoln Park". For me, it sounds like a retort to the reporter who, undoubtedly asked something akin to "So, what do you think about your sister's attempted rape?" And, despite lacking media training, Antoine delivered (well!) what media experts say you should do, breaking down his thought into three main points:

a. They're climbing in your windows
b. They're snatching your people up
c. They're trying to rape you

And then a call to action:
a. Hide your kids
b. Hide your wife
c. Hide your husband

With a repeated main point and public warning:
a. They rapin' everybody out here!

3. Antoine is signifying VERY well. Not only does he know his multiple audiences, he is unafraid of the camera, so he tells the news reporter what is "obvious", warns the community and then has a message for the rapist, while personifying and rolling up on and into the camera.

4. Antoine threatens the rapist with bodily harm, even though he looks like he weighs approximately 105lbs, soaking wet. Nevertheless, when Antoine heard his sister scream, he ran into her bedroom and fought off the attacker, who eventually got away The camera shots in the bedroom demonstrated some heavy physical activity in the bedroom, which shows that Antoine is a man of his word. Still, the footage was funny because it points us back to Antoine's use of his lean, muscle mass.

5. Antoine produced an excellent soliloquy (in exactly 14 seconds) ending with, "cause they rapin' everybody up in here". How Antoine turned one home invasion and attempted rape into a maelstrom of kidnappers and rapists to inspire public mayhem is beyond me; but then, if there was more protection perhaps hyperbole wouldn't be necessary. (Update: After I wrote this, I found out how real this statement actually was. Keep reading...)

6. We are a bit unsure as to where we should hide everybody. And, yet, we feel safe with Antoine. What I most appreciate about his soliloquy is that he holds marriage and the family unit in high esteem (hide your kids, wife, husband). It's not the religious right, it's Antoine that knows about family values!

7. Antoine exposed the utter lack of concern for security in "the built environment" of the projects by demonstrating how easy it was for someone to just to a "two-step" (garbage-can-to-ledge, ledge-to-window) climb up into a resident's bedroom. It's appalling, really---and yet shamefully funny when we laugh to keep from crying.

8. Antoine's (lack of) faith in (or understanding of) the justice system that leads him straight to a declaration that is simultaneously inclusive of the police investigators ("you left your fingerprints and everything!") and completely devoid of their further involvement ("we gon' find you and when we do...").

Do recall that "9-1-1 is a Joke" was a very popular song by the rap group, Public Enemy.

9. Although it would be easy to try to classify Antoine as one of the lesser visible "homothugs" in the Hip Hop music world, it is probably more accurate to simply acknowledge that Antoine is just a more "feminine" man and/or gay. He is also neither a rapper nor a musician.

10. Interestingly, in this interview, the newscasters revealed that they received some backlash at the station for airing Antoine's interview. And we certainly know why, don't we? Lazy news reporters usually find the first (and sometimes only) ignorant person they can find (usually with rollers in her hair or him only partially dressed) to interview about a story in the Black community, despite how many other persons are standing around that could offer a more articulate analysis (and a seemingly better representation of Black folks).

And in that context, they are most certainly right.

But herein lies the problem of what Cornel West calls "the white, normative gaze" and our seeming need to promote middle class sensibilities; because there is nothing wrong with Antoine. Or his story. Or how he chose to express himself. Kelly and Antoine were very clear...they live in the projects. They are also Southern...they live in Huntsville, Alabama. And they both had a right to be exceptionally angry about Kelly's attempted rape. Yet, even in their rage, they exhibited more intelligence and articulated a sense of well-being than many of the persons who have been elected or otherwise appointed (and some self-appointed) to represent us.

Embarrassed by Antoine?! Please. We should be thankful he's here. He may just force us to redefine our priorities and how we think we understand one another.

Antoine Dodson's character seems to be better than most.

This is what led me to delve further into his story. I had written all of the above before talked to a girlfriend who sent me to this NPR news story. I like it and agree with it. It just did not go far enough for me. When I found Antoine Dodson's YouTube Channel, I watched an NPR Interview.

What I Learned from Antoine’s Interview on NPR, August 11, 2010:
1. The damage done to the room in which his sister and he fought off her attacker was much worse than what we saw on television.

2. His sister, Kelly and her mother were so afraid during the attack that they both urinated on themselves.

3. Before calling the police, they called six friends to help and for support.

4. After telling the Housing Authority officer, she just laughed the situation off and never took it seriously.

5. The police “eventually” showed up and opened an investigation.

6. It was Antoine, his sister and friends who were infuriated that no one was taking the situation seriously, so they started calling the news stations themselves. They did not receive an answer. They called WAFF first.

7. To their surprise, WAFF News showed up and Antoine and Kelly willingly gave interviews because they wanted everyone to know what happened to them and what could potentially happen to others.

Unsurprisingly, some people wondered if Antoine was acting, to which he offered a negative and said, “I was so mad, I wanted to choke the camera…” and when he was asked whether or not the perpetrator had been found, he answered:
No, they haven’t found the guy, yet, that’s why it’s still not safe to bring the kids out… hide your kids, hide your wives and hide your husbands…but when he do get caught, we will let the world know.
Just remember, Antoine, that catching the perpetrator is not your responsibility.

Now, I enjoyed The Gregory Brothers’ AutoTune The News Remix and heard it, for the first time, driving down the highway in Los Angeles. I, too, was shocked by the popularity of the “bed intruder”. And by the time you have read this post, Antoine Dodson will have been viewed 10 MILLION TIMES.

In response to his newfound fame, Antoine offered the following and as he shared his story, it forced me to spring into action:

I went to bed a nobody. Woke up, all of this happened. Woke up again the next day and it’s like, bam, Antoine Dodson, everybody knows him.
We wanted our stories to be heard so, be careful what you ask for… ‘cause now the whole world knows and now I’m glad because I want the whole world to know. You can’t sweep situations like this under the rug… and it’s been a lot of complaints…and even before my sister [was] attacked, there was a lot of people complaining about how people [were] getting raped in the projects…and people would just sweep it under the rug and not talk about it.

The next day [after] that happened, a lady came to us and was like, “There was a man standing at my window but I called my boyfriend, he went to the window and the guy left. Same projects, the very next day. So, I’m like, are you serious, you know what I’m saying? Like, what do we need to do as people to keep our community safe?...You know what I’m saying like..’cause nobody’s talkin’ about it now, I mean, the world knows but here, locally, here in Huntsville, it’s like, okay, it’s a joke, everybody’s takin’ it to be a joke, it’s funny to them, you know what I’m sayin’… I’m makin’ their city look bad, I’m makin’ their community look bad, you know what I’m sayin’ so, I guess…?
Stupid interviewer guy sweeps that issue under the rug (even after Antoine told him earlier that Kelly WAS hurt in the struggle) and reminds Antoine that “thankfully, no one got really hurt…it was an intrusion, you intervened…everybody’s okay, people need to watch out for this guy who’s on the run…but I mean, as far as how you’re dealing with it now, as someone with a celebrity status…”Can you believe it? He goes right to Antoine’s newfound fame on the internet. Darn you, interviewer! Darn you!

Antoine thinks the Gregory Brothers’ Remix is quite funny, also. It makes him laugh and since it doesn’t seem as though Antoine is a singer or a rapper, he seems to enjoy the part-fantasy of himself as a singer. But Antoine is not so blinded by his fame that he ignored the central issue nor abdicated his responsibility to articulate what other community members have shared.

So, I have a different message for Antoine because Kelly and his family are VICTIMS and although I appreciate their resilience, the interview makes it clear there is a pattern of disempowerment, disengagement and even disbelief that these issues keep being “swept under the rug”.

Kelly and Antoine Dodson, I just sent a letter to Mayor Battle and Mr. Michael Lundy of the Huntsville Housing Authority on your behalf because I am a concerned citizen and can’t just sit back and laugh at the hilarity of the videos on YouTube and then not do something to assist you all.

Since YOU were the ones that were proactive about the lack of proper safety in Lincoln Park and having your needs taken seriously, please make sure you follow up with these persons and please pass this information on to every single one of your neighbors. You all do not have to be silent and, although the auto-tune song is funny, all of you all’s claims need to be taken seriously. So, please use this information as you see fit and I will encourage everyone else to do so as well. Your story has only just begun, Sweethearts!

Please keep us updated and I'll do the same. We have to hold these people accountable.

Your City Housing Authority Office is:
Michael O. Lundy, Executive Director/CEO
His Email
200 Washington Street • P.O. Box 486 • Huntsville, Alabama 35804-0486
Phone: (256) 539-0774 • Fax: (256) 535-2245
Assisted Housing (Section 8) Fax: (256) 539-5982

“Growing community one family at a time.”
HHA's next Board Meeting is scheduled for
Wednesday, August 25, 2010, at 12:00 noon
Oscar Mason Center, 149 Mason Court.

Your Mayor and Boss of the Housing Authority is:
Mayor Tommy Battle is on Twitter!
@TommyBattle  (<---Tweet Him!!!)
@huntsvillecity
Email
Facebook Page

Your City Council Representative is:
Dr. Richard Showers, District 1, Huntsville City Council
308 Fountain Circle
7th Floor
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
256-427-5011 Tel
256-427-5024 FAX
His Email  
Assistant

Your Regional HUD Office is:
Cindy Yarbough
Field Office Director (205) 731-2617
Fax (205) 731-2593
Email Region IV
Atlanta GA

Birmingham Field Office
950 22nd St North
Suite. 900
Birmingham, AL 35203-5302


Your State Representative is on Vacation but can be found here.


Your Congressional Representative is:
Congressman Parker Griffith, 5th District of Alabama
He doesn’t have a regular email address and only wants to hear from Constituents.
Others can contact him here:

Huntsville District Office
2101 Clinton Ave. W. Suite 302
Huntsville, AL 35805
Phone: (256) 551-0190
Fax: (256) 551-0194

Antoine, I want you and Kelly and the community of Lincoln Park to have "the last laugh", so here is a letter any of your supporters can use to contact the Mayor and the President of the Housing Authority. I sent a longer one already that I will email to you for your records. Your supporters should feel free to change this letter or write their own. Let's make sure they take care of the issue and protect the community.

August 13, 2010

Dear Mayor Tommy Battle and Mr. Michael O. Lundy:

I am writing out of concern for the safety and quality of life of the Lincoln Park residents residing in the Huntsville Housing Authority properties, in general, and Kelly and Antoine Dodson’s family, in particular.

When I looked on the Huntsville Housing Authority website, I observed that, “the mission of The Authority is to eliminate the negative influence of poverty in public housing.” I am inspired by your mission but troubled by what appears to be the lack of application of your mission by one or more HHA employees. When I listened to Mr. Dodson’s interview, I was struck by his narrative (outside of the hilarity of his flamboyance and the creativity of the two brothers who created the song now popularized on the internet) because it pointed to a particular failure on Housing Authority officials to take the home invasion and subsequent attack upon his family members seriously. They did what they were supposed to do. They called the police and reported it to the Housing Authority.

According to Antoine Dodson, despite his internet fame, no one is addressing the issue locally and his story is treated as more of a joke and an embarrassment to the community and the city, as opposed to the real threat of public well-being that their horror demonstrates.

I am writing this open letter to you because the situation is already out in the open and by the time you read this, 10 MILLION people will know about Antoine Dodson, his sister Kelly and the attempted rape in the Lincoln Park projects in Huntsville, Alabama. As you know, being poor does not have to mean being a perpetual victim and never heard. This is why we love Kelly and Antoine Dodson, are proud of their heroism, resilience and outspokenness.

The only thing embarrassing about this situation is the manner in which the Dodson family has been dismissed by the very persons who are supposed to represent them and help provide for their well-being.

I would appreciate hearing back from you and wish you and the community the best as you seek to resolve this issue and further empower your residents to live in a safe and wholesome environment, “Growing community one family at a time.”


Sincerely,

INSERT YOUR NAME

UPDATE: Both @happybrowngirl and @Wakandan_Knight sent me this video of North Carolina A & T's band playing the Gregory Brother's Auto-Tune "Bed Intruder" song:



This is amazing talent and I love it.

All that I ask is for all of you reading and all of you making pictures and T-Shirts and all of you posting & RT'ing the videos and sending it on your phones (and that makes about 11 MILLION (!!!) of you now, PLEASE just take 10 more seconds to post this blog, email a letter and RT this message:

Petition Mayor @Tommybattle to protect Kelly and #AntoineDodson and the Lincoln Park Comm. http://act.ly/2aq RT to sign

Please remember there are Human Beings and a Horror Story behind this great curiosity and explosion of creativity. Taking a moment to help Kelly and Antoine Dodson and the entire Lincoln Park community will make all of you as genuine a hero as they are. Let us support their resilience with a piece of ACTION to end the nightmare.

I say this especially to all of you White people and Black college students on the internet and the Brothers and Sisters in the hood on their cell phones. You don't realize how influential you really are. Take 2 seconds to tweet the Mayor by signing the petition on Twitter.

Poor people deserve civil and human rights, too, no matter what they look like, no matter how they sound, no matter how much or how little education they have had.

And often times, we as young people, as Black and Brown and/or poor and/or White and poor, rarely understand how policy decisions affect our lives and how we can live as empowered beings.  You have a voice. Use it. Antoine and Kelly did, so follow their great example.

Sincerely and With Love,

Dr. Goddess

(Special thanks to my Twitter family for keeping this story alive, RTing the blog and adding to a great discussion. Follow the hashtag: #AntoineDodson)


10 comments:

BELLA'S POPS said...

Wow. Thank you again. I'm going to be sure I pass this around...Once again, you've everything I wanted to say about the situation (and then some!). Keep 'em coming...

Lorena "Welst aobviously we have a rapist aout here een Leencan poark..." said...

I agree with you...when I first heard him say "They rapin everybody out here"..I laughed... I was thinking "how dramatic"...but then I read somewhere that rapes actually do happen in that area quite frequently, and the law enforcement has been turning a blind eye to it for a long time.

This post was good, and one of the best ones I've seen written about Antoine. He is a hero in my book, he did everything he can to call attention to what is going in those projects, and tried is best to protect his family :)

Cheers

Dr. Goddess said...

Thank you, Bella's Pops! Join us on Twitter for the Twitter Petition to Mayor Tommy Battle.

You, too, Lorena and thank you so much or your response. Like you, I learned about the frequent rapes in Lincoln Park after laughing hysterically at the Autotunes song and it's what led me (among other reasons) to do more than get a good chuckle.

I appreciate all of you reading and, most of all, taking a few seconds to participate in our action.

Brandi said...

I didn't watch the video when everyone was posting it on facebook, but I heard Antoine on an interview last week. I watched the video afterwards, and, maybe because I had background info, didn't find it funny at all. But, I also try to listen to what people are saying and not just how they are saying. This was a great post!

Jen said...

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I resonate with everything you said. I am also so grateful that you gave us direction in how to help the Dodsons. I am a rape survivor and can imagine the terror that Kelly has been living through, and that of her family's. I've sent out a huge email to the people listed, will be posting your blog entry on Facebook (where I originally saw a link to it!), and am tweeting for people to take action as well. THANK YOU!!!

Dr. Goddess said...

You all are quite welcome. If any of you know how to get in touch with Antoine, especially Kelly, please let me know.

I have already heard back from the Regional HUD Office, the Huntsville Housing Authority AND the Gregory Brothers. I haven't heard back from the Mayor yet.

Mr. Lundy says he has been trying to reach out to Kelly and cannot get a phone call back. He cites the police investigation is still underway and says there is a police presence in Lincoln Park. I appreciate his concern but that is simply not enough.

What do you all think? We need to keep the pressure on because so far, I've gotten only partial answers to my questions.

Anonymous said...

i am a fan too.and i love the bed intruder song,like you said antoine communicated his intended message quite well

kelly's lucky to have him as a brother

as far as getting in touch with him,he does respond to comments on his facebook page

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

I never heard of folk-thank god i haven't

Teej said...

Thank you for your insight on this. Very refreshing.

Frankie said...

Thanks a lot, Dr. You are giving words to how I feel about Antoine Dodson's "act". I hope and even expect that the hilariousness of that catchy song, and Antoines world wide popularity as a result, will give the neighbourhood-safety in the entire USA an extra impuls :)

Antoine's wit does not stand in the way of making his serious and urgent point. Nevertheless I was shocked to learn the details of the attack.

Kind regards,
Frankie,
Holland

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