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Trinidad & Tobago: Akon Controversy Continues

Categories: Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago, Arts & Culture, Music, Protest, Women & Gender, Youth

The recent scandal involving US hip-hop artist Akon [1] brutally gyrating on a 15-year-old Trinidadian girl at the island's popular Zen nightclub has taken both the mainstream media [2] and the video was on YouTube [3] – not to mention scores of blogs [4], many of which have been enjoying more hits than usual.

In a bid to stem the already extensive and continuous coverage of the event [5], the teenager’s family is seeking to legally bar the media from further publishing photos and the girl’s name, as she is a minor. Club Zen has apologized for the incident. [6] But apologies have not appeased some bloggers, who remain outraged about the whole episode.

The Modest Goddess [7] has seen the video and is

“not sure what’s more disturbing – the girl being flung and dragged around the stage, legs twisted into varying positions to facilitate his act until he abandons her crumpled on the floor? Or the cheering of the crowd, the roaring approval of the crowd, the screaming, clapping, appreciative crowd. The same crowd that now stands in judgement of what happened.”

She is also concerned about the fact that

“on the various blogs on which it appears, comments are being left that use the most derogatory of insults. The girl…has been universally labeled a ho. It reminds me of the age old excuses given for rape – she wanted it, she asked for it, she enjoyed it, she was dressed like a ho, hell, she is a ho.”

Disparaging comments were also the reason that Caribbean Public Relations [8] decided to back away from the issue:

“I've deleted the post about the indecent dance between Akon and the 15-year-old girl, which has garnered this site at least 4,840 hits in just one week. Now one would think that I'd be ecstatic over this jump in readership. I'm not.”

In response to the Trinidad Express interview with the girl's father [9], The Manicou Report [10] voiced his opinion on the behaviour of both parties:

“I don't know what you'd call that barely-there red top, matching heels, low-rider jeans and lower back tattoo, but “innocent” isn't the word that comes to mind. She's wearing a crucifix though, so I guess it's all OK. Secondly, Akon. There's not much I can say for Akon except that I'm more than just a little disgusted. I don't think I have ever seen anything more dehumanizing being passed off as entertainment. To see a big strong man like Akon treat another woman like a hump toy without any regards to her personal safety is appalling to me.”

By contrast, Colonise This! [11] says:

“What is at issue here for me is not what Danah was wearing or the fact that she was underage, nor is it the practice of performers inviting members of the audience up on the stage to “wine” with them. What is at issue is what this affair represents: the consistent and constant erosion of social, moral, intellectual boundaries, that moves people of African ancestry closer and closer to the animal kingdom and makes us less and less recognisable as sentient and thinking beings.”

Afrobella is also disturbed by the racial implications [12]:

“So then this Akon thing happens, and I can’t look away from the comments pages. And I find the same ignorant beliefs being spouted again and again. ‘This is a part of Caribbean culture, get over it.’ ‘That’s how they dance in Trini.’ ‘Those Caribbean girls get down like that.’ And all of the old school disses delivered to dark skinned people that you might expect…Yes, scandalous dancing is celebrated throughout the Caribbean, all you need to do is do a You Tube search for ‘dutty wine’ or ‘dancehall queen’ to find an array of NSFW videos of women getting down on all fours to degrade themselves. But Akon took it to a whole ‘nother level.”

The incident has sparked considerable discussion over what has become a basic tenet of Caribbean culture – wining [13]. Barbadian blogger Eemanee at What crazy looks like [14] agrees that Akon…

“was perhaps a bit over-zealous and dishonest (there being no trip to Africa) but just how does his performance differ from that of many of our Caribbean performers or your average drunken revellers at Crop Over or Carnival; or that of the dancers in the latest passa passa video? If Akon has disrespected us it means we have been disrespecting ourselves for quite a long time.”

But Caymanian Mad Bull saw nothing out of the ordinary in Akon's behaviour, making the point that many of the region's soca stars behave in a similar fashion onstage [15]. Gallimaufry disagrees [16]:

“I’ve been to plenty (well, enough) fetes and soca/reggae shows and I’ve seen revellers at Kadooment and thing, so believe me, I’ve seen raunchy, but that isn’t just raunchy, that is brutal and scary.”

Posting from Trinidad, Dre at Allyuh.com was just as appalled at what he calls “Akon's Party Politics [17], producing a comprehensive roundup of politicians’ (including the country's Prime Minister) comments on the issue:

“Patrick Manning is now looking into the issue, pointing fingers in Zen’s direction and asking for the nation to forgive Danah:

‘I have taken very careful notice of this matter and the owner of Zen owes it to the public to take responsibility. I will be interfacing with Zen because that kind of thing should never be allowed to happen in this country.

‘The owner (of Club Zen) should not be allowed to have such a kind of scene, (and) the public should forgive Danah.'”

Meanwhile, Trinidad Carnival Diary reports that Club Zen has been shut down indefinitely [18] on the heels of another unsavoury incident involving a music star – but
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog reports that the closure was short-lived [19], perhaps making Genie X [11]‘s comment about Akon all the more relevant:

“But what of Akon? He was deceitful, egotistical, misogynistic, disrespectful and contemptuous. What price has he paid for his behaviour? What have been the repercussions of acting like an animal? Well, the only one I have seen so far, is that his record label has rallied to protect its ‘investment’, by attempting to hide the evidence of his despicable acts by having it removed from You Tube. Any and every behaviour by black people against black people is okey-dokey with them as long as the music keeps selling. Beyond this one disheartening act, there is the loud and eloquent sound of silence.”