Dear Miami: Respect is a Two-Way Street

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    As Memorial Day approaches, I can’t help but think about Miami’s unofficial Urban Beach Week.  It’s the largest urban festival in the world, drawing about 350,000 guests to South Beach.  Of the 14 years of its existence, I have patronized Collins Avenue, Washington Ave, and Ocean Drive enough to say, “What happens in Miami, stays in Miami!”

    Since I have grown older, I have come to realize that we spend entirely too much money with a city that despises the ground we walk on. And that’s not the only example.  Remember Freak Nik in Atlanta, the Greekfest in Philadelphia, Black Family Reunion in Daytona Beach, Jones Beach in New York and Virginia Beach Labor Day Weekend?  Most of these events have been canceled because the local residents in each town voted against hosting our events.  Should we be outraged that people don’t want to see a gigantic Hip Hop video played out in their streets, hotels, restaurants and clubs?

    I’ve always believed that these massive gatherings are extensions of the civil rights movement.  The need for us to get together is evident in our Sunday mornings, Saturday evenings, family reunions, historical meetings and marches.  But if there is no agenda when we get together, what’s the point?

    Approximately 350,000 people of Hip Hop make an annual pilgrimage to South Beach and no progress is made.  This, too, is a Hip Hop Dilemma.  A young man interviewed on South Beach Memorial Day Weekend 2005 stated that he spent approximately $1,500 for his outfits, $1,500 on travel, rental car and hotel, and another $2,000 for food, partying and activities. You don’t need a calculator to figure that’s $5,000. When asked where he got the money, the young man said he saved up all year to ball out for the weekend. He’ll return home and start the process over again. For what?

    Factoring in clothes, accessories, hair, nails, cars, flights, food, clubs, drugs and tricking, I estimate that we spend $350-$500 million on this weekend alone.  With the annual median income of Black households at $32,068 and 13 percent of Blacks unemployed, can we afford to give away any money with no return on our investment?

    We can’t even get courtesy in return. After $400-1,000 a night for a hotel room, we’re told we can have guests. When you can afford to pay that price, obviously you are not a child. Nothing is done to eliminate the predictable traffic maze. All public parking is eliminated, forcing us to pay $50-$100 or risk having our cars towed. Either way, they pocket the extra money. Foot costs are inflated by at least 30 percent, with “gratuities” automatically added on to tables of two or more.

    If I pay $5,000 for a trip and I don’t get to my destination because I am being harassed by cops, I am not going to be a happy camper. I’ve watched the cops on South Beach purposely heckle party goers who were so drunk that they were bound to be jailed

    We need to sue the city of Miami for violating our civil rights this weekend, but the problem, my friends, is our behavior detracts from making our case.  We view shootings and killings as a daily occurrence back home, but people from Miami frown on such occurrences.

    They will take the appropriate measures to protect their kids, their families and their environment even if that means treating us as second-class citizens. They want us to know that they don’t welcome us. Honestly, can you blame them?  They can’t understand why our women are walking around virtually naked and craving the attention of men who refuse to pull their pants up and are quick to yell obscenities and make obscene gestures.  People admire us for our power and our abilities, but hate us for our ignorance and stupidity.   The city of Miami’s response to this weekend is representative of the entire country’s disdain for the Hip Hop Community.

    Part of the Hip Hop fantasy is to live a lavish lifestyle, carefree and confident, but at what and at whom’s expense?  Unfortunately, our own.  We can’t keep acting like its OK to take our money, put us in jail, and send us home with a new bill or a new charge. Everybody is in on the take, but us.  This is becoming the new normal.  We are fooling ourselves if we say our behavior is up to par with the rest of society. And we are also not being true to ourselves if we think our money is not as good as anybody else’s.  We have rights, but we have to be awake to exercise them. I am a Citizen of Hip Hop, respect me as such – as I begin to respect myself.

    Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union, can be reached at jineea@gmail.com or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay

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