Letters: Black History Month, Hip-Hop, 'Norbit' Listeners react to some of our Black History Month commentaries, recent coverage of hip-hop music, and the politics of the new film Norbit.

Letters: Black History Month, Hip-Hop, 'Norbit'

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TONY COX, host:

Time again for your letters. Joining me is producer Christopher Johnson. Hey, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: What's happening, Tony?

COX: Well, the mail bag, please.

JOHNSON: We got a love letter of sorts. It's from Kelly Sparrow(ph) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it goes like this.

Thank you so much, NEWS & NOTES, for being such an excellent source of practical and fantastic information for people of African descent. It's like a radio equivalent of the now-defunct Emerge magazine. Tear. Sniff.

COX: And Kelly really did use those two words.

JOHNSON: I enjoy the show tremendously. Please, keep up the great work.

COX: Well, we will, and thank you. By the way, Emerge magazine started publishing in October 1989 and continued through June 2000. Emerge was know for letting the nation's top black journalistic talent take on stories that the mainstream press ignored. Some of the people you hear today, in fact, on NEWS & NOTES Roundtable were contributors, including Joe Davidson.

Interestingly, there was no Wikipedia entry for Emerge, which some of you out there may want to remedy.

JOHNSON: Now, Zach Durgin(ph) e-mailed with this reaction to commentator Eric Copage's recent call for a white history month.

We must address the many culturally engrained assumptions about whiteness, that it's more natural or more beautiful, etc. But the white history month envisioned by Copage is nothing but a politically correct excuse for minorities to engage in the kind of bashing they condemn everyone else for. When did two wrongs don't make a right stop being a truism?

COX: Meantime, Vlady Goodman(ph) of Oakland e-mailed us to say our coverage of hip-hop, while admirable, is still missing something. I want you to actually seek out these hip-hop artists who are on independent and sub-popular record labels and ask them why they don't get the radio and video play of their major label counterparts. Hell, go even further and find a pop radio station or two and ask them why; find a record executive or two and ask them why.

JOHNSON: Well, Vlady, NEWS & NOTES has done features on independent rappers, including Someone(ph) and the late Jay Dila(ph). We've even done a Roundtable featuring indie rap label owner El-Producto, and I recently visited Stones Throw, an independent hip-hop record company in L.A. We'll bring you a feature on that soon.

COX: And now a correction. Last Friday, Newsweek entertainment reporter Allison Samuels said this in our preview of the Oscars.

Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (Entertainment Reporter, Newsweek): As an African-American woman, you're not going to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend. Salma Hayek or somebody can be Tom Cruise's girlfriend, but they're not going to put an African-American in that role.

JOHNSON: Well, that prompted several of you to e-mail that Cruise, in fact, had a black love interest in "Mission Impossible II." She was Thandie Newton, who has appeared more recently in movies like "Crash," "The Pursuit of Happiness" and "Norbit."

COX: And speaking of "Norbit," we got several letters reacting to Monday's commentary by Jasmyne Cannick. Cannick criticized the film for the way it made her feel as a self-described overweight black woman. Here's Ross Gilling(ph) of Bellevue, Washington.

It surprises me that Jasmyne would cite two women, Oprah and Star Jones, who became successful in spite of societal perceptions of beauty and at the same time blame those same societal perceptions for causing good people with great hearts to go unnoticed. The operative term in self-esteem is self. Eddie Murphy is not responsible for any one else's self-esteem.

JOHNSON: Our self-esteem is in your hands, so please be gentle. Send us your thoughts and opinions. You can do it by e-mil or pick up the phone.

COX: Call us at 202-408-3330. That's 202-408-3330. Or you can e-mail us. Just log on to npr.org and click on Contact Us. Tell us where you're writing from and how to pronounce your name.

Christopher, thanks a lot.

JOHNSON: You're welcome, Tony.

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