By now everyone has seen or heard about Erykah Badu‘s provocative video for her song ‘Window Seat’. It’s the first single off her album ‘, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh,’ in which she visits Dealey Plaza where President John F Kennedy was assassinated back in November 1963. Here Badu walks around the plaza and in front of unsuspecting tourists she strips her clothes and while completely naked mimics getting shot by an unseen sniper. The video was shot in one take back on St Patrick’s Day and caused quite a stir amongst her fans who thought Ms Badu had courageously pushed the artistic envelop and made us think about the concept of ‘group think’.
However, now she’s starting to get push back from everyone ranging from the Dallas Police department to city council members who want to know if she had a permit. They are also noting that she could be arrested for indecent exposure. Dallas Police Department Senior Corporal Janice Crowther in a recent interview noted “To shoot that video they would have had to get a special events permit from the events office and it would have had to specify what type of filming they were doing, what subjects they would use and any traffic control they would need.”
It was further intimated that a police officer would’ve been required to be on the scene and there’s no way in the world Badu would’ve been allowed to strip down in public. She could’ve been arrested for a class B misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure, which carries a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail term of up to 180 days. At the time of this writing Dallas police were looking for witnesses to step forward to register a complaint.
Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway is a big fan of Badu’s but cautiously noted to the Dallas Morning News; “I want to be clear..We’re not going to tolerate these types of things. We’re not encouraging it….Her good work, however, doesn’t excuse her bad judgment…She’s a very talented artist and one of my favorites. I think that if she had it to do again, it would be – and should have been – in a more controlled environment where we would not at least have had the kids caught off-guard,” Caraway said.
Adding to this are bloggers and critics many who like the song and appreciate the video,but are publicly questioning whether or not Badu actually got nude. Some are suggesting that she used trick photography, wore flesh-colored clothing or did fancy green screen trickery. The reason being is that we had not heard much clamor about this video until it was released. We also have not seen film clips from passer-bys posted anywhere. In an age of flip cameras and Iphones, some are noting that it’s hard to believe that no one else got footage of this ‘strange’ occurrence.
The other point being made is did any of the people shown have to sign release forms. Will we hear from them down the road? Lastly some are cynically calling this a cheap publicity stunt. We don’t think it was. There’s no need for Erykah to go that route. We think she really wanted to make a statement..
We’ll keep you posted on how things unfold. Its hard to believe that Dallas DA Craig Watkins would get behind this and make an issue. At most Badu might pay a fine. There’s so many other things going on that are far worse. Most people enjoyed this video and give her props for being bold.
Below is a pretty cool essay that lays out a nice perspective for us to consider:
“WINDOW SEAT” TO A BLACK WOMAN’S SOUL
by Makeda Crane
I woke up two days ago and my partner said, “You won’t believe what’s #2 on yahoo search, Erykah Badu”! “Really, why?”, I said. He explained to me that it was related to the video for her new song, “Window Seat”, in which she sheds all of her clothes. I thought, ok, she must have done that for a reason. In fact, one of the reasons I have grown to love Erykah is that she makes no apologies for being herself and not fitting into a prescribed category – a statement within itself being a Black woman in America.
But, I wasn’t always a Badu fan, when she first came out, I thought, “she’s so cliché”. As a Brooklyn girl, I saw a million sisters everyday rocking “headwraps” and celebrating an afrocentric aesthetic in their dress, on the streets of New York, way before “Baduizm” was a fad. But, somewhere between “Worldwide Underground and Mama’s Gun, she became Erykah to me – a girlfriend I could turn on, “to get me through”. Mama’s Gun, converted me, as I instantly identified with Erykah’s quest to define her own path and reality as a Black woman in this universe. The ethereal melodies and frequent transitions characteristic of her songs, also was a form of communication that gave me the space and a platform to reflect on the varying dimensions of my experience. The last time I saw Erykah perform was last summer on my birthday and I was mesmerized as usual, as she has the gift of being able to transplant the audience “in her spaceship” to her “solar system”, all the while enjoying the journey.
I finally pulled up Erykah’s, “Window Seat” video up on YouTube today, and instantly began nodding my head to Erykah’s raspy voice and the entrancing melody. As she took each step (in the video) on the Dallas streets, I felt like I was right beside her – a bit anxious , anticipating her next step but also concerned about the implications of her “full reveal”. Knowing that she would be naked by the end of the video, I began thinking about the historical exploitation of black women’s sexuality and how “accessible”, “marketable” and reliable the images of black women’s body parts were masqueraded in so many Hollywood movies, in hip-hop videos, on liquor store ads and pasted on subway walls. I thought about how growing up as a girl and teenager I was given the message that my body was “dirty” meant to be covered so “it” wouldn’t bring “danger” or “provoke” a man to act on his “natural” urges and that somehow I was responsible for making sure I wasn’t violated. I thought about how ashamed I’d feel walking down the street at 13 or 14 years old, while grown men hollered obscene comments about parts of my body. I thought about the hundreds of thousands of women who are being raped everyday in the Congo, as a tool of war and how the world’s silence and agreement had condoned this reality.
My hope is that in some small way Erykah’s bold move would be the beginning of a new moment in history where black women define black womanhood and sexuality for themselves, free from history’s grip on their backside.
Within the last minute of the “Window Seat” video my eyes met the words evolving tattooed on Erykah’s back and all I could think was, “thank you”. Thank you, Erykah for shedding: the pain felt by black women worldwide: the pain of the auction block, the raping of black women during slavery, the sexual and other types of abuse that too many black girls, endure as a “rite of passage”, the shame and anger of being sexualized earlier that you can understand by Hollywood, the media or even by your own family members, the fear felt by black women walking down the street late at night, the pain felt by the women of the Congo as the world profits from their suffering.
I say thanks Erykah, from all the little black girls and all the grown black women around the world. Thank you for your courage, thank you for shedding all that is a barrier to the expression of life – pain, shame and fear. Thank you for the celebration and honoring of black womanhood – the first mothers of this planet. In our natural state we are beautiful to be honored, respected and valued just because we are here! We are with you in your declaration honoring all womanhood, all humanity and all life, no exceptions! Thank you for your act of liberation! Thank you for giving me the question: What else do I need to shed?
Independent Journalist & Human Rights Activist
e-mail: makeda.crane@ yahoo.com