Should Dallas Official Charge Erykah Badu?: ‘Window Seat’ To A Black Woman’s Soul

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?

Makeda Crane

Independent Journalist & Human Rights Activist

e-mail: makeda.crane@ yahoo.com

blog: www.makedacrane.com

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

More Troubling Allegations for Racist Dallas Cop

 

Zach Thomas: Same Dallas officer

mistreated my wife

 NFL linebacker says line was crossed in 2008 traffic stop; Powell’s attorney sees no improper actions

 Sunday, March 29, 2009 By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News
tarcher@dallasnews.com

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/stories/032909dnspo1athomas.3ecf949.html?nTar=OPUR

 Maritza Thomas, the wife of NFL linebacker Zach Thomas, saw a familiar face as she watched the video of Officer Robert Powell detaining Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats as he and his family rushed to a hospital to see a dying loved one. That face was Powell’s.

On July 27, 2008, while her husband was at training camp with the Cowboys in Oxnard, Calif., Maritza Thomas was pulled over by Powell for an illegal U-turn near NorthPark Center.

Maritza Thomas was issued five tickets by Powell, four of which were later dismissed. Thomas was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police cruiser, spent about three hours in the Dallas County Jail and was threatened with the possibility of spending the night behind bars.

“This in no way compares to what happened to Ryan Moats and his family,” said Zach Thomas, who played for the Cowboys last season and is now a free agent. “But we wanted to tell our story, not knowing how many others have been affected by Officer Powell. We know the vast majority of the Dallas police force are good and professional people, but this guy just seems excessive.”

The charges that were dropped were failure to show proof of insurance, running a red light, having an improper address on a driver’s license and not having a registration sticker on the windshield. She accepted deferred adjudication for the illegal U-turn charge, and her record will be cleared next month.

In total, Maritza Thomas, who is Hispanic, was detained roughly five hours.

“This situation never should’ve happened,” said Maritza Thomas’ attorney, Brody Shanklin. “Unless extraordinary circumstances exist, no person should be arrested for a Class C citation. In this case, it was an example of Officer Powell being overzealous and exerting his authority in a manner that he never should have.”

Bob Gorsky, Powell’s attorney, questioned the timing of Thomas’ allegations, saying she had not complained about her arrest until the Moats incident became public.

“After her arrest, she may have mentioned that her husband was a football player, but that played no role in her arrest or the disposition of the case,” Gorsky said.

“I do understand that an arrest on multiple traffic charges happens often and is absolutely proper under these circumstances,” Gorsky said. “Often, when there are multiple charges, an arrest made and bond posted, some of the charges from a single event are later dropped.”

According to Maritza Thomas, a pharmacist with no prior criminal record, Powell would not accept the explanation of where the proper paperwork was before she was taken to jail. Her mother, Teresa Lozano, who was making her first trip to Dallas and speaks little English, was forced to ride with the tow truck driver when the car was impounded. She later posted bail for her daughter’s release.

“My mom was begging for him to let her go to the apartment that was five minutes away to get the paperwork,” Maritza Thomas said. “He unbuckled his holster, and she got scared.”

The Thomases said Powell was dismissive, but they did not allege that he used abusive language. There is no dash-cam video available of the incident, but the police report lists the five citations and confirms that Thomas was taken to jail.

Judge C. Victor Lander, the city of Dallas’ chief municipal judge, said under Texas law a person can be arrested for any Class C misdemeanor citation except speeding and having an open container.

When an officer gives someone a traffic citation, it is in lieu of arrest, Lander said. The officer does have the option of making an arrest, he said.

“It really is giving the individual a break by issuing them a ticket. But it’s a break most people get,” Lander said.

He called it “relatively rare” for an officer to arrest someone on the spot. That’s because it’s time consuming to take someone to jail and fill out the paperwork, he said. Usually, an arrest occurs if the person has a warrant for unpaid traffic tickets, Lander said.

When an officer does decide to make an arrest for a minor traffic offense, it’s usually because of how the person behaved during the traffic stop, Lander said.

“The defense bar refers to it as contempt of cop,” Lander said. “If the officer was offended by something the person said or did, they may arrest them.”

Dallas police say it is not unusual for an officer to arrest someone who is issued three or more citations during one traffic stop.

“If there are so many violations that it could be viewed that it’s an egregious situation, that person can be arrested,” said Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson, who oversees the department’s seven patrol divisions.

Simpson said he did not know the details of Powell’s encounter with Maritza Thomas.

Based on the five citations she received, Simpson said, an arrest would not be required, but it also generally would not be inappropriate.

“It’s a judgment thing on the cops at that moment,” Simpson said. “The core of what we do is just discretion, and it needs to be that way.”

According to the Dallas police Web site, complaints against an officer must be made within 60 days of an incident, except in special cases, including criminal misconduct or when good cause can be shown by the person making the complaint.

At the time of the incident, the Thomases considered filing a complaint against Powell but declined, “because we didn’t want to cause a stir,” said her husband, Zach Thomas, believing it “was maybe a guy having a bad day.” However, they plan to file one now.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a Dallas police spokesman, declined to comment on Thomas’ allegation.

However, he said police would investigate all complaints submitted to the department about Powell.

“If she feels Officer Powell did something wrong, we’ll investigate it,” Janse said. “We are not going to go back and track everything this officer has done,” he said. “If people come to us with concerns, we’ll look into it.”

The department is investigating Powell’s actions on the night of the Moats traffic stop, as well as any other questionable encounters involving the officer, Janse said.

Maritza Thomas said, “I hope that by telling my story that it will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”

Powell issued an apology Friday for his actions in which Moats and his mother-in-law’s father were unable to see Jonetta Collinsworth before she died of breast cancer this month. Powell has been put on paid leave.

With the grim news of Collinsworth’s health, Moats, his wife, Tamishia, and her grandfather rushed to Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, rolling through a red light that prompted Powell to turn on his lights.

Outside the emergency room, Powell detained Moats for 13 minutes, and Collinsworth died before everybody could say goodbye.

Staff Writer Scott Goldstein contributed to this report.

Zach Thomas, Wife Maritza, Officer Robert Powell

Zach Thomas, Wife Maritza, Officer Robert Powell