“Throw your ‘O’s in the air!”
This is a line from a YouTube music video I just watched called “The Obama Dance” (http://www.theobamadance.com/video.html), made and being promoted (seriously; I got the press release) by self-proclaimed hip-hop artist Bob Brown.
Depending on your point of view, this video is either hot, or just a hot mess. In the age of web cams, and digital recording and graphics, I’ve seen all kinds of T-shirts, hats, videos and original songs, promoted on street corners, at conventions and on social networking sites literally around the world. Of course, all of this is driven by the undeniable popularity of Obama—the man, the wife, the family and the movement. (Yes, Black Enterprise is part of it, too—you can order posters and T-shirts featuring the landmark January 2008 issue our magazine, the first national publication to spell out exactly why and how Obama would win the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the White House.)
This new cottage industry is a combination of opportunistic entrepreneurs profiting from a hot trend; creative fund-raising and campaigning to reach a new generation of younger, more urban, browner and blacker first-time voters (think will.i.am’s “Yes We Can”); and hucksters using Obama as a gimmick to gain a record deal, a TV appearance, social networking notoriety, or 15 minutes of fame in any other digital denomination. (I think you’ll find Mr. Brown behind door No. 3.)
What we’re seeing today is nothing compared to what will happen when Sen. Obama becomes President Obama. (Yeah, “when.” You heard me.) Once he is actually elected, the need to support and raise money for the campaign will give way to the uniquely human irresistible force called the profit motive. The White House will need a whole team of lawyers to manage the exploitation of Obama’s name and image in video, music, apparel, web sites, etc. I mean, urban clothing boutiques such as Against All Odds already have Obama shirts right next to their Akademiks and Roc-A-Wear gear in malls around the country.
The election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency ushered in a new age of Camelot. God, please don’t let the election of Obama usher in the return of Sir Rap-a-Lot! (Don’t laugh. We’ve already witnessed scholar and social critic Michael Eric Dyson commenting on future First Lady Michelle Obama’s “back” during TV One’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention—a first-crass low point more expected of BET than TV One.)
My concern is that we allow the election of the first black president of the United States to cause us to disrespect Obama, to take the man and the office less seriously or to treat the position with less reverence. None of the other presidents were referred to as “playa”, “dog”, “brah,” “The O Man”etc. When elected, Obama should never be addressed as anything other than Mr. President, at least in public. (This point was made by Christian comedian Jonathan Slocum during his performance at the Black Enterprise/Pepsi