BET’s ‘Read A Book’ PSA Causes Controversy

Now that you’ve watched it. What do you think? I gotta say, I kinda LIKE IT! Before I go into why, I’ll say upfront that it is not without its problems. Who’s watching this video? Will this create another case of people laughing at us, and not with us? Does it further stigmatize black youth? This seems specifically targeted to black boys/teens–why are black women’s bodies still exploited as the vehicle to carry this “message” to them? And does this undermine or outweigh the messages it’s trying to hit home?

I think these are all questions I have watching this video. And they are more than just rhetorical questions, I think they bear some thinking about, and demand answers.

But what I like about this video, as someone who is uber interested in media messaging, is that it does, in a really clever way, intervene on what can no longer be denied as problematic behavior. It’s especially interesting in a time where there is an ever-growing conversation in Black communities and on the left about how do we “reach” black youth. It does what the hip-hop activists and scholars, and “conscious” hip-hop artists have failed miserably at doing over the last decade–which is to use the language and visual culture of hip-hop to drive home messages to create what public health folks call behavior change. I think this has the potential to do that–albeit with the problems it has.

Certainly has come a ways since School House Rock!

Much love to Pop Gumbo for writing about this first.

5 thoughts on “BET’s ‘Read A Book’ PSA Causes Controversy

  1. Why are there no black gay bloggers that focus on black GAY people and issues? I have yet to come across one. Every black gay blog or website I’ve visited has given passing reference to gay issues including this one.

  2. Hi Tyrone –

    Thanks for raising the question and for reading my blog. Your point is well taken. I read alot of the other black gay blogs, and you’re probably correct–most of us do not always focus on things that can be narrowly defined as “black gay issues.”

    For me, I am a Black gay man. I am interested in things happening in the black gay community. But that’s not all I am, and not all that I am interested in. I will say, I guess in my own defense, I used to work for a Black gay organization, and I did a ton of work to get Black gay issues to be covered by the mainstream press–there are several stories that made headlines in national newspapers, television and radio that would not have gotten there if it weren’t for my work.

    Secondly, no one has done more work to get issue about the various murders of Black LGBTQ folks in the press than I have. It’s a bold statement, but I can honestly say, especially here in NYC, if someone gets beat up or unfortunately murdered, I often get one of th eirst calls or emails from people in the community about it, and I have gotten those things in the press. I know for a fact that many gay news outlets read my blog, because they sometimes quote from it.

    That said, there are other issues that define who I am, my work and what I think are issues pertinent to my readers. I walk a fine line. I know I have black LGBTQ readers. I have a lot of progressive/radical activists and organizers read my blog. I also have people interested in HIV/Health read my blog, because I write for on treatment and medical issues for people with HIV. People interested in pop culture also read my blog. So I have a wide range of interests, and a few different types of people who are reading my blog–and there are black gay folks in each of the aforementioned categories.

    I think that being a black gay person doesn’t define what I am allowed to be interested in or write about. When I went to a job interview once, I was asked about my previous job organizing against prisons and policing in our society. I was asked, “what does this have to do with Black gay men?” I wondered, how could it not have everything to do with black gay men.

    So, I will try to take your comment into consideration in what I cover on this blog–cuz I think its a valid concern generally. Most of our black gay print publications are heavy on fashion and pop culture, and low on politics (I try to do a blend of both). But if you have specific issues that come up you think I should cover, email me @ But I will also continue to write about things that reflect the wide range of my interests and politics.

    I hope you keep reading.

  3. Thank you for the reply. As I think about it is if we don’t care about ourselves no one will. We have to make our issues a priority. There are far too many issues facing black gay people. Now I’m not saying give up everything else just a little more focus on black gay issues.

    Thank you for your work in HIV/ Aids awareness.

  4. It’s funny, no one gets offended when black folks make this type of music EVERYDAY about the exact same dumbshit the priginal creator of this song was satiring. Since people dont want to respond until theyre offended or hurt, i think this was a great idea.

    On the other hand, for B.E.T. to call this a “P.S.A.” I’d have to agree… that’s stupid. A wake-up call is more like it, to not only the REAL black community, but to BET aswell. HELLO? If you want black folkd to start reading books, stop playing into the dumbshit ALL DAY! I’m 90% sure whenever you turn to B.E.T. you will see spinning rims, women dressed like ho’s, money being wasted, or thrown around as if “it aint a thang” and t-shirts that look like dresses! Why is it all of a sudden offensive because someone takes that same platform and reminds us.. “hello, we’re more than this!!!”

    You guys got to be shittin me, when the hell was the last time B.E.T. was a TALENT showcase for anyone? You call the soulja boi talent? T-Pain? Jibbs? Mimms? This is what you call talent?

    Gotta be shittin me.

    scream at me
    rob “TexIz”

  5. THIS IS HORIBLE! Whoever created this B.S. should be ashamed of themselves. And, yes, it is in everyday rap music….I just call it “crap” music. What the heck is good about listening to a bunch of mumbling thugs “singing” about butts and crotch?

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