Mar 112014
 
Torence "Lil Boosie" Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

jewel bush

The fanfare surrounding 31-year-old Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after a four-year sentence on drug charges has been surreal.

A video of his daughter, a wide-eyed girl in ponytails and bows, feverishly expressing her anticipation over her dad coming home went viral. The clip, sweet at heart, was highly problematic though, because of the little girl’s repeated and casual use of the N-word — and it embodies the contradictions in this whole story.

Boosie became a trending topic on Twitter and yesterday there was a #Boosiespeaks press conference streamed lived on the Internet, held at the same time Gov. Bobby Jindal opened the 2014 Louisiana Legislative session. It seems that Boosie received far more attention than Jindal, even while some celebrities spoke out against the excitement surrounding Boosie’s release.

The Boosie fan base, a motley crew of diehards (a picture of a man with the words “Free Boosie” tattooed on his face made the rounds online some years back), bashed those who were less than thrilled about Boosie’s prison release.

The first time I heard Lil Boosie’s music I was appalled. My cousin Bryan spent an entire weekend playing various songs from the Baton Rouge rapper all with the hope of changing my mind. The year was 2001 and he was already a huge Boosie fan. “He’s a homeboy. He’s a regular dude. I’m rooting for him,” my cousin said.

He was determined for me to like Lil Boosie, too.

I just couldn’t. I kept hearing Boosie’s lyrics. Being the lover of words and stories that I am, I was unable to move beyond the Boosie line about forcing a woman to ingest Clorox to induce a miscarriage.

And with that I was done with the underground Baton Rouge rap legend, years before he reached a national platform, years before he recorded a song that appeared on an Oscar-winning soundtrack.

Regardless of how you may feel about rap lyrics overall — a war waged in the late 80s by the likes of Tipper Gore and C. Delores Tucker and a topic since debated to death — this Boosie thing is complicated.

You see, I have love for Boosie.

There is something to be said about a story of redemption. Boosie has a clean slate and there are no more charges hanging over his head.

In the press conference, the Boosie who stood before the crowd in all white and shades was a humble man who thanked God and promised to dedicate his future to his children and to his music career.

He said his prison time made him a “better person and artist.”

Behind bars, he was busy getting his GED, writing an autobiography and even a movie about his life. There are the 1,018 songs he penned during his incarceration too.

The machine around Boosie is impressive. He has legions of devotees who adore him, rap colleagues who can’t wait to record with him and a deal with Atlantic Records. Boosie is ready to get to work and to reestablish himself professionally.

I wish all young black men, all young people who are released from jail, would have a support system like the one that seems to be lifting up Boosie.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 45.4 percent of people released from prison in 1999 and 43.3 percent of those sent home in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years, either for committing a new crime or for violating conditions governing their release.

At the turn of the millennium, 3 percent of the U.S. population was either incarcerated, on probation or on parole. The Justice Department has estimated that a third of black men and nearly a fifth of Latino men born in 2001 will go to prison in their lifetime.

At the press conference, Texas hip hop artist Bun B said, “it’s a shame how many people don’t want to see a black man home.”

Let’s help welcome Boosie, and the fameless others, home too with support and opportunity while continuing to call them out — with love — on their behavior, or in Boosie’s case, his lyrics.

jewel bush, a New Orleans native, is a writer whose work has appeared in The (Houma) Courier, The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and El Tiempo, a bilingual Spanish newspaper. In 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers Collective, a multi-genre group for writers of color in New Orleans dedicated to cultivating the literary, artistic and professional growth of emerging writers. Her three favorite books are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

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  • G in Uptown

    Show one rational example of this statement.

    At the press conference, Texas hip hop artist Bun B said, “it’s a shame how many people don’t want to see a black man home.”

    One. One example.

    Or is it just a classic race based strawman?

    • Craig

      Go take a gander at the comments on Time Picayune’s website. More than enough proof there. And bear in mind that the worst has already been scrubbed.

      • G in Uptown

        Are you serious? When should we ever react to anonymous posters on local websites?

        I’m talking about *RATIONAL* examples. Structural in nature about the city, policies, industry, etc… that “don’t want to see a black man home”.

        You’ll never eradicate some anonymous person’s opinion. It logically can’t happen.

        But show me structural examples of people in this city where they have the power to prevent a black man from coming home.

        It’s just more pseudo-intellectual progressive buzzword nonsense.

        • Craig

          Yes, I’m serious.

          Are YOU serious that you think the original statement is a strawman? Do you hide your head in the sand and kid yourself that there aren’t a significant number of individuals engaging in the mindset that Bun B mentioned?

          Based on the very high standard that you have arbitrarily set on the need to prove Bun B’s statement, apparently I need a signed declaration from a local politician to convince you.

          Don’t cop out and claim that just because the posts are anonymous, that the mindset doesn’t exist. That’s just willful ignorance from someone who wants to believe racism is somehow long gone.

          • MonkeyTown

            “a significant number of individuals”? Do you honestly believe that or are you matching ignorance with ignorance? Name some names and give us some reliable stats or stop polluting the conversation with your prejudices.

          • Craig

            People like you, who will deny facts when they stare them in the face, aren’t worth the time to bother with. Belief is not necessary, there’s plenty of evidence for even the quasi-intelligent to be convinced. If you can’t see it and are demanding it from me, then you have chosen not to see it and there’s not much I can do to help you with that until you open your own eyes.

          • G in Uptown

            And what are you going to do about these anonymous arbitrary number of individuals?!

            Eradicate free thought and association? Who cares if these people exist… the structure of society is not preventing a “black man from returning home”.

            Grow up and lose the victimization! There will always be bigotry! In every element of society!

          • robinHchrist

            If you have ever known someone with a jerk for a parole officer you’d see it. Someone just applied at my restaurant to be a cool after serving 8 years in prison. He is living in a halfway house right now, with a strict curfew and a demand that he must have a full time job if he wants to be released from the halfway house before his 6 months there is up. My restaurant was willing to give him that because he used to be a cool there before he got locked up over drugs. The lady in charge at the halfway house wouldn’t approve him leaving to go to work at our restaurant. Just one example of a million. If you have the resume to become a probation or parole officer, do it. Your good judgement and helpful attitude will help so many people from getting re-incarcerated over the stupid infractions the asshole parole officers use to power trip on people.

          • Craig

            Wow, you do realize that this back and forth started because you claimed that this specific form of racism didn’t actually exist? “One. One example,” you asked. I mentioned a source where you could find hundreds of examples. Then you claimed that anonymous people don’t count as evidence that it exists. And now you say that “there will always be bigotry” and you seem to be accusing me of eradicating free thought. At least you have come full circle and now acknowledge that the original form of bigotry that you denied even existed actually does exist.

            You’re right on at least one aspect, there will likely always be bigotry. And rather than “eradicate free thought” (your suggestion, not mine) what we can do is call out the grossly misinformed such as yourself when statements like ” is it just a classic race based strawman?” are made.

  • best_in_show

    I suggest you all go to the web page that has lyrics for Lil Boosie’s “songs”. I would post them here, but Uptown Messenger could not print them. Of course.

    • Mike Flood

      best_in_show you are right on. I would think jewel could find a better person to crusade for but….

  • MonkeyTown

    I think if you read this editorial again you’ll understand that it’s not acceptance of his lifestyle, but one of forgiveness and support for someone who has paid his debt and promised to be a better person…we should all (black, white, yellow, brown) do the same. Only time will tell if he is sincere and has the fortitude to follow through with his promise…I wish him good luck, and after seeing the video of his daughter repeating the N-word and flashing gang signs I hope and pray he does follow through for her sake.

  • robinHchrist

    People need to read Michelle Alexander’s “the new Jim Crow” before they comment on anything to do with the prison system, whether individuals trapped in it, or it as an institution.