Understanding the ‘cultural not remedial’ aspect of Black Vernacular English

“Why don’t you hand in papers in Ebonics since that is how you talk?”

I remember someone asking me this in my early days of grad school. I then explained that, as a student, it was my job to perform particular scholastic duties – including showing a mastery of the traditional APA, MLA, and Chicago Turabian styles of writing.

However, I told him that I use my native tongue – manifested from my years in Oakland, Calif, raised on the music of E-40, Keak Da Sneak and Tony! Toni! Toné!, and on the slang stylings of radio DJs like KMEL’s Chuy Gomez and Sway – in the classroom when I speak because I have no problem being who I am in that space.

But his question made me think about the ways that our use of regional tongues of Black Vernacular English (sometimes referred to as African-American Vernacular English, AAVE, or BVE) is often judged unnecessarily. Not only that, our decisions to use them in particular settings rather than others is often questioned as inauthenticity.

Mother of college quarteback under fire for tweet about Jameis Winston’s dialect


View image on Twitter


Yesterday, Florida State University won the college football’s national championship, coming from behind to beat Auburn University. Jameis Winston, who recently won the Heisman Trophy, took home MVP honors after the game.

During Winston’s post-game interview, Dee Dee Bonner, the mother of University of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, took to Twitter to ask a question about the interview.

“Am I listening to English?”, Bonner tweeted.


Two Whole Foods Employees Suspended for Speaking Spanish

A Whole Foods Market in New Mexico is in the news for suspending two employees for allegedly speaking Spanish while they were on duty.


Bryan Baldizan says he and female employee were only speaking in Spanish regarding personal matters. They wrote a letter expressing their disagreement with the policy.


Whole Foods officials doubled down on the policy, and suspended them. 

Grieving Daughters Kicked Out of Mall for “F— Cancer” Shirts

After losing their mother to cancer, Makia Underwood, 32, Zakia Clark, 29, and Tasha Clark, 27 began wearing shirts and hats with “F— Cancer” emblazoned on the front, with a breast cancer ribbon replacing the ‘C.”

It was a therapeutic way to address a deeply painful experience.

While shopping at Philadelphia’s King of Prussia Mall for a dress for Zakia’s 9 year-old daughter to wear at her grandmother’s funeral, a security guard took issue with the message on their hats, and demanded that they take them off or leave.

When Zakia refused, seven more guards surrounded them.

The Power of Words

In a time where words are abbreviated into consonants and symbols and three letters can signal an entire sentence, it becomes interesting to look at language in depth. Whether our ‘wyd’ for “what are you doing?” is a reflection of life lived on the go or a need for differentiation, our words and phrases change faster than Merriam & Webster can look up aardvark in the dictionary. How often do we analyze the reason behind our speech or think before we speak to choose our words meticulously? We are constantly deciphering messages from those around us via the internet, television, and in person. It may be useful to probe the source of our daily thoughts, conscious and subconscious, received through our constant contact with others.

Recently, I saw a movie called Waking Life, which posed various questions about our world and below is the clip on language.


Tha Carter IV, And Why LIL WAYNE vs. JAY-Z Needs To Happen…

So Lil Wayne’s highly anticipated (and routinely delayed) Tha Carter IV leaked onto the internets earlier this week. And it’s pretty damn good. But thus far, all anyone can talk about is that Jay-Z diss.

Confused? Well, it all started in a 2009 interview where Birdman declared that Lil Wayne is a better rapper than Jay-Z because he “do the most and make the most money.” Perhaps you’ll recall Jigga’s response earlier this year on the song “H.A.M.”:

“Like these rappers rap about all the shit that I do daily/I’m like really, half a billi, nigga, really you got Baby money/ Keep it real with niggas, niggas ain’t got my lady money.”

Clearly, Wayne was not impressed with Jay’s not-so-sublte double entrendre. And that brings us to C4’s most controversial track, “It’s Good.” “It’s Good” is essentially a traditional, solid slab of hardcore Hip Hop, opening with a flawless verse from Jadakiss. Drake does his best to keep up before Wayne hits the ground running with a closing verse.

Then he says this:

“Talkin’ bout baby money?/I got your baby money/Kidnap your bitch, get that ‘how much you love your lady’ money”

This is a clear and direct jab at Jay-Z (and Beyonce, technically haha).

The Enduring Power of Tupac Shakur

Yesterday was Tupac Shakur’s 40th birthday. And though it has been 15 years since his untimely death, the continued fascination and adoration he conjures amongst black youth (and the world, at large) is a testament to an iconic, albeit brief career that truly transcended mere beats and rhymes. Subversive, contradictory and brutally honest, Tupac’s music told the story of the young black male coming of age in the 1990’s. It is a dichotomous story; one where an appreciation for unity and consciousness within the Black community collides with capitalistic ambition and the attainment of an American dream, by any means necessary. His work spoke truth to a racist, capitalistic power structure, while at the same time attempting to usurp and dominate that structure with its own values and tools.

And that’s what made Tupac’s music so powerful and dangerous.

Jew Hip Black Hop

Bonded by our survival of near extinctions, Jews and Blacks always leveled with agendas for ending racism. For decades this linkage of two Diasporas endured the normal strains of any relationship; specifically, numerous occasions influenced separation of the two groups with an unbreakable extension of the nasty racial myths behind both groups. However, during times when Hip Hop—a creation of Black culture—offers its home to the international community, the historical Black-Jewish relationship becomes more prevalent. Images of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr. marching together reincarnate in the center of Hip Hop life, the cipher circle. Cipher circles from Israel/Palestine to South Africa to the States are all about intimacy, but closeness is always a neighbor to vulnerability. The same symbol of acceptance and alliance, at the same time reminds the community of the hatred Blacks and Jews once had for each other.

Speaking Our Own Language

For the past couple days the internet has been all keyed up over the DEA’s search for translators to help them decode the intricate and complex language of the drug game. In short, the DEA is looking for, as they call it, Ebonics experts. Wait what? Are we acknowledging the fact that Ebonics is a separate language? Or is this just another cultural disconnect between Black America and America?

When speakers of one dialect can no longer understand the speakers of another dialect, these dialects have effectively become different languages. And since dialects are born through social and or geographical isolation is the DEA saying that Black America has been disconnected from mainstream America for so long that we are speaking a different language and mostly unintelligible language now?