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DETROIT — The Rev. Al Sharpton organized rallies across the U.S. on Tuesday demanding rap lyricists stop employing the “N-word” and terms degrading to women, urging public divestment from the music industry until it complies.
“We’re talking about Viacom, Time Warner, Vivendi,” three entertainment conglomerates that Sharpton said would be pressured to clean up their musicians’ lyrics if threatened by the withdrawal of government-run pension fund investments.
“The opposition has tried to use the argument of free speech, but they don’t have the freedom to use peoples’ pension funds against their own will and interest,” the 2004 presidential candidate said in a telephone interview from Detroit where he led a rally outside the famed former studios for the Motown label.
Promoting his “Decency Initiative” to rid hip-hop music of the words “nigger,” “bitch” and “ho,” — the last word slang for whore — Sharpton billed the protests in some 20 U.S. cities as a “day of outrage.” Virgin Media Inc.’s flagship New York music store was among the protest venues.
“I’m here in Motown in Detroit as a symbol of when music was not denigrating and was entertaining,” Sharpton said.
Legislation proposed in New York state calls for $3 billion in pension fund investments to be redirected away from music companies that distribute rap music with the offending lyrics, he said.
“Every record company has what they call a lyrics committee, where they screen lyrics to make sure they’re not against police or gays or Jews. Well how come they’re clearing lyrics against blacks and women?” he asked.
Sharpton was among the leading voices demanding that talk show host Don Imus be fired for referring to black women basketball players as “nappy-headed hos,” and to demand an apology from “Seinfeld” actor Michael Richards for his tirade at a comedy club where he repeated the N-word.
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