Black Lives Matter, But Do the Voices of Black Women? (Guest Column)

Daddy-O/aka Glenn Bolton processed with an inset of Drew Dixon-Publicity-Getty-Inset-H 2020
Courtesy of Glenn “Daddy-O” Bolton; Inset: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

For a Black woman, to speak ill, true or false, about a Black man has become taboo, especially in hip-hop. But the time has come to listen.

A year or so ago, a movie producer called me and asked if I would be willing to appear in a documentary. The documentary happened to feature a dear old friend and colleague of mine, someone whom I deeply respect, Drew Dixon. When I learned the essence of the film’s content, let’s just say it felt like being robbed in the streets of Brooklyn in the 1970s.

Right now, the #MeToo movement is in full swing, exposing celebrities in the film industry for sexual abuse. Women, mostly white, were being heard. But what about Black women, particularly in the music business, and more specifically, in hip-hop? And what if they spoke up? Would anyone listen? Would anyone care? More importantly, how would they be viewed? The answers may surprise you. They surprised me.

When I learned of my friend Drew’s experience of sexual assault by music producer Russell Simmons, I was angry. But I was even more angry when music and entertainment outlets like The Breakfast Club blatantly disrespected Drew and other women by giving Russell a large, influential platform to continue to spread dangerous lies about my friend and downplay sexual assault within the Black community.

Let me elaborate, tell you who I am, and why I feel Black women’s voices matter.

I was born on the mean streets of East New York, Brooklyn, in 1961. At 15, I carried two guns for protection; at 17, I graduated high school; and at the age of 19, I became a rapper. In the following years, I would win a recording contract, become a music producer (credits include music by Mary J. Blige, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen Latifah and The B-52s), then a music executive and manager, and finally, meet Drew Dixon.

Drew was a sharp contrast from the music executives I’d met before her. She was working at Def Jam, a label founded and co-owned by my former manager Russell Simmons. At the time, I was trying to secure a record deal for a group I helped form, Junior Mafia. The group contained Lil Kim and was the brainchild of the late, great Notorious B.I.G. Although we couldn’t make that deal happen, Drew and I worked together when she later took a job at Clive Davis’ Arista Records.

Drew is, and probably always was, a healer. One thing I could always count on with Drew was honesty. So when I learned that Russell Simmons, a guy I knew, (previously) respected, and who made me plenty of money, had raped her, it was one of the most disappointing moments of my life. Russell has denied the allegations, but I believe her. I couldn’t believe him. So my answer to the On the Record documentary producers was yes, I would appear onscreen to support my friend Drew Dixon, as well as Sil Lai Abrams and Sheri Sher.

As this film explores, the voices of Black women, especially surrounding the subject of sexual abuse, matter. To hear Drew, Sil Lai and Sheri in this film bare their souls is both heartbreaking and amazing. It's a light shed on a subject rarely covered, and in truth, a bane to Black culture and community.

However, the days and weeks following the film’s release, it was still apparent that the voices of Black women were being silenced, yet again, and overshadowed by Russell’s lies and ability to manipulate the situation. The Breakfast Club (which did later feature Sil Lai as well), streaming services, blogs and TV outlets were showing Russell’s face and uplifting him as a hero of the culture — when he should be condemned for robbing us of the truth and inflicting horrors upon Black women.

By giving Russell a voice, you are directly contributing to the very narrative that will be the downfall of our Black women and further validating Malcolm X’s famous quote that “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” As often said in circles surrounding Black issues, we gotta do better.

The current narrative of Black Lives Matter focuses mainly on the killing of Black men and boys by white policemen and the like. This narrative almost forces Black women to be protective, or at the least careful of what is said and thought of their male counterparts. For a Black woman, to speak ill, true or false, about a Black man has become taboo, especially in hip-hop. But the time has come to listen.

I'm one of the many males asked to be in the film and one of the few to agree to speak. For Black women to say “Me Too” is a big deal. To make a film with such detail and depth about Black women’s trauma is monumental. And to spearhead a movement like this makes Drew Dixon the hip-hop Sojourner Truth. 

Editor's Note: Simmons, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 20 women, denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.