Culture ignored

I am writing this letter in response to Abdul H. Shabazz’s letter that said “being black in DeKalb is really immaterial.” First of all, I’d like to tell Mr. Shabazz, if he really exists, that being black has never been immaterial to me. I come from a strong, proud culture that has withstood slavery, genocide, and the inhumanity of whites for hundreds of years in this country.

Secondly, I would like to inform you that being a black person in DeKalb is a trial a best. When you have been here for five years, as I have, then I want you to tell me how difficult it is for a black student to make it in a predominantly white college in a predominantly white town. Often our cultural needs are ignored, and I would like to give you a run down of some of the things you have missed.

Take the Nitzer Ebb concert a few days ago. I kept asking black people who he was, and they had no idea. Take the Bob Dylan concert last year that all of the races at NIU thought was a waste. We were “blessed” with a concert by De La Soul year before last, and how many black people have them included in their “down ass rappers” list? And, in 1987, NIU had to cancel a Run DMC concert due to a lack of ticket sales because they chose not to advertise to the larger black markets in Aurora and Rockford until it was too late.

Let’s talk about movies here for a minute. Do you know how long I had to wait to see “New Jack City” and “Boyz in the Hood” (congrats on the Oscar nomination, John) here in DeKalb? I have to go all the way to Chicago to see “Daughters in the Dust,” a new movie by a black, female director. Speaking of going all the way to Chicago, I even had to go to Chicago to see the NIU School of Music’s celebration of black American music.

I can’t get BET on Warner Cable, WGCI is always full of static, there is one beauty shop in DeKalb that can do my hair, there are no good soul food restaurants, there is one black Baptist church, and I can’t wait to get my master’s so I can get the hell out of here.

Now it’s not that I don’t like European entertainment. I played classical violin for ten years, and I catch the Vermeer and Kronos Quartets anytime they are in town. I love the foreign films the Cine Club shows. Aerosmith, Whitesnake, and Steely Dan are members of my record collection. And I will read “Cosmopolitan” just as fast as I’ll pick up “Essence”. But sometimes it is nice to see people, places, and things you are familiar with, things that remind you of home, who you are, and where you come from.

It doesn’t take a cross burning in my front yard to let me know that most people in this town aren’t aware of my culture and that they probably don’t care about it at all. Why am I still here? Because NIU offered me the assistantship I needed to obtain my master’s, and I’m happy about that. What I am not happy about are people like you, Mr. Shabazz, (Isn’t it strange he has a Muslim name? Malcom’s last name was Shabazz too. Do you think he knows that?) who like being ignored, and who wouldn’t know the rich culture of black Americans if it hit them in the nose.

Tracy Deis Doris

Graduate Student