To:Russell Simmons / All Def Digital, Chairman of the Board, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Remove and Apologize for “Harriet Tubman Sextape”
On August 14th 2013, Russell Simmons’ “All Def Digital” published a video on Youtube entitled “Harriet Tubman Sextape”. In the video, which is portrayed as a comedic parody, Harriet Tubman conspires with another enslaved person to blackmail their way into freedom by producing a sex tape. While her enslaved friend hides in the closet with a video camera, Harriet Tubman proceeds to initiate sex with her master. But before doing so, she alludes to having been raped in the past: “All these years, I’ve been actin’ like I didn’t love our special time together. But tonight that’s all gonna be different.”
On the same day that Russell Simmons’ “All Def Digital” released this video, he hosted a party for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization that aims “to promote understanding and cooperation between and among ethnic groups and to reduce the existing tensions among diverse racial and ethnic communities.” The irony and shame of this coincidence is appalling. Reducing “existing tensions” requires respecting and honoring the history and cultural heritage of all groups, including the enslaved ancestors of diasporic people. Not only does the Harriet Tubman “sex tape” make a mockery of the history of transatlantic slavery, Harriet Tubman’s memory in particular and the painful reality of sexual exploitation and terror in the lives of enslaved women, but the video also contributes to rape culture by perpetuating the myth that women only “pretend” not to enjoy being forced into having sex against their will.
In short, not only is All Def Digital’s video vulgar and in extremely poor taste, it is also dangerous. As an influential cultural producer, father and chairman of the board for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Russell Simmons should not only remove the video but also apologize for ADD’s role in dishonoring the memory of enslaved women throughout the African diaspora and contributing to rape culture.
I’m shocked the production of this mockery wasn’t ended before it got online. They have since deleted the video but it can be seen online. I decided against posting such a video on RealTalkNY. Russell’s apology is below.