The late C. DeLores Tucker left a rich legacy when she died in 2005. A participant in the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala. march and longtime NAACP board member, she became Pennsylvania's first Black secretary of state in 1971. She would later chair the National Political Congress of Black Women, Inc. But perhaps her greatest — and least appreciated — accomplishment might be her relentless campaign to eliminate sexist and degrading lyrics from the music industry.
It was a war for which she never volunteered.
Quoting lyrics from one song, she said, "She was sucking 'd' up and down with a smooth stroke, taking nine inches of d-i-c-k like 'Deep Throat.' The other bitch…"
Tucker took her campaign against sexually explicit lyrics to the streets, picketing music stores, and to the suites, purchasing stock in Time Warner and challenging its top executives at stockholders' meetings.
Rap artists, in turn, attacked Tucker with a vengeance.
Tupac Shakur, in a song titled, "How Do U Want It?" raps: "DeLores Tucker you's a (M*****F*****). Instead of trying to help a nigga you destroy your brother."
On another song titled "Wonder Why They Call U Bitch," Shakur says: "Got your legs up trying to get rich. Keep your head up and your legs closed Dear Ms. DeLores Tucker."
Eminem had similar lyrics.
KRS-One, hailed as a race-conscious rapper, spent time denouncing Tucker on a CD supposedly about freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal. The first verse:
Everywhere I look there's another house negro
Talkin about they people and how they should be equal
They talkin but the conversation ain't going nowhere
You can diss hip-hop, so don't you even go there
C. DeLores Tucker, you wanna quote the scripture
Everytime you hear nigga, listen up sista.
The second verse of the song was also spent attacking the "girl named DeLores."
The music industry refused to accept any responsibility. The Recording Industry Association of America issued a statement that said, in part:
"…The recording industry flags explicit sound recordings with a Parental Advisory Logo. The highly visible black-and-white logo has provided parents, for the last 12 years, with a tool to determine what is appropriate for their children. Parents — not some special interest group — should be the arbiter of family values."
Tucker countered that even free speech has its limitations — except when it comes to her.
Tucker filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Shakur's estate, Time and Newsweek.
Tucker's suit, taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, was dismissed, according to judges at various points, largely because she was deemed to be a public figure and therefore must prove that malicious lyrics were written, knowing in advance that they would damage her reputation.
Essence magazine has launched a "Take Back the Music Campaign," women at Spelman College protested Nelly's "Tip Drill" video, and public figures — including NAACP Board Chair Julian Bond, Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and E. Faye Williams, Tucker's successor at the National Political Congress of Black Women — have voiced mounting opposition to lewd lyrics.
Some African Americans refused to join C. DeLores Tucker's campaign because she often paired her efforts with those of Bill Bennett, a conservative Republican. But critics of the music have run out of excuses. It's time to pick up where Tucker left off and declare language that degrades females, whether uttered by Don Imus or rappers, not to be tolerated.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.