#CanWeTalkForAMinute? On Luvvie, Tevin Campbell, And The Black Twitter Drag That Won’t Die

Famed writer and Pop-Culturist, Luvvie Ajayi, of Awesomely Luvvie,” has found herself in a Twitter firestorm after tweeting the following:

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What Luvvie, I assume, expected to be a light-hearted jab at Campbell’s has-beenerish status, has erupted into a Black Twitter drag that has left many of us vacillating between, “You right!” and “Dis tew much!”

Even some have celebs weighed in on the fray:

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But let’s backtrack for a minute.  For those who don’t know, Luvvie is blogger goals. She was a regular degular blogger who catapulted into celebrity-blogger status when the likes of Kerry Washington,  Oprah, and Shondra Rhimes recognized her prowess for disseminating pop culture and spitting it back to us in a funny, writerly way known only to Luvvie Ajayi. She is now the author of the New York Times best seller: I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual.  Currently, she hangs with celebs, Podcasts, and tours around the world doing speaking engagements and the like. She’s made it Y’all, and rightfully so.

Luvvie is also well-known in the Black Twitter circuit, and truthfully, she owes much of her rise to the Black Twittersphere. Folks were heavy on the retweets back in the days, and those tweets eventually landed in the hands of folks who make things happen. Alas, we have the Luvvie of today. Who, by the way, I find to be very much the Luvvie of yesterday.

But some of the very people who were on #teamluvvie have shifted their allegiance and seemingly, overnight, declared her to be a fraud, masquerading as an African-American, when in fact, she knows little of the culture. These people allege that Luvvie, a native of Nigeria, has profited off the backs of the African-American community, while simultaneously othering herself from the very people who saw to her rise.

The Tevin Campbell tweet, they say, is proof that Luvvie doesn’t truly have her finger on the pulse of African-American culture. She is not one of  the people, they say, and its high time she gets knocked off of her pedestal:

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There are many, many more tweets that sing versions of this same tune, but I’m not here for the drag so y’all are gonna have to google on your own.

Writer, and fellow Pro-black Pop-Culturist, Negra with Tumbao, however, has a different take on Luvvie’s tweet, calling out folks who dared to question Luvvie’s Black-Americanness, while simultaneously shutting down the assertions that a critique of Tevin Campbell is anti-black.

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Let’s also note that this isn’t the first time Luvvie’s been dragged for seemingly anti-African American rhetoric.  Indeed, what I call The Luvvie Drag of April 2017 went on for a week and ended with a public apology from Ajayi herself. The premise of that drag was the same as the one of late: Luvvie seemingly showing her true Nigerian colors, while feigning oneness with African-Americans.

My Thoughts

I’m a first generation African-American. My upbringing, however, was very much Haitian. When I was growing up, I had limited access to my American friends, and therefore, what I know of African-American culture, oftentimes, feels like an outsider looking in. On most things, and arguably the things that matter, we are the same. But smaller cultural nuances? I’m at a loss. I had greens, for the first time, last year. I’ve never double-dutched or sat on the stoop to get my hair braided. I’ve never had grits, and if/when I do, I’ll put sugar on ’em. I grew up Catholic, so the black church is foreign to me as well. Never played spades. And only recently did I become fluent in AAV. There was a point in my life when I’d even take pride in “othering” myself. Granted, I was a teenager, but having been reminded at every turn that I was not African-American during my childhood led me to become resentful of my African-American counterparts. Therefore, I donned my “I’m black but I’m not African-American” hat with pride. I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself for having ever believed othering myself made me superior, but I’ve been woke now for over 18 years, so I pray you’ll forgive my past indiscretions.

But here’s my thing:

I’m aware of my place. I know that there are some things I don’t know, so I don’t go around forming haphazard opinions about stuff that doesn’t relate to me. For instance, I would not have known, in million years, that Tevin Campbell was the black baby Jesus. I had to call a few of my friends to ask them about the uproar because I didn’t get it, personally. But once I was told, I respected it and understood immediately why folks were up in arms about Luvvie’s tweet. Sure I loved Tevin’s hits as a girl, who didn’t? Hell, he sang “Happy Birthday” to Ashley on the Fresh Prince!  Still, I haven’t thought of him in years, and I wouldn’t have pegged him for an Aretha tribute, either.

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But Black Twitter didn’t make me.

Black Twitter didn’t decide that I was to be the voice of African-American Millennials and Gen-Xers, and frankly, if they had, I would have fought it at every turn. Mostly because there will always be folks who knew me when I was on my Anti-African American BS, and even though I have evolved, my integrity will always be called into question because of where I began. Yes, people grow, but you cannot adopt a culture. You have to be born to it.

Still, Luvvie is who she has always been. She provides commentary about trending topics in the African-American Community. My guess is that she has, in the past, written about stuff to which she may not feel any personal connection, but because y’all are talking about it, and y’all put her on this stage, she is forced to engage.  In this instance, she tried and failed. Probably because she isn’t quite as glued into the culture as she has been in the past. She’s booked and busy, who can blame her? I’m neither booked nor busy, but I hopped off the African-American Pop culture train a year ago and I haven’t looked back. It ain’t my ministry. I almost found myself feeling forced to write something about Aretha Franklin, knowing good and well I don’t know her music like that. I wasn’t brought up on it. Ask me about Kassav and we might could talk about a lil somethin’ somethin.  Truthfully, African-American Pop Culture probably isn’t Luvvie’s ministry anymore, either.  And I think it’s fair to question whether or not it has ever been her ministry. I couldn’t answer the question either way because I, too, am African-American adjacent so I am in no position to call folks out on their African-Americanness.

I do think, however, that many people have been waiting for Luvvie to “reveal” herself. It’s no secret that there exists a tension between African Americans and West Africans. Many African-Americans will tell you they have, at one time or another, been snubbed by a West African. I’ve heard the assertion “Africans think they are better than us,” more times than I can count.  So folks who are already harboring that resentment, no doubt, have always questioned Luuvie’s true allegiance to the African American people.

Either way,  I think we can and should continue to appreciate what Luvvie has done.  She’s written funny, hard-hitting commentary about the state of Black lives in America, and many of us, myself included, have been here for it. Her essay about Raven Symone’s “I’m not black” assertion will reign supreme as my favorite blog post of ALL time. Her words gave us life during a time when we needed it the most.  Likewise, we can and should continue to be inspired by what she has achieved. However, it’s time we stop looking for her to be anything and anybody other than herself: a Nigerian, in America, whose proximity to African-American culture often allows her to speak on issues relating to African-Americans. But that’s where it ends, at least that where it ends for me. If I were Luvvie’s friend, here’s what I’d offer as advice: “You don’t have to feel obligated to write about this shit anymore. You did it. You done made it. Now you can put it to bed. Write about the stuff that truthfully sets your soul on fire. Folks who are here for you will always be here for you. You don’t have to be “The Voice” anymore. You can kee-kee and retweet tweets, if you feel the need. But you don’t have to be this person anymore. Be you and do you.” And as we Haitians say, “epi das et [that’s it]”

I’ll end by sharing my favorite Tevin Campbell song. I plan to watch the tribute and hope to see him SANGING like so many of y’all swear he can still do. We shall see!

Share your thoughts and favorite Tevin Campbell classics below!

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  1. I’m not dragging on Luvvie she probably didn’t think it was that serious HOWEVER this seems more about a lack of respect for black American culture than anything. Tevin Campbell was a protégée of Quincy Jones so yeah Aretha, Quincy, and the roots of black music are deep in our culture so while I don’t know funeral plans it does show that people who have had the black experience as we have experienced it, first gen or other immigrants may not understand the roots and the depth black music had on our struggles and history I mean Aretha sang at MLK funeral and I mean not to be a jerk but prior to MLK dying for his stance no black(African/Hispanic/ Dominican or ANYONE brown would have been allowed to immigrate here much less succeed in this country so I think ppl get kind of annoyed about that. It was only a few years ago in my mom’s gen that black ppl light colored or brown could even sit on the bus where they desire namean? So ijs

  2. African American adjacent I like that. Have you read Anerican, great reference that would very much relate to this topic.

  3. Ummmm to that reply talking about “Wasn’t nobody checking for him prior to this!” Honey, you should speak for yourself! Lol most of us have been bumping his music since it came out…and haven’t stopped appreciating just because the music industry did. Someone so in tune with the African American community as Luvvie says she is either (A) aware of Tevin Campbell’s cultural significance and purposely shaded him for the attention she knew she’d get from doing it…OR (2) <— yes that was intentional lol… she DIDN'T know, and given her attention to detail about everything else, should have done a little research before making that statement. ??‍♀️

    Either way, what she said was rude. Tevin is and always will be the TRUTH!

    P.S. There are SO many classics in his catalogue, but my current favorite in the rotation is Alone With You. ❤

  4. All I can say is Luvvie made it! Loool. When you have people hate you for an opinion, that means people care about you. As an African American, I took no offense to what she said. Where the hell has Tevin been in the past 10 years or more? Under a rock doing him. So I completely understood what she was saying. Am I offended? Nah. She was simply saying he hasn’t been around so what made y’all consider him for an Aretha tribute? Also Luvvie is in her 30’s and been here in America since she was 9. I consider her Black American adjacent enough to understand what we go through here. Just my opinion….

    1. Exactly. I think some people are waiting for Luvvie or anyone that is not African American to say something that can be misconstrued to do so and then go crazy. If she was being shady she should be checked. However, some of the people watchfully waiting were the same types that snubbed Haitians, Africans and other immigrants while growing up. Maybe sometimes the hypersensitivity comes from their own harbored long standing dislike for these other cultures.

  5. Thank you for articulating my thoughts cause I’ve been confused all weekend. She didn’t say he couldn’t sing and Black Twitter ain’t been kind to him for 2 whole decades. Until the other day, no one said one word about him and constantly made fun of his appearances. He hadn’t been on anyone’s radar to be on a tribute list. Even after all this, he’s still at only 28.9K followers. None of the “defenders” gave him a follow.

    1. Again, this internet blogger new age generation kills me with this follower BS. Who gives a fuck about your following? Does that change your legacy or the respect you earned in your time from your people? Fuck outta here with that. For you to be recognizable enough to be defended today when you were making it when tape cassettes were how people heard you is legendary. Y’all steaming now. It ain’t even mp3s we discussing. I’m 35. I lived through tapes, VHS, DVDs, blu ray, mp3s, and now streaming networks. Stop disrespecting your heritage. Learn your damn history and stop finding reasons to attack one another. Hurts me to my soul. We black. That’s how they see us. Africa or America born, we have the same continent of origin.

  6. This is hilarious to me… that this actually happened. I’m with Negra with Tumbao… “fake news”! LOL! I grew up on Tevin (LOVED him!) & that episode of Fresh Prince still gives me a lil chill ? but where he been?! “Under what rock” for real! She’s not saying the boy wasn’t talented but he’s been out of the limelight for years. YEEEAARRSS! Nobody was thinkin bout no Tevin Campbell. I think it’s what you said, people were just waiting for Luvvie to say somethin, anything, that they could jump on. Please. ? Lol

  7. Thank you Lisa for this write up. I want to start off by saying I am a proud West African born in Canada. I grew up listening to likes of the late great Aretha, Tevin Campbell etc And I know she grew up listening to the same also. She has never denied her Nigerian roots. To be honest I interpreted what she wrote totally different from what a lot of people are saying. I honestly don’t think she meant any disrespect to Tevin Campbell, I think what she was trying to put across is and this how I interpreted what Luvvie wrote to mean Ohhh where has Tevin Campbell been all these years. Kinda like what’s he been up to all these years. That is how I interpreted what she wrote. I honestly think this is what she meant but it came across wrong.

    1. Hi Dawn, Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think at this point, we can all agree that the Tevin tweet sparked a conversation, but the overall sentiment shared by AAs is that Luvvie speaks about AA as though she is an authority when her history of slamming AAs hasn’t been scrubbed from the internet. So they feel, she is an outsider speaking about them and they take issue with that. In short, it wasn’t about Tevin. Partially, yes, but mostly, no.

  8. Luvvie needs to be quiet. She is not an authority on African American culture and has demonstrated her disdain towards African Americans for years now. She’s just another black immigrant cashing in on African American culture without having to deal with the reality of actually being African American. African Americans deserve the same culture boundaries that Afro-Latinos, Africans, and Afro-Caribbean folks demand. We shouldn’t even have to tell y’all this.

  9. “African American” is ridiculously cumbersome to write, read, and say. “American” conveys the same sentiment. Adding “African” is just a way to say “black.” Being black isn’t the point.

    Being from different countries is the point. Africa is not a country; Luvvie is one woman, descendant of one country, Nigeria. The African-vs.-African-American discussion had its place, but I’m not sure this is it.

    Tevin Campbell is a LEGEND. I’m 1st-generation American, and I’m a day-1 fan. Luvvie’s comment was nasty, no question, but I think that’s the long and short of it.

  10. I should add: this is a fantastic piece! I’ll be back for sure 🙂

  11. What did Miss Negra with Tumbao mean when she said “direct ties to Africa?” That is a bit insensitive to me, like we are supposed to feel some type of way about her Africanness. Maybe it’s just an error of interpretation on my part, but she should have worded that differently…plus how is it relevant to what she was saying about fitting in two spaces?

  12. So for yalls information all of us 70s babies who grew up in Nigeria grew up on Aretha Franklin and Tevin Campbell and the likes. The difference between African American and Nigerian is that we grew up on different continents. Please do not come here and spill ignorance that West Africans shun African Americans what kind of nonsense is that? Surely you do not know anything about Nigeria and Nigerians. And it clearly shows that you have a beef with or hatred for Nigerians. Keep your beef, jealousy and ignorance to yourself thank you

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