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