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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

By Tavae Samuelu
This love affair is pretty new. I mean I liked her when she was Melissa Harris-Lacewell repping for Obama and (re)defining democracy, but now I love her. It started when I saw a video of her speaking about her book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She effortlessly and eloquently wove together academic rhetoric and her own personal narrative. My inner and sometimes shamelessly outer Ethnic Studies nerd exploded with glee.
I have to confess something. It’s the kind of thing I would commit 140 characters to and shout from the proverbial Facebook mountain tops. I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Melissa Harris-Perry. It’s the love that would make me go all groupie and embarrass myself the way I would have for N’ Sync when I was twelve...okay, maybe fifteen.

And then there’s her show.

AMAZING! The MHP Show, as fans affectionately call it, is the stuff of my womanist wet dreams. On a Saturday morning when contemporary cartoons just weren’t cutting it, I flipped passed MSNBC. With a panel of hip hop scholars including Joan Morgan, another feminist of color that I respect and admire, Perry memorialized the late Notorious B.I.G. on the fifteenth anniversary of his death. At a time when hip hop and rap artists are being blamed for damn near everything wrong with my generation, it felt so good to hear someone who has been regarded as accomplished, intelligent, and politically conscious quote, wait for it...”Mo Money Mo Problems” and that’s only after referencing the “Ten Crack Commandments.”

My dear Melissa took me back to the good old days when I would sit on the school bus in kindergarten with Devin Hagens singing “Gin and Juice” completely clueless about the meaning of the lyrics. I know about the sexism that is reproduced in hip hop and the way that many artists contradict my values, but the first metaphors I heard weren’t from Dr. Seuss; they were from Dr. Dre. For a womyn like me who graduated to academia and social justice but grew up in the Long Beach that Snoop Dogg raps about, Perry’s segments serve as validation. Loving Melissa Harris-Perry feels like an act of self-love because when she tells her story, it sounds like mine.

More recently, she told the story of Trayvon Martin with the simple request that we all remember his name. Of the top five reasons to love Melissa, this poignant segment is reasons one through three. She uses her show as a platform to highlight injustice and calls for an evaluation of the lack of significance we place on the lives of young Black men. Watch and don’t forget.