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Sister Souljah (born Lisa Williamson, 1964) is an American hip hop-generation author, activist, recording artist, and
film producer. She gained prominence for Bill Clinton's criticism of her remarks about race in the United States during the 1992 presidential campaign. Clinton's well-known repudiation of her comments led to what is now known in politics as a Sister Souljah moment.
Lisa Williamson was born in the Bronx, New York. She recounts in her autobiography that she was born into poverty and raised on welfare for some years. At age 10, she moved with her family to the suburbs of Englewood, New Jersey, a suburb with a strong African-American presence, a slight change from the big city feel of the Bronx. Englewood is also home to other famous Black artists such as George Benson, Eddie Murphy, and Regina Belle. There she attended Dwight Morrow High School.
Souljah disliked what American students were being taught in school systems across the country. She felt that the school systems purposely left out the African origins of civilization. Also, she criticized the absence of a comprehensive curriculum of African American history, which she felt that all students, Black and white, needed to learn and understand in order to be properly educated. She felt that she was being taught very little of her history, since the junior high school and high school left out Black history, art, and culture. "I supplemented my education in the White American school system by reading African history, which was intentionally left out of the curriculum of American students."From 1978 to 1981 she attended Dwight Morrow High School, which had a relatively even distribution of Black, Latino, and Jewish student enrollment and a majority-Black administration during the time of her studies. She was a legislative intern in the House of Representatives. Souljah was also the recipient of several honors during her teenage years. She won the American Legion's Constitutional Oratory Contest, a scholarship to attend Cornell University's Advanced Summer Program.
Throughout college she traveled, visiting Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Russia. Her academic accomplishments were reinforced with first-hand experiences as she worked in a medical center in Mtepa Tepa, a village located in Zimbabwe, and assisted refugee children from Mozambique. She also traveled to South Africa and Zambia. She graduated from Rutgers University with a dual major in American History and African Studies. She became a well-known and outspoken voice on campus and active writer for the school newspaper. One of her noted campus initiatives was spearheading a campaign to bring Jesse Jackson to Rutgers to speak against the university's controversial investments in South Africa at the time, when divestiture from apartheid-era South Africa was a heated political issue. Sister Souljah was part of the Rutgers Coalition for Divestment, which successfully organized the Rutgers University administration to divest US$3.6 million in its financial holding companies doing business in racist, pre-Nelson Mandela South Africa. Sister Souljah and students across the state of New Jersey also organized a successful campaign to get the state of New Jersey to divest more than US$1 billion of its financial holdings in apartheid South Africa.
In 1985, during her senior year at Rutgers University, she was offered a job by Reverend Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. She spent the next three years developing, organizing, and financing programs such as African Survival Camp, a 6-week summer sleep-away camp in Enfield, North Carolina. She also became the organizer of the National African Youth-Student Alliance and outspoken voice against racially motivated violence in cases such as Howard Beach, Yusuf Hawkins, and more.
Sister Souljah became a controversial figure during the 1990s as a frequent guest on American television and radio talk shows. Her comments drew attention and criticism due to their inflammatory nature concerning race relations. Her position of influence among Black Americans as a hip hop artist polarized groups and individuals both Black and white and led to public controversy.
22 Years Ago the Infamous Sister Souljah Moment Occured -We Look Back
By: Davey D
I was just reminded via tweet by Dr Goddess out Pittsburgh and Gwen Ifill of PBS that today is the 20th Anniversary of the infamous Sister Souljah Moment. For those unfamiliar with the term.. It’s a political strategy in which a politician makes public repudiation of an ‘extremist’ person or group, statement, or position perceived to have some association with the politician or the politician’s party. It’s designed to show that the politician is not beholden to anyone, is unafraid and willing to stand up to so-called special interest groups.
The Sister Souljah Moment finds it origins in 1992 when formerPresident Bill Clinton was campaigning and decided he wanted to appeal to blue color voters, independents and soccer moms who seemed to be apprehensive about Clinton’s connection to Black folks, in particular Reverend Jesse Jackson. He figured the best way to reach those voters was to show up at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition convention and publicly smash on him and create some distance.
Clinton’s people were looking for a good excuse and found it in the form of Sista Souljah who was invited to speak at the same convention.. Souljah in an interview about the Rodney King/ LA Uprisings that occurred earlier that year was quoted as saying ‘If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?’.. her remarks were connected to a much longer response and in full context makes sense, but isolated subjected her to criticism.
Souljah also had a song out called The Final Solution: Slavery’s back in Effect where she said ‘If there are any good white people, I haven’t met them’…
The Clinton team used those two situations to basically embarrass Jackson at his own convention. During his speech Clinton remarked; “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech,” referring to Sista Souljah..
This set off a fire storm and angered Jesse who tried to come back at Clinton by explaining that Souljah was misquoted and her overall sentiments represent the feeling of an entire generation of people, many who feel alienated, but damage was already done. Jackson was rebuffed and Clinton sent a strong message to his centrist voters that he was capable and more than willing to put Black folks in their place.. This soon became known as the Sista Souljah moment and political pundits look for those opportunities where a politicians takes a bold stance against his party..
Clinton was able to maintain this facade of being unafraid, because the media went out of their way to ignore Sista Souljah who had no problem speaking her mind and putting folks in check.. She put out a statement to bashed back on Clinton and let folks know that in spite of folks fondly calling him the first Black president, he wasn’t all that friendly and was more than willing to throw Black folks under the bus to appeal to skittish white voters..
Lastly one can’t look at the Sister Souljah moment without noting the long history of this country resurrecting Black boogeymen to scare white voters or appease them..During the Presidential campaign prior to Bill Clinton in 1988, George Bush sr brought to life Willie Horton, which led to him defeating Gov Dukakis During Clinton’s presidency, the spectre of the Black welfare queen help him push through welfare reform..
Last week during the Recall election in Wisconsin, we saw lots of white voters go against their interest after Gov Scott Walker suggested that him being recalled would lead to all of Wisconsin becoming like Milwaukee, meaning Black folks would be everywhere. We can take this all the way back to the turn of the 20th century where we had the movie Birth of a Nation which depicted stereotypical images of Blacks played by whites in Blackface ruining the government. and chasing white women.. This led to the popularity o and rise of the Ku Klux Klan who were shown as heroes in this land mark film..
Sister Souljah's Statement
Peace. I stand before you today feeling very confident, steadfast and powerful; at the same time, I am surprised, that I as a young African woman, have impacted and effected the development of not only national politics, but international politics as well. It is very shocking to me that in a time of American economic recession, and inner city urban chaos, Democratic presidential contender Bill Clinton has chosen to attack not the issues, but a young African woman who is very well educated, alcohol free, drug free and a successful self employed businesswoman, and community servant.
Considerable time has been spent debating whether America should take seriously the words of a rap artist, or so called entertainers. Let me clarify for the press who I am – I am Sister Souljah; rapper, activist, organizer, and lecturer. I was born in the Bronx, New York, spent the earlier part of my life there, was raised by my mother, was on and off the welfare system for approximately 15 years, lived in government subsidized housing and was classified by sociologists as being in the under class-meaning living below the poverty line in a vicious cycle of poverty that America says one can not break out of. I supplemented my education in the White American school system by reading African history, which was intentionally left out of the curriculum of American students. By doing so, I was able to become the well-balanced, reassured woman that I am now. While in high school, I was a Legislative intern at the House of Representatives for the Republican party. I was a winner of the American Legion’s Constitutional Oratory Contest, attended Cornell University’s Advanced Placement Summer Session, and entered Rutgers University. I attended the University of Salamanca’s Study Abroad program in Salamance, Spain, worked at a medical center in Zimbabwe, visited Mozambiquan refugee camps and traveled throughout the Southern African region. I have also visited and lectured in the former Soviet Union, England, France, Portugal, Finland and Holland.
Moreover, at Rutgers I was a well known writer and political commentator for the university newspaper. I attended church in the Bronx in New York City, where my great grandmother was the pastor. She died this year at age 92. While finishing at Rutgers University, I was offered a job by Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, which is a church sponsored civil rights firm. I developed, organized and financed, through hip-hop music, a sleep away summer camp called the African Youth Survival Camp for children of homeless families and ran it successfully for 3 years, thus leaving Rutgers one semester prior to graduation. I have spoken on the same platform with Jesse Jackson, Minister Louis Farrakkan, Rev. Ben Chavis, Rev. Calvin Butts and Nelson Mandela.
As you can see I am no newcomer to the world of politics. I am mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually and academically developed and acutely aware of the condition of African people throughout the entire world.
My album “360 Degrees of Power” is an amalgamation of all of my thoughts, personal, and professional experiences here in America. My album was produced by Eric Sadler, one of the producers who created the music for Public Enemy, Ice-Cube and others. Any person who purchases my album will have a full understanding of what I think and believe, although it was designed specifically with the African community in mind. I was certain that Bill Clinton was unfamiliar with me, my development and work, musical and otherwise. He chose to comment without any investigation whatsoever based on an interview in an ultra conservative newspaper, The Washington Post, which is about as familiar with the experiences of Africans in America, inner city youth, and hip-hop, as Bill Clinton is. I however, did not fail to do my research and my research reveals the following indictment of Bill Clinton’s integrity:
1) Bill Clinton is a draft-dodger who wrote in a letter “Thank you…for saving me from the draft” and then asserts regularly that he supports military force when necessary, especially against Communism. He, therefore, feels it’s alright to send your son to fight wars when he himself would not fight for the principals he SAYS he believes in.
2) Bill Clinton talks of morality but admits that he was a reefer smoker who does not inhale. Sister Soujah has never smoked reefer or any other drug.
3) Bill Clinton says he believes in a strong family unit but could never quite get his own personal and social behavior together. His treatment and dismissal of Jennifer Flowers is indicative of how he relieves himself from his personal responsibility and created an emotionally abusive environment to Jennifer Flowers. He seems to feel comfortable attacking and alienating women for his own shortcomings.
4) Bill Clinton says that Sister Souljah is a racist like David Duke, a well known ex-Klan member and White supremist, but was a member in an all White segregated club up until this year.
5) Bill Clinton portrays himself as compassionate, yet he supports giving prisoners lobotomies, removing sections of the brain.
6) Bill Clinton takes shots at Dan Quayle’s intellectual feasibility yet he has not presented America with any substantive, comprehensive agenda around economic development, foreign policy, budget containment or social policy.
7) Bill Clinton says he is not a racist but he tries to distance himself from Jesse Jackson – a candidate who has registered more voters, served the interest of poor Blacks, poor Whites, poor Latinos, unions, laborers and farmers and by experience, intellect, and charisma, is far more qualified for the job.
Therefore, we can conclude that Bill Clinton lacks integrity at painting himself as a staunch patriot, a people’s servant, a compassionate liberal, a family man, a pro-woman candidate and a coherent scholar. Sister Souljah, on the other hand, was used as a vehicle, like Willie Horton, and various other Black victims. A poor excuse for an AGENDA-LESS candidate.
Sister Souljah does not own a gun, has not shot or killed anyone, did not invade Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Kuwait or Angola. Sister Souljah has never ordered the National Guard into anyone’s community and has not made drug deals with Noriega. Sister Souljah has never been a member of a terrorist organization, has no history of crime, has not burned crosses on anybody’s lawn or lynched or hanged White people from trees. Sister Souljah has not systematically denied people the right to study and enjoy their culture in the so-called public education system. Sister Souljah did not send Haitians back to Haiti as though they were sub-human. Sister Souljah did not kill the native Indians under the guise of friendship. Sister Souljah did not cause or inspire police brutality, did not beat Rodney King, or shoot Phillip Panell and never shot and killed a little White girl in the head for stealing orange juice and let her murderer go free. Sister Souljah did not vote on the Simi Valley jury and let criminal cops free. Sister Souljah did not create the economic conditions of South Central L.A. or any other urban area for that matter, and did not create an environment of insecurity that forced people into gangs.
Therefore, we can conclude that Sister Souljah is not a racist. Neither Sister Souljah nor any other African leader in this world has the power to collectively and systematically beat down and destroy European people, White people deny it all, refuse to discuss it, silence, intimidate and harass those that take a stand and fight back. Yes, I am angry, which means that I am sane. Only an undereducated and misguided African person would not be angry at the racist White transgressions of this society.
The context in which my statements were made in the Washington Post was this, and I paraphrase speaking in the mind-set and in the mind of a gang member: Were you surprised at what happened in L.A.? No, I was not, White people should not have been surprised either; they knew that Black people were dying everyday in the streets of Los Angeles to gang violence created by poverty and social chaos, but they did not care. If young Black men in L.A. would kill their own kind, their own Brothers and Sisters, what would make White people think they wouldn’t kill them too? Do White people think they’re better, or is it that White death means so much more than Black death?
Breaking it down, this means injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. As Sister Souljah, I reserve the right to fight against White racism–I have not ordered anyone to kill anyone. My album creates pressure on White America–a lot of pressure, and pressure is what America needs, deserves, and inherited–no justice, no peace.