In Dallas, a Hip-Hop Plea: Pull Your Pants Up
Morning Edition, October 24, 2007 · Saggin' — young men wearing their pants with the waistband closer to their knees than their hips — has been around for years. But a growing number of adults are deciding they've had enough. In Dallas, an interesting mix of politicians, hip-hop artists and white businessmen are announcing a citywide campaign with a simple message: Pull Your Pants Up.
Deputy Mayor Dwaine Caraway's work life usually involves economic development, crime, housing-code enforcement and stray dogs. But the drumbeat of anger from South Dallas, the predominately black part of town, got so loud that Caraway decided to take a little detour into law enforcement work — fashion police.
"This is not just a teenage problem," Caraway says. "There are people sagging ... in their 30s. You know, where's your mind? You're not a teenager."
Caraway says that at first, saggin' was about showing your boxers. Then it was about showing more of your boxers. Then dirty boxers were cutting edge. And now there are guys walking around with no boxers on at all.
"You have some folks that don't even have on underwear, period," he says. "And who's to say what the generation that's looking at this generation will do after these guys?"
Two weeks ago, Caraway called a news conference and proposed a new saggin' ordinance. Unfortunately for Caraway, lawyers then called with some potentially bad constitutional news. So Caraway backed off a bit on the legal front, but he didn't give up.
"The No. 1 mission is very simple: pulling up your pants. That's all we want," Caraway says. "We don't want to throw folks in jail because they wear their pants low. So we're going to make it man's law and not city law."
And here is where fate stepped in to rescue the deputy mayor's crusade. In his barbershop in South Dallas, a rapper named Dewayne Brown saw Caraway on TV. Brown is called Dooney, and Dooney was suddenly very excited because he had been thinking about writing a new song. He already had a title: "Pull Your Pants Up."
After the 10 o'clock news was over, Dooney ran to his recording studio in the back of his barbershop and by 3 a.m., he had written an anthem — a hip-hop plea to America's youth.
Dooney says that most of the boys and young men who are saggin' don't know where it really comes from. But another word for saggin' is jailin'.
"They don't know why their pants are low ... They think it's a fad, or it's something to do or it's cool. And I say, 'Well, No ... it come from behind the bars.'"
Clear Channel has agreed to donate billboard space around town and Dooney designed a billboard showing him with his arms crossed, standing in front of downtown Dallas.
Dallas is not the first city to confront saggin'. Shreveport, La., Atlanta and Stratford, Conn., have discussed passing laws. But Dallas is taking a different approach, trying for the hearts and minds of its young people.
Song Links Saggy Pants to Being Gay
The Bryant Park Project, October 26, 2007 · A new campaign by the city of Dallas targets the hip-hop style of wearing your pants low enough that your boxers are showin — and part of your posterior, too.
The campaign has a signature song, "Pull Your Pants Up," by Dooney Da' Priest, that links so-called saggin' with being gay. After the BPP blogged NPR's original report on the public service announcement, listeners objected to lyrics they consider homophobic.
Andrew Jones commented on a line about living "on the down low" — common slang for a man who has secret sexual encounters with other men.''It's cute when homophobia is part of a citywide campaign," Jones wrote. "Shaming the youth by calling them gay, love that from the government."
An accompanying billboard says it's rude to be "walking around showin' your behind to other dudes." The song's refrain is "Be a real man — pull your pants up."
In an interview with a local television station, Dooney explained that saggin' comes from jail, where he argued that showing your boxers has a very particular meaning. "You're letting another man know that you're available," Dooney said.
Mark Anthony Neal, professor of black popular culture in the Department of African American Studies at Duke University, parses the lyrics and explains why they'll hit some young men hard.
Throw your two cents in on our blog. See the open thread, "Dallas Saggy Pants Song: Homophobic?"Saggy Pants Songwriter Sort of Says He's Sorry
The Bryant Park Project, October 30, 2007 · Dooney Da' Priest's rap song "Pull Your Pants Up" is meant to shame young men in Dallas from wearing saggy britches. It's the signature tune of a Dallas city campaign against so-called saggin'.
After listeners pointed out the homophobia inherent in taunting men for looking like they live "on the down low," Da' Priest says he apologized to the gay community on his MySpace page. Da' Priest says that the song isn't an attack on gay people, and that he was "dealing with the N-word, too."
"Whether their sexual preference is to be a homosexual or being gay, that's their problem," Da' Priest says. "I'm the street, I'm the street priest, and I have real good Christian values on what I believe in, and I am against homosexuality. But this is not the reason why I wrote the song."
On our blog, an open thread: So what if Dooney Da' Priest believes being gay is wrong?
Frost Illustrated in its 24 OCTOBER 2007 Edition also covered this issue:
Black leaders: Sagging low has got to go!
By Gordon Jackson
Special to the NNPA
from the Dallas Examiner
DALLAS (NNPA)-From a city councilman to a school board trustee and a college president, a decision made by black community leaders to dramatically uplift fashion and get rid of a controversial image in their community has brought them both high praise and strong criticism. Undaunted, they strive forward to regain control of their slice of urban America.
Dallas District 4 City Councilman Dwaine Caraway officially declared war on "sagging," the highly discussed fashion statement expressed mostly by young black males, where they wear their pants well below their waistline, exposing a portion of their underwear, or in some occasions, their buttocks.
"We are in discussion as to how and what it is we need to do," Caraway said at an Oct. 4 City Hall press conference. "It is something where we will have to collaborate with the different authorities in the city."
Caraway will meet with representatives of DISD and all the various law enforcement agencies in hopes of implementing a strong anti-sagging policy and resolution by the beginning of 2008.
DISD trustee Ron Price, who challenged the City Council on the same issue last year, also says that sagging low has got to go. He is more so targeting young adults going into their early 30s that sag, who he said is setting a poor example for the younger generation.
"That's the issue, it's not the kids. It's the adults who are bad role models for the children. It's not a race issue, it's a issue of decency and respect," said Price, who led the implementation of school uniforms in DISD. "It has nothing to do with race or gender, it has to do with our society as a whole and that we are demanding excellence out of all our citizens of the United States."
Price has proposed the saggers be fined $50 for a form of indecent exposure. Caraway fights away his critics, who say that every young generation finds different ways to outlandishly express their individuality and that possibly using a city ordinance against them is a violation of an individual's freedom of expression.
"There are organizations that want to protect the fact that they have the right to show their dirty underwear," Caraway said. "Well, who's protecting the eyesight of the three-year-old girl that left to go to the playground, protecting her right of seeing something she did not want to see? Or of the 89-year old grandmother getting her medicine at Wal-Mart?
Critics have also noted that the problem with young black males, believed by many to already be targets of profiling by law enforcers, would be further perpetuated when looking for saggers.
"Rest all thoughts about incarceration, about arresting them and tying up police time," Caraway said. "We don't want to go and attach a criminal history behind a person wearing sagging pants. At the same token, we want to be as tough, respectful and educational as we possibly can so that we can ensure that folks get our message."
Sagging has been going on since about the early 1990s and has been mixed in as one of the negatives elements of the hip-hop/gangsta culture, along with misogynous and profanity-laced rap music. The issue is also being aggressively addressed in other large urban cities like Baltimore, Trenton and Shreveport. In Atlanta, City Councilman C.T. Martin also is spearheading a campaign. He flew into Dallas on Caraway's invitation.
"We're not trying to attack young people. We're trying to create a connectivity to them to say 'let's talk about this,'" Martin said. "We have a right to teach and nurture our young individuals to as to what it takes to be successful in society. It's not about profiling."
It's about business, said Caraway.
"If a young gentleman, sagging, were to come in seeking a job, would he have an opportunity to get the job?" he inquired.
Martin said it's also about responsibility, especially among the older generation to guide the younger generation in the right direction.
"All we want is what our elders throughout the tradition of family, all the way back to Abraham wanted. We decided that when nobody else would speak up, we will come forward and tackle an issue," Martin said. "It's about the code of the streets and public policy."
It's also about education, said Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell.
"We are taking back our students, our streets, our kids. We're not going to advocate our responsibility," Sorrell said. "It doesn't have to be positive or neat and tidy, sometimes leadership is messy."
Sorrell is executing his own policy on the Paul Quinn campus. This semester, he instituted a business casual dress code during regular business hours Monday through Thursday. No jeans, t-shirts or sneakers while students are attending classes. Sorrell is focused on the school teaching his students both the job skills and life skills it takes to make inroads in the workforce.
"We are going to teach our students every minute we're on our campus," Sorrell said. "We're in the business of taking back our community, sometimes you have to teach people how to dream."
Paul Quinn's dress policy caught the attention of educators and other organization across the country, including C-SPAN, the political and public affairs cable television network that provides 24 hours-a-day coverage of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Representatives of their C-SPAN Campaign 2008 Bus toured through Dallas and the Paul Quinn campus Tuesday to witness a debate on the dress code held by students.
"Our dress code has helped reduce discipline problems and develop responsibility," said senior and physical education major LaShonda Hunter, the lead debater. "When you walk into an interview, employers will be pleased with the professionalism of your appearance. It improves morals and values. It tells others that you are prepared to learn and work."
Kenneth Boston took helm on the opposing side.
"Just because I might have on jeans and a t-shirt, it doesn't take away from who I am intellectually," Boston said. "Some people work better relaxed and perform better when they're comfortable. If you have a student that doesn't necessarily agree with the dress code, that doesn't mean that they're going to leave just because of that.
"No matter how you dress, you can have high morals and values."
Brandon Clay, a freshman from Little Rock, also said he was influenced by friends.
"I had friends that did it and I did it because they did it," Clay said. "I always reserved the other side of dressing to make me feel better."
Both approve of Paul Quinn's dress policy.
"I think that in our community as blacks and individuals, we try to feel like a victim why we're in the position we're in and trying to make excuses," said Clay. "But one of the reasons why we're not moving forward is because of how you dress. I think they're making a great movement with this."
City Councilman Tennell Atkins remembered when his two now grown twin sons started sagging when they were teenagers.
"The first time I told them to pull their pants up," Atkins said. "The second time I pulled out my belt and I whipped [one's] butt. I did it because I love my kids."
Caraway gave an alarming vision of what could happen if the issue is not resolved now.
"Maybe the next generation may decide they want to wear no pants at all."MY COMMENTS
When I get a copy of my editorial I will reprint it here but for now to give you the basic gist with a picture.
MRev. Kenneth White, Jnr.
Thanks to Michael Patterson
Publisher, Frost Illustrated
for sending me a copy of my editorial