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Russell Simmons Says He’s Developing Harriet Tubman's Story + A Frederick Douglass Series

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by Sergio
August 20, 2013 9:24 AM
6 Comments
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Russell Simmons

Now wait, before you start rolling your eyes and laughing your head off, just read the rest of it. And then you’ll probably still be rolling your eyes and laughing your head off anyway.

It’s no secret that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is still trying to climb out of that hole he dug himself into, after that Harriet Tubman sex tape spoof on his newly established comedy channel All Def Digital.

He’s apologized and even recorded a video apology (HERE) in which he revealed that he still didn’t quite get the outrage.

So now he’s reached out to the actual living descendants of Harriet Tubman to make amends. It wasn’t unexpected.

Rita Daniels, who is the great great grand niece of Tubman, publicly called out Simmons for his "crude" and “insensitive portrayal” of her great great aunt Tubman.

She further said in an interview with The Grio that: “When I looked at (the video) tears streamed down my eyes. This is a woman who helped people. She was not about this."

She went on to say that the video was “awful” and a “nasty portrayal” of Tubman as a “whoremonger,” that has “tainted her reputation.” And it was an  “abomination to my great-great-aunt Harriet’s legacy and does not depict her accurately.”

She added that the video couldn’t have come at a worse time considering that, this year, 2013, marks the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death.

Well, Simmons, taking the hint, did reach out to Daniels, and now he claims that they have a deal to develop a film project on Tubman.

Russell tweeted on Saturday: “They (Rita and Geraldine Daniels) have not only accepted my apology but we agree that we should begin immediately to develop the story of Harriet Tubman... God works in mysterious ways. Thank you Rita and Geraldine Daniels. You and your great great grandmother are amazing inspirations.”

I know what you’re thinking - Yeah right.

Rita Daniels, in response to her meeting with Simmons and his announcement of the film project, tweeted herself that: “We thank you for accepting responsibility for the video...... We're moving towards the right direction #newfriend.”

Assuming it's really her. Look at it this way, if someone made an offensive video about a relative of yours, who was a living monument and a genuine hero, would you give in so quickly?

Do you believe that this is all just a scam from Simmons to get the heat off him, and that he has no intentions of ever making a film about Tubman; or do you think he’s seen the light and is genuinely sincere?

By the way, he also added that he was developing a Frederick Douglass miniseries. 

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6 Comments

  • ALM | August 20, 2013 9:53 PMReply

    So he can now profit off of her image? Rita, don't fall for it!

  • Miles Ellison | August 20, 2013 9:15 PMReply

    He should leave this alone.

  • rubadiri | August 20, 2013 11:13 AMReply

    Like many others I have an immense respect for Mr Simmons as architect of Hip Hop culture, modern African-American hustler entrepreneurship, and his philanthropic interventions. Yes he has his contradictions, but his positive impact on African diasporic and world culture is seismic and without question. So I was saddened beyond belief by his degrading Tubman spoof, and it has shown a glaring blind spot in his conception of the African Universe and the pantheons therein- and the power of elevating and degrading heroes and godheads. Thusly I am glad to know he plans to make amends. Harriet Tubman is one of the greatest human beings this planet has ever seen, her story needs to be told correctly & majestically. Frederick Douglas is another of the greatest human beings this planet has ever seen. These are two of the most important stories in the African Diasporic Canon- and my humble message to Mr Simmons is: please ensure your telling of these stories is correct. Located in the Douglas & Tubman stories are the salvation for African-America- that's how important they are & conversely why they have been silenced for so long! By fate Mr Simmons you have now taken on the responsibility of telling 2 of the most important stories of our community- get the best team!!!

  • LeonRaymond | August 20, 2013 10:33 AMReply

    if he says he still did not get the outrage, there lies the problem right there. Done let it go. He's far too entrenched in Hip Hop culture which all about insulting woman and portraying derogatory images and languages about them to be reformed by doing a film for Guilt Relief. Harriet Tubman is a historical figure we damn sure know enough about in the Black Community so what new terrain can be covered in a film and in order to do it right we have to depict the brutality of slavery and I think we are just about worn down on that premise to the 12th degree. it's done let it go fold up both ideas and do something else to try and make amends. But it was a serious case of can't tell the difference between the Klan Bigot and the Black man making a joke and laughing along with the Bigot!

  • Marie | August 20, 2013 10:21 AMReply

    Too late, I already busted out laughing! Anyway, I think it's a mistake to believe that every historical figure needs a movie. I haven't seen The Butler but based on the trailers and what I've read, I think it would've made an excellent play or maybe an episodic series to get the full sense of the amount of history through which that man lived. Not every story is a MOVIE; some stories are better served as plays, novels, graphic novels, tv series or web series. The primary reason people want to do biopics is because they're the easiest path to Oscars. That's why Spielberg insisted on putting Lincoln in theaters instead of on cable tv. He wanted an Oscar, as does Oprah for The Butler (which I'm predicting now that she'll win Best Supporting Actress if nominated in that category.) Despite folks not wanting to admit it, movies have become more disposable in the last 10-15 years. They're a consumer good. They come and go, living only briefly in people's minds and imaginations before people move on to consuming the next thing. Gone are the days when a movie spends months to a year in the theaters, saturating the public's consciousness and conversation like E.T. and Flashdance did (I saw both of those movies three times in the theater, BTW. With today's prices, I definitely don't do that anymore!) As a result, I think Tubman's accomplishments can best be served with a series. By having people return to her story episode after episode, she'll linger longer in people's minds and her story will be more memorable. A two-hour movie just wouldn't do her justice.

  • Aaron | August 20, 2013 9:47 AMReply

    How about he just contribute some major funds to a Harriet Tubman project that has been in limbo due to financing issues. I don't trust Russell to get it right after this.

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