Ni**a, Pleeze!! Part III

Actor Tries to Trademark ‘N’ Word

By Rogers Cadenhead
AP/Reuters

The actor Damon Wayans has been engaged in a 14-month fight to trademark the term “Nigga” for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.

Wayans wants to dress customers in 14 kinds of attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on “clothing, books, music and general merchandise,” as well as movies, TV and the internet, according to his applications.

But, so far, his applications have been unsuccessful. Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.

“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.

Cox and other representatives of the actor did not respond to interview requests about the registration.
Wayans can appeal the rejection, but experts in trademark law differ on his chances for success.
Lynda Zadra-Symes, a trademark lawyer in California, said Wayans may be successful. She compared “Nigga” to the successful registration of Dykes on Bikes. The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent fought the Trademark Office for three years to overturn an initial rejection of a Dykes on Bikes trademark. The mark was published Jan. 24.

“Because the application was by a group of lesbians it was eventually allowed to publish,” Zadra-Symes said.

“This is a great victory,” the group proclaimed on its website. “It affirms our right to determine who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”

However, Tawnya Wojciechowski, another trademark attorney practicing in California, compared Wayans’ application to the ongoing legal case where Washington Redskins trademarks have been challenged by seven Native Americans. “They’re going to have a really tough time,” Wojciechowski predicted.

The word “nigga” is ubiquitous in hip-hop music, where it provides half of a rhyming couplet radio listeners never get to hear in the Grammy-winning song “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Ol’ Dirty Bastard used the term 76 times in the 1999 album Nigga Please, not counting repetitions in a chorus. In January, an episode of the late-night Cartoon Network series Boondocks was criticized for putting the word in the mouth of a fictionalized Martin Luther King Jr.

The effort to commercialize “nigga” drew a sharp response from a black school official who participated in a forum about the word earlier this month at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

“I don’t care for it in any form,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Either way you pronounce it, spell it, anything associated with it — I find it offensive.”

If Wayans succeeds in persuading the Trademark Office to permit the mark, he may have to deal with Keon Rhodan, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Charleston, South Carolina, who has been using “Nigga” on a line of T-shirts, hoodies and other attire for six years in a part-time, trunk-of-his-car business. Rhodan attempted to register “Nigga’Clothing” as a trademark in 2001 and was denied by the Trademark Office.

“They said it was disparaging,” he said.

Rhodan, who is Black, said that he’s sold around 2,000 of the shirts at events. When he began selling the shirts, emblazoned with the term “Nigga,” he thought he would take criticism, especially from older people.

“I was in the mall with one of the shirts on, and an old lady said, ‘Where did you get that shirt from?'” he said, expecting the worst. “She followed me to the car and bought five shirts for her grandchildren.”

Rhodan believes that affectionate use of the term within the Black community should make it an acceptable mark, but the Trademark Office has thus far has not been persuaded by that argument.

“The very fact that debate is ongoing regarding in-group usage, shows that a substantial composite of African-Americans find the term ‘nigga’ to be offensive,” Boulton wrote in rejecting Wayans.

Though attempts to commercialize “Nigga” coincide with a generational shift in how the word is perceived, the clothing is still likely to test some boundaries, as Rhodan demonstrated in a phone interview.

“You couldn’t wear it,” he said.

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Ni**a, Pleeze!! Part III

Actor Tries to Trademark ‘N’ Word

By Rogers Cadenhead
AP/Reuters

The actor Damon Wayans has been engaged in a 14-month fight to trademark the term “Nigga” for a clothing line and retail store, a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database reveals.

Wayans wants to dress customers in 14 kinds of attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on “clothing, books, music and general merchandise,” as well as movies, TV and the internet, according to his applications.

But, so far, his applications have been unsuccessful. Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.

“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.

Cox and other representatives of the actor did not respond to interview requests about the registration.
Wayans can appeal the rejection, but experts in trademark law differ on his chances for success.
Lynda Zadra-Symes, a trademark lawyer in California, said Wayans may be successful. She compared “Nigga” to the successful registration of Dykes on Bikes. The San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent fought the Trademark Office for three years to overturn an initial rejection of a Dykes on Bikes trademark. The mark was published Jan. 24.

“Because the application was by a group of lesbians it was eventually allowed to publish,” Zadra-Symes said.

“This is a great victory,” the group proclaimed on its website. “It affirms our right to determine who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.”

However, Tawnya Wojciechowski, another trademark attorney practicing in California, compared Wayans’ application to the ongoing legal case where Washington Redskins trademarks have been challenged by seven Native Americans. “They’re going to have a really tough time,” Wojciechowski predicted.

The word “nigga” is ubiquitous in hip-hop music, where it provides half of a rhyming couplet radio listeners never get to hear in the Grammy-winning song “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Ol’ Dirty Bastard used the term 76 times in the 1999 album Nigga Please, not counting repetitions in a chorus. In January, an episode of the late-night Cartoon Network series Boondocks was criticized for putting the word in the mouth of a fictionalized Martin Luther King Jr.

The effort to commercialize “nigga” drew a sharp response from a black school official who participated in a forum about the word earlier this month at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

“I don’t care for it in any form,” said Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. “Either way you pronounce it, spell it, anything associated with it — I find it offensive.”

If Wayans succeeds in persuading the Trademark Office to permit the mark, he may have to deal with Keon Rhodan, a 29-year-old entrepreneur in Charleston, South Carolina, who has been using “Nigga” on a line of T-shirts, hoodies and other attire for six years in a part-time, trunk-of-his-car business. Rhodan attempted to register “Nigga’Clothing” as a trademark in 2001 and was denied by the Trademark Office.

“They said it was disparaging,” he said.

Rhodan, who is Black, said that he’s sold around 2,000 of the shirts at events. When he began selling the shirts, emblazoned with the term “Nigga,” he thought he would take criticism, especially from older people.

“I was in the mall with one of the shirts on, and an old lady said, ‘Where did you get that shirt from?’” he said, expecting the worst. “She followed me to the car and bought five shirts for her grandchildren.”

Rhodan believes that affectionate use of the term within the Black community should make it an acceptable mark, but the Trademark Office has thus far has not been persuaded by that argument.

“The very fact that debate is ongoing regarding in-group usage, shows that a substantial composite of African-Americans find the term ‘nigga’ to be offensive,” Boulton wrote in rejecting Wayans.

Though attempts to commercialize “Nigga” coincide with a generational shift in how the word is perceived, the clothing is still likely to test some boundaries, as Rhodan demonstrated in a phone interview.

“You couldn’t wear it,” he said.

Here Comes the Good Sun…

By Bobbi Booker
Book Report II
As an artist, Rah Crawford’s combination of his love of pop imagery coupled with his keen intuitive insight has created a new form that required a new name to describe it. Using his trademarked style, Neoteric Pop-Iconic Clairvoyance, Crawford creates art for the high-speed information and multimedia culture by using inking techniques that date back to the ancients. Crawford, 33, says his work speaks the modern language of this generation in a way that great artists of the past have done for theirs.

“My goal as an artist is to define our modern generation through visual art. That sums up my mission as an artist on this planet. To define our modern generation you’re dealing with everything from technology, politics, pop commercials is what my goal is as an artist. We haven’t had an artist to do that since Andy Warhol. That’s the connection that I share with Warhol is that it was his goal to define the 70s and 80s period through his art. He pretty much captured many of those elements from the pop culture to the sexual tensions of the time to the politics to marketing. It’s been 20 years since we’ve had an artist to come from that angle and here I am 20 years later coming from that angle.”

Crawford is much akin Warhol’s approach in his approach to art and creativity. Like Warhol, Crawford has been an underground magazine publisher and has been involved in the multi-media aspects of music and video. He wants his unique visual approach to lead viewers deeper into the human psyche of life, love and culture. “Art isn’t limited to the gallery walls. I like to call art shows art experiences because people come to them and experience them and they leave with a little something.”

After last season’s “Deus Ex Machina” exhibition, Crawford destroyed several paintings that weren’t purchased and caused a strong reaction in both himself and the observing audience. “A couple of people were crying in the audience and I never experience anything like that in my life. As an artist I’m trying to go there, to that place, and reinvent what visual art is and as an artist, how we touch the public in general versus simply walking into a gallery and looking at paintings on the wall.”

Crawford, a Germantown native, credits his parents as the impetus to his art career. His mother exposed him o he arts at a very young age and his father was an illustrator. “I knew that (art) was my calling since I was very young. I was always drawing, had sketch books, always kept a journal, always painted, ever since I was very young.

Crawford’s fate as an artist was sealed when at age seven he saw his father do a quick sketch of his mother while she was cooking in the kitchen. “I was just blown away. I looked at her and I looked back at the paper and I couldn’t believe that he had captured her right in front of my face on paper. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist.”

After studying for two years at the Arts Institute, Crawford modeled for a few years before turning his attention to his craft fulltime. Over the course of a decade he would go on develop his signature style. “The one thing I knew with my artwork was that it had to be a unique look or style. So unique that when you saw it after a while I didn’t have to put my name on it.

Crawford creates powerful imagery like an ancient craftsman, primarily relying on ink and brush to develop his colorful, yet cryptic, work. Closer inspection of his work reveals coded messages and admonitions, words and phrases intertwined to form complex labyrinths of shape nestled within the figures delicate spaces. His work has inspired local fashion designer Belahshehu to create a men’s fashion collection based on his paintings. In addition to several galleries world-wide, his work also hangs on he walls on some noted celebrities, including Outkast’s Andre 3000, Jill Scott, and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson.

“One of Warhol’s famous quotes is that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” says Crawford. “I’m not looking for fame. My goal is to define our modern generation through my visual art. I believe time will tell. I have a strong work ethic and I believe it’s about putting in the time and doing the work. I’m going be here for a while creating and looking to connect with people in unique and interesting ways.”


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