I am a big fan of Cardi B. (Sidenote: If you’re unfamiliar with the chart-topping rap star, it’s time to remove yourself from under a rock.) I’ve always admired Cardi B because I’ve met her over and over again in the residence halls or expressing herself at a club meeting. Belcalis Almanzar (Cardi B’s real name) has been in my Creative Writing class before. The Bodak Yellow star and I have never personally crossed paths but so many students over the years fit the model. As she’s described herself, I’ve known plenty of self-proclaimed “regular degular schmegular girls from the Bronx, ” Brooklyn, Jersey City or Queens.
I’ve worked at PWI’s, urban institutions as well as public and private schools. At each of these stops, there were Cardi B’s around. Most of them were first-generation or first time-full time students who were determined to excel and were always learning things from every encounter. They felt way more comfortable speaking slang then thee Ol Queen’s English. They were mostly young black and brown women who may have struggled initially in classes but were sharp in so many ways. Their personalities were large and infectious to the student body.
These young ladies were also heavily judged by staff, faculty, and peers. Whether coming from great backgrounds or abusive relationships, stereotyping happened because there are some educators who aren’t willing or prepared to do the work in getting to know their students. I’ve heard all the following from colleagues and other educators in describing students who they perceived to be a certain way.
- We can’t hire her as an Orientation Leader because of how many times she said the word “Yo” during a group interview
- I don’t know if this is true but I heard she’s sleeping with half of the basketball team.
- She seems smart but she’s kind of ghetto.
- She’s a bit too loud and aggressive for me
This is destructive behavior that happens all the time. Cardi B has heard some of this same critique; not on a campus but because of her Instagram posts or Love and Hip Hop appearances. The negative connotation associated with strippers and exotic dancers also brought on criticism towards her character.
She flipped it though.
Now it’s New York Times articles, performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, all while being praised by Demi Lovato and meeting the likes of Beyoncé. Her song, Bodak Yellow is a Top 2 Billboard hit that’s rocking venues and even being used by dope teachers to teach geography. She started to pop and outlet after outlet fell in love or wanted a ticket to the Cardi B Bandwagon.
Through hard work and also taking advantage of opportunities presented to her she’s parlayed viral Instagram fame into national recognition and success. Once regarded as “just a stripper from the Bronx,” today she’s the hottest commodity in hip hop. Many of those aforementioned students don’t get the Cardi B treatment. Unintentional or sometimes intentional sexism, racism, and classism keep them from gaining opportunities.
As educators, we should be able to recognize the raw authenticity that our students bring to the table. A student described as a bit rough around the edges needs dope mentors who are willing to bring out young people’s strengths and critique all while teaching. Cardi B could be the next president of Student Government. I’ve had Cardi B serve as one of my best RA’s. Cardi B could be sitting on university committees. Bodak Yellow could be Bodak Ph.D. or Bodak MBA.
Cardi B isn’t perfect and there she has some flaws within her content and lyrics, but none of us are perfect and there is always room for growth. so, If you’re an educator singing about these are bloody shoes, always remember the shoe being on the other student’s foot.
MrJeffDess is the Co Founder of Trill or Not Trill. He’s also a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 5 books of poetry, including his latest, Trill Motivation With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at TrillorNotTrill@gmail.com or www.mrjeffdessworks.com