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Arts & Entertainment
GRAMMY performance registers many complaints



OFFENSIVE? Andre 3000 of OutKast peforms hit song "Hey Ya" to Indian theme at 46th annual Grammy awards ceremony. February 8, 2004. Photo © AP.
An Indian organization from California is calling for a boycott of the CBS network and the GRAMMY organization in response to a musical performance that many throughout the country are calling racist and offensive.

The Native American Cultural Center in San Francisco is organizing the boycott based on "the most disgusting set of racial stereotypes aimed at American Indians that I have ever seen on TV," one board member said. "It was on par with white people dancing sexually in black face, or yarmulkes, or the vestments of the Catholic Church," Sean Feitas said. "I am shocked and outraged."

Andrew Brother Elk, chair of the NACC, said he filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the "racially insulting" performance by the hip-hop group OutKast, which won a number of awards, including Album of the Year, at the 46th annual GRAMMY ceremony on Sunday night.

"It is time for those in the entertainment industry to realize that racial stereotypes in the media feed social and political disrespect towards the victims of this behavior. American Indians do not deserve such victimization, nor does any racial group," Brother Elk said.

In letters and posts to Indian web sites, readers reacted negatively to the sight of OutKast frontman Andre 3000 performing the hit song "Hey Ya!" After an introductory tape of drum music played, dancers wearing green-colored feather headdresses, fringe skirts and braided wigs emerged from a large tipi on stage. The University of Southern California marching band later appeared, its members' faces covered in war paint.

"I feel that this was a truly sad, offensive, and disappointing choice for the theme of the performance by artists that I have admired for a long time," wrote Indianz.Com reader mtncrow.

"To see my tribal beliefs and customs mocked and paraded in such a negative and stereotypical view was embarrassing," a Kickapoo and Otoe-Missouria woman said on PowWows.com.

Fans at an OutKast web site run by Arista Records, the group's label, were not amused either. "Many of my students love your music, as did I until tonight's performance," a Native man who said he was a singer and Native music educator wrote. "My people did not face 500 years of broken trusts, dreams and countless millions of lives lost to be a Grammy night gimmick."

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization that puts on the GRAMMYs, praised OutKast's display as indicative of the show's many "unusual performance pairings." "The evening's final performance also had the audience on its feet," the NARAS web site stated, "complete with sci-fi stage set [and] fluorescent green Native-American costumes."

Andre 3000 rehearsed the performance on Friday, according to NARAS, whose web site said it would feature a "giant, smoking tepee/spaceship at center stage."

CBS has come under fire for a provocative performance by singers Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. The FCC has launched an investigation to determine how Jackson's breast was exposed during a Superbowl half-time show produced by MTV, which is owned by CBS.

Both networks have said they did not sanction the display, which Timberlake said was not planned. Nevertheless, CBS instituted a 5-minute delay for Sunday night's show to guard against potentially offensive performances.

Additional pictures and discussion can be found on the Indianz.Com message board here and here.

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Relevant Links:
Native American Cultural Center - http://www.nativecc.com
GRAMMYs - http://www.grammy.com