Hate Speech Spurs Media Maven to Outrage then Action

February 10, 2011  |  

(Afro) — Controversial radio host Don Imus infamously outraged sections of the Black community, April 4, 2007, when he shrewdly called members of the Rutgers University basketball team “nappy-headed hos” during a live broadcast.  Coincidentally, one of the components that Imus unknowingly angered was the executive director of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, led by rap mogul Russell Simmons. Emerging from the fallout of Imus’ remarks, Valeisha Butterfield, the network’s executive director at the time, then hosted a meeting at her house featuring some of the most powerful Black women working in media to come up with a counterpunch to Imus’ verbal onslaught. That same year, Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN) was born.  Butterfield, co-founder of WEEN, has successfully created a coalition that stretches to over 43,000 young women worldwide. WEEN hosts programs year round designed to educate women in the areas of health, financial literacy, career development and personal advancement. The company recently celebrated its three-year anniversary and will host its first WEEN Summer Academy where 60 women will undergo a six-week crash course in the entertainment business that will acclimate them to an industry of which most are begging to be a part.  Butterfield’s vision has exploded before her very eyes into a growing movement. But it was a vision that successfully grew despite a controversial comment that helped unite the African-American community. “From that meeting we decided that something had to be done and one day I decided to put my foot down and make a stand,” Butterfield said. “As a woman who worked in the business, I felt like it was my responsibility and my obligation to do my part to create more balance in the way women, like me, are portrayed in the media.”

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