1964 (age 49–50)
The Bronx, New York
|Education||Cornell University, Advanced Studies Program
Rutgers University, B.A. American History and African Studies
University of Salamanca, Study Abroad Program
|Alma mater||Rutgers University|
|Occupation||Author, activist, recording artist, film producer|
|Known for||Sister Souljah moment
The Coldest Winter Ever
Midnight: A Gangster Love Story
Sister Souljah (born Lisa Williamson, 1964) is an American hip hop-generation author, activist, recording artist, and film producer. She gained prominence for Bill Clinton's criticism of her remarks about race in the United States during the 1992 presidential campaign. Clinton's well-known repudiation of her comments led to what is now known in politics as a Sister Souljah moment.
Sister Souljah was born in the Bronx, New York. She recounts in her autobiography No Disrespect that she was born into poverty and raised on welfare for some years. At age 10, she moved with her family to the suburbs of Englewood, New Jersey, a suburb with a strong African American presence, a slight change from the big city feel of the Bronx. Englewood is also home to other famous Black artists such as George Benson, Eddie Murphy, and Regina Belle. There she attended Dwight Morrow High School.
Souljah disliked what American students were being taught in school systems across the country. She felt that the school systems purposely left out the African origins of civilization. Also, she criticized the absence of a comprehensive curriculum of African American history, which she felt that all students, Black and white, needed to learn and understand in order to be properly educated. She felt that she was being taught very little of her history, since the junior high school and high school left out Black history, art, and culture. "I supplemented my education in the White American school system by reading African history, which was intentionally left out of the curriculum of American students." From 1978 to 1981 she attended Dwight Morrow High School, which had a relatively even distribution of Black, Latino, and Jewish student enrollment and a majority-Black administration during the time of her studies. She was a legislative intern in the House of Representatives. Souljah was also the recipient of several honors during her teenage years. She won the American Legion's Constitutional Oratory Contest, a scholarship to attend Cornell University's Advanced Summer Program.
Throughout college she traveled, visiting Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Russia. Her academic accomplishments were reinforced with first-hand experiences as she worked in a medical center in Mtepa Tepa, a village located in Zimbabwe, and assisted refugee children from Mozambique. She also traveled to South Africa and Zambia. She graduated from Rutgers University with a dual major in American History and African Studies. She became a well-known and outspoken voice on campus and active writer for the school newspaper. One of her noted campus initiatives was spearheading a campaign to bring Jesse Jackson to Rutgers to speak against the university's controversial investments in South Africa at the time, when divestiture from apartheid-era South Africa was a heated political issue. Sister Souljah was part of the Rutgers Coalition for Divestment, which successfully organized the Rutgers University administration to divest US$3.6 million in its financial holding companies doing business in that country. Sister Souljah and students across the state of New Jersey also organized a successful campaign to get the state of New Jersey to divest more than US$1 billion of its financial holdings in apartheid-era South Africa.
In 1985, during her senior year at Rutgers University, she was offered a job by Reverend Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. She spent the next three years developing, organizing, and financing programs such as African Survival Camp, a six week summer sleepaway camp in Enfield, North Carolina. She also became the organizer of the National African Youth-Student Alliance and outspoken voice against racially motivated violence in cases such as Howard Beach, Yusuf Hawkins, and more.
Sister Souljah became a controversial figure during the 1990s as a frequent guest on American television and radio talk shows. Her comments drew attention and criticism due to their inflammatory nature concerning race relations. Her position of influence among black Americans as a hip hop artist polarized groups and individuals both black and white and led to public controversy.
Souljah appeared on several tracks as a featured guest with the hip-hop group Public Enemy, and she became a full member of the group when Professor Griff left the group after making anti-Semitic remarks. In 1992, she released her only album, 360 Degrees of Power. Both of her videos, "The Final Solution: Slavery's Back in Effect" and "The Hate that Hate Produced," were banned by MTV because of their inflammatory imagery. Her album sold only 27,000 copies, and so her label, Epic/SME Records, dropped her. It is believed that the album sold poorly because of public backlash from her comments in response to the beating of Rodney King, but it also received terrible reviews in the music press.
Sister Souljah moment
|“||If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?||”|
The quotation was later reproduced in the media, and she was widely criticized. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton publicly criticized that statement—and Jesse Jackson for allowing her to be on his Rainbow Coalition—thus the Sister Souljah moment was created.
In 1995, Sister Souljah published a volume of autobiography titled No Disrespect. (Times/Crown/Random House. ISBN 0-8129-2483-5.). In 1999, she made her debut as a novelist with The Coldest Winter Ever. (Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-02578-3.). The latter was mentioned in the New York Times. An indirect sequel of the novel, titled Midnight: A Gangster Love Story. (Atria/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-4518-7.), originally scheduled for October 14, 2008, was published November 4, 2008, and entered The New York Times bestseller list at No. 7 its first week out and remained there as of February 2009. Another sequel, Midnight and the Meaning of Love., was released on April 12, 2011, and another novel, A Deeper Love Inside: the Porsche Santiaga Story (ISBN 978-1-4391-6531-7), originally scheduled for October 23, 2012, was published January 29, 2013.
As a community activist, Souljah organized a number of service programs. In 1985, during her senior year at Rutgers University, she developed and financed the African Youth Survival Camp for children of homeless families, a 6-week summer sleep-away camp in Enfield, North Carolina. She has been a motivating force behind a number of hip hop artists' efforts to give back to the community, organizing major youth events, programs, and summer camps with artists such as Lauryn Hill, Doug E. Fresh, and Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Souljah was the executive director of Daddy's House Social Programs Inc., a not-for-profit corporation for urban youth, financed by Sean "Diddy" Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment. Daddy's House educates and prepares youth, aged 10–16, to be in control of their academic, cultural, and financial lives. The students progressing through the program earn support to travel throughout the world.
|360 Degrees of Power
- The Guardian
- Brody, Leslie. "Souljah's Roots Reach Englewood," The Record (Bergen County), June 18, 1992. Accessed November 11, 2007. "Sister Souljah, the rap singer who accused Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton of racism, began her activist days as a student in Englewood."
- She Thang: Profiles—Sister Souljah
- Wells, Amy Stuart. Both sides now: the story of school desegregation's graduates, p. 56. University of California Press, 2009. ISBN 0-520-25677-8. "In fact, Dwight Morrow's artsy reputation was buttressed by its many famous alums, including John Travolta, Sister Souljah, and Sarah Jessica Parker, to name a few."
- Sister Souljah Statement
- She Thang:Profiles-Sister Souljah
- Minzesheimer, Bob. “Sister Souljah Rejects Any Labels on Her Literary Output.” Retrieved from USAToday.com on February 4, 2009.
- David Mills. "Sister Souljah's Call to Arms.' Washington Post, May 13, 1992, p. B1.
- Schuessler, Jennifer (November 21, 2008). "Inside the List (see Sister Act)". NY Times.
- "Midnight: A Gangster Love Story". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
- "Hardcover Fiction". NY Times. February 12, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
- "Updates". sistersouljah.com. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- Simon and Schuster.com. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Sister Souljah (October 11, 1999). "Mary's World". The New Yorker.
- Washington University Assembly Series Speakers: Sister Souljah. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
- Official Web Site
- Transcript of Sister Souljah's 1992 interview regarding the Los Angeles riots at the LINGUIST List
- Sister Souljah Statement, Justifies her 1992 comments at the Rock Out Censorship (ROC)
- Profile at Harlem Live
- Profile at Washington University St Louis