Saturday, September 23, 2017

Protest Chants During Former FBI Director James Comey's Convocation Address At Howard University (Sept. 22, 2017)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post documents the words for some of the protest chants that were heard during Former FBI Director James Comey's convocation address at Howard University (Washington D.C.) on September 22, 2017.

A video of that convocation address and a video of a protest rally after that convocation are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for socio-political and folkloric purposes.

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series that documents examples of protest chants and protest songs in the United States. Click the "African American protest chants" tag for other pancocojams posts on this subject.

Apart from the second video's summary, this post doesn't include any comments about the protests themselves. However, I've included explanatory notes about slang terms in a few of these examples and I've added some editorial comments in the comment section below about the chant entitled "I Love Being Black".

Thanks to all those featured in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.


WATCH: Former FBI Director James Comey delivers Convocation address at Howard University

PBS NewsHour, Published on Sep 22, 2017
Former FBI director James Comey delivered the Opening Convocation address at Howard University on Friday.
This is my transcription of the beginning portion of the protest which lasted up to around 4:00 of the 16:01 video that is embedded below.

The question marks in the transcription indicate that I'm not sure what was being said or sung.

My notes about the protest song or chant are given in brackets.

Additions and corrections are welcome.

[Throughout the beginning portion that is covered in this post the male and female protesters stood with their left fist raised high in the air (holding their left arm straight up above their head with their left hand in a fist, i.e. "the black power salute"). There was very little space between one chant (or song) being done and the next one starting].

[Protesters sing a version of the 1960s civil rights song "We Shall Not Be Moved"]
time: .07 [beginning of video] - .41

We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
The ??? James Comey
We shall not be moved

We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
We're fighting for our freedom
We shall not be moved

[time .42 -.50; These are two call & response chants. I'm not sure what the male caller said in the first chant , but I believe that the group response was different than caller's words.]

Call -??? [possibly "What do we want?"]
Group- Fight back!
Call- ???
Group- Fight back!
Call -???
Group- Fight back!
Call- ???
Group- Fight back!
Call- We are here to reclaim this space.
Group- We are here to reclaim this space.

[time: .54-1:42 Call & response with the group exactly repeating the male caller’s words]
Caller - I say I love being Black
Group - I say I love being Black
Caller - I say I love being Black
Group - I say I love being Black
Call - I love the color of my skin
Group- I love the color of my skin
Call -‘Cause it’s the skin that I’m in
Group - ‘Cause it’s the skin that I’m in

Caller: I said I love being Black
Group: I said I love being Black
Call: I love the texture of my hair
Group - I love the texture of my hair
Call - And I rock it everywhere
Group- And I rock it everywhere
Caller: I said I love being Black
Group - I said I love being Black
Call - I love the fullness of my lips
Groups - I love the fullness of my lips
Call -And the way I comb my hair
Group-And the way I comb my hair
[Explanation for the lines "I love the texture of my hair/ And I rock it everywhere" refers to these Black students loving the natural textures of their hair and proudly wearing those natural (unprocessed) hairstyles everywhere they go.]

[time: 1:42-2:04 :call & response chant; woman caller]
Caller- "Get out, James Comey, you're not our homey".
Group- "Get out, James Comey, you're not our homey".
[This call and response chant may have turned into a unison chant "James Comey, you're not our homey."
"homey"= someone who is from the same neighborhood or city that you are from.]

[time -2:04 -3:10; unison chant]
"No justice. No peace.
The protests continued right after this with another chant that I can't decipher.

Read the summary for the video given as Example #2 for a description of the protest that occurred after the song and the chants whose words are given here.

Protesters Jeer, Disrupt James Comey Speech at Howard University

The One
Published on Sep 22, 2017

James Comey Protests disrupt speech to Howard students BBC News
Protesters Jeer, Disrupt James Comey Speech at Howard University
Protesters chant, boo through Comey university address
‘James Comey, you’re not our homie’: Protesters disrupt former FBI director’s speech at Howard University
James Comey: Protests disrupt speech to Howard students

WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey faced a gathering of chanting and jeering students at historically black Howard University on Friday, as some activists decried what they see as his efforts to "criminalize" Black Lives Matter.

Protesters, who'd planned the demonstration all week on social media, jumped to their feet in the back of the auditorium to chant before Comey took the stage to speak. Comey, dressed in black academic robes, stood facing the angry group of students who were shouting "we shall not be moved," "I love being black" and "no justice, no peace."

"I am here at Howard to have a conversation. I hope you listen to what I have to say, " Comey told the protesters to applause from other students, staff and faculty seated in rows closer to the front.

Still, the chants continued throughout Comey's address, even as a minister took to the stage and pleaded for the students to hear out the former FBI director. Music played from the chorus in an attempt to drown the students out.

At one point, Howard University cut the live feed to the event and replaced it with documentary-style footage of the history of the school. The feed was later put back up.

President Donald Trump fired Comey in May and the former FBI director said his ouster was related to investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Howard University officials announced in August that Comey would serve as the school's Gwendolyn S. Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in public policy for the 2017-2018 academic year. His responsibilities include leading a series of five lectures and formally welcoming the new freshmen class on Friday.

However, a number of students objected to the appointment.

In a petition circulated by "HU Resist," a student-run organization that challenges university policies, activists argued that Comey’s actions as as the head of the FBI included the "criminalization and attempted dismantling of Black Lives Matter” and the promotion of xenophobic "characterizations" of Muslims.

The organization also said on its twitter account that Comey has referred to mass incarceration as a process of "pulling up those many weeds" in order to improve communities.
A woman with a bull horn leads protesters in the unison chant "We shut him down".

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  1. I'm particularly interested in the call & response chant "I Love Being Black" which was part of the protest at the Howard University Convocation address by Former FBI Director James Comey.

    "I Love Being Black" is actually an affirmation chant and not a protest chant even though it was said during a protest demonstration. The way that chant ended suggests that there are more words to that chant.

    I couldn't find that version of "I say [or I said] I love being Black" via Google search. I found two other poems with that title, including one credited to Smokey Robinson in 2003* and one with no author or date**, but those compositions are quite different from the one the Howard University students chanted.



    1. It occurs to me that the lines " I love the fullness of my lips" should have a line that follows with an end word that rhymes with "lips" instead of the line "And the way I comb my hair".

      My guess is that this chant/poem may have been originally composed for females and that rhyming line may have been something like "And the way I move my hips". If that were the case, that line was changed for because it was going to be chanted by males and females during that Comey protest, and it wouldn't be a good culturally fit for males to say "and the way I move my hips" (or the way I switch my hips.{

      If you have any information about the composer of this "I Love Being Black" poem/chant and when it was composed, please share that it. Thanks!

  2. Apparently, "I Love Being Black" is an affirmation that has inspired facebook pages, marketing websites (clothing, wristbands etc.), and other websites since 2010

    Here's an excerpt from a June 2010 article: Over 1 million Facebook fans agree: 'I love being black' by Robin Caldwell, BlackWeb 2.0, June 30, 2010
    "Entrepreneur Kumi Rauf has taken a simple phrase not unlike James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” and the 70s soul affirmation “black is beautiful” and created a movement. I Love Being Black is one of the few fan pages on the social network devoted to consistently and unapologetically rallying black people to feel good about who we are.

    Rauf says, “With this page, and soon our mobile applications, I want to bring Black people together to start a dialogue on a variety of topics and to show our love for our culture.”

    Love for black culture is evident in the empowering messages found in news stories, quotes by notables and questions that challenge our perception(s) of ourselves, such as “Should Hollywood cast another non-black Cleopatra?” I Love Being Black delivers color-affirming messages without politicizing blackness and that is probably the single most key to their ability to attract 1 million followers...

    Rauf has sold his page’s 1 million and counting fans on a whole lot more than his line of clothing or other items found at his online store. He established the company in 2003 as an outgrowth of racial tension while he was a student at UC Santa Barbara and as a social media platform to encourage positive relations between blacks. For greater accessibility, he is also in the early development stages of creating mobile applications for Android, Blackberry and iPhone users.

    Digital media entrepreneur Markus Robinson of Black Web Media believes that I Love Being Black is an example for other marketers to follow. Robinson says, “Rauf has successfully built a community based on a concept and not a product, which is rare. Most people push the product and totally ignore the buyer. In this case, the buyer is King and Queen.”

    While there are other similar fan pages on Facebook, none have been as successful as I Love Being Black in attracting a diverse following that seems to be in need of positive representations of blackness....

    “It’s a positive force when I need to recharge my batteries and remember to love my beautiful brown self.”...
    As of 9/22/207, has over 6 million fans.

    There's also a
    website, although I don't know if it has the same editor as the Facebook page whose link is given above.