Context for Roxanne Shante


I agree with Teresa Wiltz’s case regarding the need for more stringent reporting in light of the New York Daily News article by Walter Dawkins about hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shanté that may not be entirely true. Apparently, this situation is a victory for investigative reporting and a beat-down to shotty journalism.

I guess Ben Sheffner is pretty proud. Well even if he isn't, (for he was just doing what a good reporter does) there are plenty of folks who are giving him cyber pats on the shoulder for a job well done. Sheffner went into the trenches and uncovered a fraud. He pulled the veil off the "feel-good story of the summer" where Shanté claimed to have her education—which included a PhD—funded by Warner Music.


In his Slate article, Sheffner provides ample evidence disputing Shanté's claims and in the end, he asserts that Shanté never graduated from Marymount Manhattan College or Cornell University as stated in the Daily News article. Is it me or did Sheffner go hard after Shanté like her statements exonerated her for war crimes?

I feel bad for Shanté because of how the situation is being aired. I wonder where the context is in all of this. I'm not saying that lying is acceptable. Hip-hoppers should know that there's no future in frontin'. But if Shanté did lie about her credentials, why would she? Can we get her side of the story beyond the choppy quotes? I mean especially since Sheffner conducted "several phone interviews and exchanges over Facebook's internal e-mail system" with her.

And, why was Sheffner so suspicious about Shanté's story in the first place? Was it because it talked of a rapper who became a doctor instead of a drug-carrying mule? Was a story about a "girl from the projects" turned successful getting too much play? The Root blogger Jimi Izrael presented his case for why the story sounded fishy to him, but I wonder if there were different or other factors in play for Sheffner.

At the end of the day, it's just one less "heroic triumph" about a black woman who accomplished something "heartwarming." I mean don't we have enough of those with Michelle Obama in the White House?


is a writer, speaker, author of books for adults and youth, and the book columnist for The Root. Her most recent book is \"The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs.\" Visit her at