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Monday, October 11, 2010

Vibe profiles 'Mean Girls of Morehouse,' puts city in a tizzy

Former Morehouse student Diamond Martin Poulin
  • ALEX MARTINEZ/COURTESY VIBE MAGAZINE
  • Former Morehouse student Diamond Martin Poulin

See update re: live chat at 3 p.m. Tuesday below

Bishop Eddie Long can breathe a sigh of relief this week. The latest would-be homo-scandal involves an altogether different pillar within Atlanta's black community: the venerable Morehouse College.

Today, urban music mag Vibe published the story "Mean Girls of Morehouse," in which writer Aliya S. King profiles several current and former students whose penchant for cross-dressing (Marc Jacobs tote bags, heels and hair weave) doesn't sit well with the suits at the all-male historically black college.

Last October, King reports, the school got a slew of unwanted media attention when it updated its dress code to include bans on caps, do-rags, sunglasses, sagging pants and — here comes the eyebrow-raising part — dresses, tops, tunics, purses and pumps.

What King discovered, after digging deeper, is four gender-bending gay students, deemed "the Plastics" (courtesy the Lindsay Lohan flick Mean Girls), who seem deadset on challenging the school's status quo.

“Morehouse wasn’t ready for me,” says Diamond, who has the word “unbreakable” tattooed on his collarbone and the acronym C.R.E.A.M (“Cash Rules Everything Around Me” coined by rap group Wu Tang Clan) wrapped around his right wrist. “I’m about freedom of expression. I’m about being whomever you truly are inside. I came to Morehouse because of all the historical leaders that attended and impacted the world so heavily. You know, I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. I don’t think Morehouse believes that someone like me—someone who wears heels and dresses—can uphold that reputation. But they’re wrong.”

It's been the talk of Twitter and all the blawgs today. CL contributor Maurice Garland even called the Morehouse men in drag "attention whores":

I don’t care where you’re at in the world, if you walking around looking like Michael Strahan in a dress…people are going to notice you.

The provocative story title (which Vibe scribe King says is based on the Plastics, not her, referring to themselves as "girls") was enough for Morehouse president Robert M. Franklin to dash a letter off to school alumni denouncing the article two days ago, before he even had a chance to read it.

Meanwhile King has been busy defending herself against Morehouse and critics who feel Vibe is just airing the school's dirty laundry to further exploit an incident that only involves a handful of students. In a Q&A with the Parker Report, King offers her reason for pursuing the story:

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE THIS STORY? It’s fascinating. I don’t care if it was just one student. If it was only one person on Morehouse campus who wanted to wear a purse and a pocketbook, I would want to do a profile on that one man. The dress code is what initially inspired me to look into it. I didn’t set out to write a story on the Plastics, which is what these girls also call themselves. I started out attempting to write a story about the gay community in Morehouse on a whole.

WAS THERE ANY HESITENCY (sic) ABOUT EXPOSING THIS CONFLICT AT A BLACK COLLEGE, WHICH HAS SO MANY OTHER PROBLEMS TO DEAL WITH? As an African-American woman I have a great respect for the Morehouse brand, so of course there was some hesitancy. But then my journalistic instincts kicked in. A good story is a good story.

UPDATE: Vibe's Aliya S. King will live chat and answer readers' questions about her article "The Mean Girls of Morehouse" on ustream at 3 p.m. Tues., Oct. 12. You must have an active ustream account to follow the coverage at Vibe.com.

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