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September 17, 2014

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Roxanne Shante: Coming Clean, Saying Sorry, Being Thankful and Fighting Cancer

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Roxanne Shante: Coming Clean, Saying Sorry, Being Thankful and Fighting Cancer

In April, a New York Daily News article about how '80s rap music pioneer Roxanne Shante forced her record company to finance her college education (resulting in a degree from Marymount Manhattan College and a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell University) tugged at the heart-strings of Hip Hop America. Soon after, a firestorm of controversy ensued when an article on Slate.com debunked the inspiring story.

Roxanne Shante (nee Lolita Shante Gooden) is widely recognized as the first female hip hop artist to break through the male dominated industry. At the age of 16, she became a household name with songs including 'Roxanne's Revenge' – an "answer" record responding to U.T.F.O.'s popular 'Roxanne, Roxanne.'

She offers Blackvoices.com some insight on the controversy and her very real life battle with breast cancer ... in her own words.


In March, I noticed a lump in my left breast, rather small at the time and didn't really know what I was feeling. So instead of going straight to the doctor's office, I started asking friends their opinion and trying to go by their experiences. It was such a stupid move. Well, I figured I was just getting older. A hysterectomy in my early thirties led me to believe that I would be fine. Another stupid move.

I let months go by – five months to be exact. The weight loss of over 40 pounds made me feel like, "Damn, this diet is finally working." But then I remembered I wasn't on a diet. So on a bright, sunny day in August 2009, I walked into Doshi center for a mammogram. I put on the gown and stepped up to the machine. As soon as the technician took my breast in her hand, she asked me how long had I had the lump. It's huge, she said. I made a joke, she giggled, but I was scared and angry that I had waited so long.

I was in denial. I even went so far as to ignore the letters sent by the lab that read: "Urgent!!! Please contact us."
I had gotten a call from the doctor, "I just received your images at my office and they have been trying to reach you for weeks. As soon as you get back to New York, you come to my office. This is your life."

I hung up, turned the phone off, walked out on the set and tried to pretend that the call never happen. But they did. And it showed on my face.

The doctors was a different story, however. This is how the week went. Headlines: 'No Ph.D. Roxanne's Revenge,' 'Where are you Roxanne?'

It was the '80s all over again, but this time not to spark a career but to end over 10 years of charities, pushing education and giving and helping people and not too mention 25 years of hip-hop. But that's nothing new. What about my children ? My 13-yea-old ? What if I die? So Tuesday another mamo, Wednesday ultrasound Thursday the bad news and then the surgery.

So I felt all eyes were on me to tell women how important it is for them to get checked. It is only by the grace of God that I have been able to survive. I have been blessed to not only have survived the pitfalls of an industry that has destroyed so many, but to also survive just the everyday struggles of surviving all the negative that has come my way .

Do I apologize? Yes, I do. But I am not asking for your forgiveness. I am sorry about a lot of things that I should've done differently. There were quite a few things that have been exposed with that article; the fact that I never received any royalties, the fact that I did go on to attend college (even if no Ph.D. was acquired), and the fact that at 14 years old and coming straight from the group home, I went on to create a career that even after 20 years of not making a hit record, was still pulling headlines.

My platform was only telling our young people to educate themselves before getting in this industry, and that your lawyer, accountant, manager and record company shouldn't all be under one roof or work together. No one ever told me that, so I felt the need to pass that along to our young people.

And now I have another testimony.

To be called Dr. Roxanne Shante was and is a privilege. But with that privilege comes pressure. I also had to live and talk like someone with a doctorate--not an easy task at all. I had to make sure that people felt healed and inspired after speaking with me.

And you know what? I accomplished that every time. But only with God's help.

So, yes, I apologize to all those who applied themselves and put in all the hard work that is required to acquire a Ph.D. I admire you all. But don't discredit all the hard work and sacrifices so many others have also done to also reach their goals.

I apologize again but I don't request your forgiveness, because I have already been forgiven by who matters: God. Sorry I can't hold my head down because my crown may fall off.

Life begins at 40.

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