Thank you for seeking out rent-a-negro.com. You may be disappointed to find it missing, but I am still happy you came looking. I am its creator and this letter is to tell you why I have chosen to take it down.
rent-a-negro.com was a web-art-performance that culled my experiences as a person of color in a culture that still does not know how to relate to difference. I found myself feeling like “professional black person” and so in 2003 I created a site based on this. I took all the things that white people had asked me over the years: to touch my hair, teach them how to dance, talk to their racist grandmother, vouch for the fact that they were not racist, compare my brown skin to their vacation tans, etc. and put a price on each item. I created a rental form where people could request these services from me on an al-la-carte basis or put me on a year-long retainer. Yep, it was funny and painful all at the same time, as good satire should be.
Rental requests and emails began to pour in from all around the world. I received a lot of responses from people who were thankful that rent-a-negro.com portrayed their experiences of being objectified as a person of color in our culture. I was truly touched when I heard from deaf people, people in wheelchairs, and people of other races that the site mirrored their own experiences and that I had given voice to something they had found hard to express.
But in addition to this positive response, I received a steady onslaught of hateful and threatening rental requests and emails. Letter after letter said I should be gang raped, lynched, beaten, and defiled in unspeakable ways. I was called n**ger, a traitor, a sell-out, and a slave. Some of these came in the form of rental requests from the city where I was living. These came every day for a while, but in time, the flow of hate slowed to a trickle, which although I found discomforting, was bearable. I know this comes with the territory.
However, as the 2012 election approached, these types of emails began to come to my inbox once again. I decided that I did not have the strength or desire to face that kind of attack all over again. I live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and so that kind of emotional intensity can literally be dangerous to my health. I decided to take the site down.
Besides that, in many ways, creating satire about race relations is only one minor aspect of what I have to offer the world. I have lived a full and varied life and yearn to be more than the “race-girl” in the public eye.
I invite you to visit my website, damaliayo.com and get to know the real me, as the creator not only of rent-a-negro.com but of art, writing, and radio work that explore a variety of other topics that I have lived and experienced throughout my lifetime. Hopefully I can continue to inspire you as rent-a-nergo.com has.
Thank you for your support and interest.