KultureKritic: Harry Belafonte, who did a great deal of work for the black community during the Civil Rights Movement, is making no secret of the fact that he’s very disappointed in many young black celebrities when it comes to to social activism. Speaking this week with the Hollywood Reporter, Belafonte pointed out Jay-Z and Beyonce as prime examples of what he’s talking about.
THR: Back to the occasion of the award for your acting career. Are you happy with the image of members of minorities in Hollywood today?
Belafonte: Not at all. They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. We are still looking. We are not determinated. We are not driven by some technology that says you can kill Afghanistans, the Iraquis or the Spanish. It is all – excuse my French – shit. It is sad. And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.
My friend Alexis Stodghill at TheGrio makes the point that perhaps Belafonte is off-base with his critique. She notes that Beyonce has spoken up for her fellow recording artist Frank Ocean when he admitted that he was gay, and that Jay-Z has chumed it up with President Obama during his presidential campaign and supported him on the issue of gay marriage.
We must note that Beyonce and Jay-Z speaking up on gay marriage and homosexuality is little more than a political decision designed to remain in alignment with the Obama presidency. If Barack had said nothing on the issue, Jay-Z would have said nothing. So, we have to be sure not to mistake meaningful advocacy for elitist political shoulder-rubbing (wealthy famous people tend to take care of one another).
But when you look at the black aristocracy that is known as Jay-Z and Beyonce, one form of activism that is missing is anything that involves the words “poor black people.” Also, when it comes to issues that affect the least of us, including poverty, mass incarceration, urban violence, unequal educational systems and the like, it’s easy to say that Jay-Z and Beyonce have been effectively missing in action, unless it’s time to show up and utilize this audience to sell albums. Read more on how Jayonce take advantage of the black community.