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Belafonte Versus Jay Z, It’s Not that Complicated Jigga, Jigga Whaaa? Jigga Boo!

Belafonte and Jay Z

By Walter L. Hilliard III –

According to the social justice and entertainment icon Harry Belafonte, now 86, Martin Luther King once told him, “I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.” Worried, Belafonte asked, “What should we do?” King responded: “Become the firemen. Let’s not stand by and let the house burn.”

 

Such voices don’t exist today. . . we [Black people] have failed miserably,” said Belafonte during an interview, speaking about the lack of concern for social responsibility of contemporary entertainers, including “Jay Z and Beyonce.”   He later clarified that he was speaking about “the entire celebrity core” having failed to live up to their responsibilities.  Jay Z responded that he had no interest in politics, which Belafonte said he found this unfortunate, and that politics was central to the Black struggle.  But, you see, Jay Z, a former drug dealer, is still thinking and living in “hustle mode,” being single-minded and acting like a juvenile delinquent with a lot more money, bigger toys, and a woman who would rather spend her free time in front of a mirror practicing different booty shaking angles — knees bent, a#* up, neck cocked.

 

Inspired by the great humanitarian Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte’s history of fighting American racism and colonialism in Africa is extensive and legendary and he has always used his high profile as an entertainer to speak out against against injustice on behalf of the Black community instead of just being worried about collecting a check like practically all present-day athletes and entertainers. Belafonte’s longevity as a freedom fighter extends from his being the first American artist to sell a million records (album: “Calypso,” included the hit “Day-O”) to his working with the likes of the father of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, to establishing relationships with today’s artist.  He also helped organize “We Are the World,” the song that raised funds for Africa, helped dismantle Apartheid, and he has spoken out against George Bush and his policies, as well called out Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

 

But it was Belafonte’s criticism of Jay Z and Beyonce that caught everyone’s attention, including Jay Z and Beyonce.  So let’s dig deeper into what was said:

 

Belafonte commented during the controversial interview that ignited the issue with Jay Z: “They [America, President Barack Obama] have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are,” Belafonte said. “We are still looking. We are not driven by some technology that says you can kill Afghans, the Iraqis or the Spanish. It is all – excuse my French – s**t. And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities [speaking out]. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is Black.”

 

The gist of Jay Z’s garbled response: “This is going to sound arrogant . . . my presence is charity. Just like Obama said.”  He also did a diss track directed at Belafonte.  How dumb is that?

 

Oprah, during an interview about her movie “The Butler,” was asked about the beef and who was right, Jay Z or Belafonte? Conveniently, and oblivious to racism, she said, in a convoluted answer that mentioned Belafonte as a warrior and Jay Z being one who happens to express himself through his music, “Both were right.”

 

Huh?

 

As I’ve touched on previously, Belafonte is an equal opportunity offender, if that’s how you see it, and during a different interview, he was asked about his fellow-icon Dick Gregory criticizing Spike Lee because Spike blasted Quetin Tarantino and his movie “Dhjango.”  Belafonte, without directly criticizing Gregory, agreed with Spike, saying we have come to accept certain negative images. But why have we as Black people come to accept such negative images of our people? The fact is that if all you serve people is Coke and Pepsi, that’s all most of the people will want or buy; thus, for example, Black people appear to love stereotypical comedies and reality television shows that do nothing but demean them.

 

In another instance, during an introduction speech Belafonte made for the politically and socially conscious rap group Public Enemy, who was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Belafonte called out President Barack Obama to do something about the mass incarceration of our youth, particularly young Black youth.  Belafonte happened to be sharing the Public Enemy introduction speech with Spike Lee, which speaks to his having remained relevant.

 

The reality is Jay Z that and others, including Barack Obama, can always speak up or “speak truth to power,” bottom line. Jay Z is powerful and one of today’s top entertainers and his fellow high-profile celebrities, including athletes, are seen in popular commercials but are not heard from when it comes to social issues like racism, making them — their attitudes and behaviors — the antithesis of the likes of not only Belafonte, but also Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabaar, who all stepped up on behalf of Black people and held one another accountable to the Black community. 

 

Where was Jay Z’s voice when Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Amadou Dialo, Sean Bell, and others were killed.  And it appears he only spoke out about Trayvon Martin because Al Sharpton and Barack Obama did. 

 

Maybe Jay Z and Beyonce are “two peas in a pod” because Miss Bougie also has racial issues. In fact, she once thought it was cool to darken her face, resembling the racist Black Tar Baby caricature that is tightly woven into America’s historic fabric. She also once told the Hispanic media that she wished she had been born Hispanic when she was discussing their culture.

 

It seems that money really does change people, especially Black people. And this disappointing because one would think that after all of the oppression Black people have experienced we’d “act like we know.” But we don’t and, in fact, we’ve taken self-destruction to a whole new level.

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