Known for his performances in films like Carmen Jones and Buck and the Preacher, as well as his award-winning “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” Belafonte may be held in even higher regarded for his involvement in the civil rights movement.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Belafonte supported the movement as he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He provided financial support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as well as the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Belafonte, 85, still advocates for social justice and equality.
During an interview last week with the Hollywood Reporter, when asked whether or not he was happy with the images of minorities portrayed in Hollywood, he called out the power couple by name.
“I think one of the greatest abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities,” said Belafonte. “But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example.”
It’s of his belief that heavy hitters such as this power couple have the social responsibility to be outspoken regarding issues of race, prejudice and civil injustices due to the fact that they have such great influence.
Janelle Harris of Essence agreed, saying, “There’s been an ugly dumbing down when it comes to acknowledging and addressing pertinent issues, even having empathy for and interest in what’s impacting our community. It’s an attitude of detachment,” she said.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé topped Forbes’ list as the highest paid celebrity duo, accumulating $78 million. Belafonte and others urge them to use what they have to give back.
Guardian columnist Tricia Rose commented: “It’s undeniable that today’s top black artists and celebrities have the greatest leverage, power, visibility and global influence of any period.”
Beyoncé responded to Belafonte’s comments through her representative, referencing her charitable acts which have included inner-city outreaches in her hometown of Houston, as well as hurricane relief efforts in the gulf coast and earthquake relief in Haiti.
Of all the artists that Belafonte could have targeted, it is curious that he chose Beyonce and Jay-Z as the subject of his attack. While there aren’t many of us who couldn’t always do more to help the needy, Beyonce is noteworthy for the efforts she has made in recent years to give back, in money and also time. One example is her work to help promote World Humanitarian Day, which is being celebrated tomorrow, August 19. The famed singer performed her song “I Was Here” on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly to be used as a video to promote the day. Wrapped in a white sequined gown, the singer delivered a commanding live performance to the musical track as pictures of U.N. aide workers assisting in wars, famines and floods around the world appeared on a massive screen behind her.