Jay Z has been heavily criticized by social activist Harry Belafonte and other prominent figures in the black community for what they believe is a lack of social responsibility, but according to Jay Z, his very presence is charity.
Jay Z and Beyonce were voted as one of the most influential celebrity couples, but after exchanging words with Belafonte through the media, one can only hope that Jay Z’s influence isn’t as strong as it used to be.
Many activists have been urging their communities to do more than just voice their opinions, they need to fight for action and change in peaceful but powerful ways. Change won’t happen until the community demands it instead of asking for it.
That was the point Belafonte was making when he said that he felt that Jay Z and Beyonce weren’t as socially responsible as they should be. And now that HOV is speaking out against the remarks, it seems as if he may be proving Belafonte right.
“I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity,” Jay Z responded in an interview with Rap Radar. “Just who I am. Like Obama’s is.”
The comparison to President Barack Obama is proof that Jay Z’s arrogance may come close to matching that of his longtime best friend Kanye West.
The “Open Letter” rapper stated that as long as the president speaks on a topic, he has done enough and the same rules apply to him as well.
“Obama provides hope,” he continued. “Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You’re the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything, he should be left alone.”
So is this a part of the new rules? Is the black community supposed to simply grab a position of power and then become lazy and complacent? Is the African-American culture supposed to slowly but surely wither away at the feet of pseudo-equality as we promote our mere being and speech as a solution and push action to the wayside?
The New York hip-hop mogul also seems to be creating some sort of dividing line between blacks and whites, and is almost suggesting that the goal for civil rights activists in America isn’t actually to strive for equality. Instead they are supposed to make sure that the black community is simply the winner in the war against the “white man.”
“I felt Belafonte. He just went about it wrong,” he continued. “Like the way he did it in the media, and then he big upped Bruce Springsteen or something. And it was like ‘whoa,’ you just sent the wrong message all the way around… Bruce Springsteen is a great guy. You’re this civil rights activist and you just big upped the white guy against me in the white media.”
Meanwhile, Belafonte is still keeping an open mind and asking for Jay Z to come sit down with him in person so they can stop having their exchange in the media spotlight.
“I would hope with all my heart that Jay Z did not take personally what was said,” Belafonte said. “I would like to take this opportunity to say to Jay Z and Beyonce: I’m wide open, my heart is filled with nothing but hope and the promise that we can sit and have a one-on-one to understand each other.”
In Jay Z’s interview with Rap Radar, he also addressed how angry he was when he first heard about the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
“I was really angry, I didn’t sleep for two days,” he said. “I was really angry about it, that the thing that we all knew that there was still a bit of racism in America, but for it to be so blatant.”
This is the type of anger and passion about racism that is used to drive major movements that lead to both social and political change.
Despite his anger and disappointment with the Zimmerman trial, Jay Z has decided not to boycott the state and will take to Florida to perform along with Justin Timberlake in August.
During the interview the “Holy Grail” rapper posed the question, “Didn’t Trayvon have the right to stand his ground?”
Well it’s about time Jay Z asked himself another question, “What are you going to do about the injustice… other than provide your presence?”
This by no means suggests that boycotting Florida is the only answer or that Jay Z shouldn’t perform in the Sunshine State. It’s a mere reminder to the African-American community that we can’t rely on our mere presence to fix things.