Monday, November 19, 2018

Rapper Jay Z and Barneys: The Role of African American Entertainers in the Black Freedom Struggle.

October 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( “No Vietcong ever called me n*gger.” When Muhammad Ali spoke those words in 1966, he was at the height of his boxing career. Ali’s refusal to fight in Vietnam cost him the heavyweight championship and could have sent him to prison. However, Ali could not remain silent as young black men were being drafted to slaughter another people of color in Southeast Asia. Two years later at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made the decision to protest racism in the U.S. by donning black gloves and raising their fists as the National Anthem played throughout the Olympic stadium. For this action, Carlos and Smith were expelled from the Olympics and faced numerous threats when they returned to the United States.

Since the early 20th century, leaders within the black community have debated the role of African American entertainers in the fight for racial equality. For some, black athletes, artists, actors, and musicians do not have a moral obligation to fight racism. However, for those like W.E.B. Du Bois, all art was propaganda and should further the cause of racial justice. While we have witnessed over the years many who adhered to Du Bois’ advice and risked their fame, fortune, and at times, lives for the sake of civil rights, their haverapperJayzBarneys also been many others who refused to take a stand against racism for fear of losing money or status.

There is clearly a financial risk for black entertainers in taking up the banner of civil rights. Indeed, one only needs to look at Nasir “Nas” Jones to see what can happen when an artist becomes socially conscious. Once Nas shifted from releasing songs such as “Oochie Wally” to those like “Sly Fox,” he was marginalized and rarely heard on mainstream radio. This should not come as a surprise considering the amount of white corporate ownership of record labels and media outlets. Nas’ career clearly shows how much African Americans continue to struggle to be successful if they speak out against racism. However, does the chance of losing financial gain and endorsement deals excuse black artists from staying silent in the midst of racial injustice?

If you have watched any late night talk show or cable news channel in the last few years, there is good chance you have heard Bill Cosby blaming the black poor for their lot in life. However, as Michael Eric Dyson points out, Cosby avoided racial issues when he was known for Fat Albert and had endorsement deals with Coca-Cola and Jell-O. In short, it is easy to speak about race when it is politically convenient and you do not have as much to lose. Perhaps no other black entertainer has learned this lesson better than Michael Jordan. As has been reported numerous times, in 1990 Jordan refused to endorse African American Harvey Gantt in the North Carolina Senate race against Jesse Helms because “Republicans buy shoes too.” Now, with his playing career over, Jordan is comfortable entering the political fray, hosting million dollar fundraisers for President Obama.

The issue of whether African American entertainers should be active in the black freedom struggle is again at the forefront with Jay Z and Barneys. The hip-hop mogul is poised to begin his partnership with Barneys, which has been accused twice for racial profiling its customers. With the deal, Barneys will sell items inspired by Rapper Jay Z and he will assist in creating a holiday window display with some of his proceeds going to charity. In response to the alleged racial profiling, thousands of individuals have signed a petition urging Jay Z to drop Barneys.

Perhaps Jay Z could learn a lesson from his friend, Kanye West. While West is no Chuck D in terms of political activism, he is also no Michael Jordan. A week after West was on the cover of Time magazine as the smartest man in popular music, he appeared on national television and declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” West knew he could lose endorsement deals for the statement, but could not stay silent as nearly 2,000, mostly poor African Americans, drowned on national television while the Bush administration did next to nothing.

So the question becomes: Will Jay Z follow in the path of Paul Robeson, The Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, and others who used their gifts and fame to fight racism while paving the way for his success? Or will Jay Z remain silent and make millions off of a corporation who, it appears, practices racial profiling? Jay Z deserves his success, but with that success comes an obligation. Rapper Jay Z is one of the few individuals who has the influence and power to send a clear message to corporate America that racial equality, not the dollar is the real Holy Grail. As a Jay Z fan and a civil rights activist, I truly hope he does the right thing.

Written By Vincent Intondi 

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8 Responses to “Rapper Jay Z and Barneys: The Role of African American Entertainers in the Black Freedom Struggle.”
  1. Faruq says:

    You are a disgrace to all people.

    1. You talked about it being easy to make a stand when they have nothing to lose, that same thing applies to you right now. You have nothing to lose so its easy for you to make a stand. Jay z has done 100 million times more for his race than you or anyone here can even dream of achieving for theirs, so where do you get the nerve to criticize him, go out and do something for equality, don’t just write an complain about injustice.
    2. Jay took the absolute perfect stand. Allegations have been made and he is waiting on the outcome of meetings and enquiries, black people always complain about being found guilty before we even set foot in court, yet you sit here and advocate a black man does the same. Worst still as Jay himself said, he doesn’t pocket even a penny from this endorsment, it all goes to under priveledge kids. So how dear you then critisize him for thinking only of himself?
    3. You make me sick, if god is just a large bus will run you over. If not I can only hope you realise the error of your ways, remove this article and apologise. You undermine the genuine fight for equality by trading in important issues and degrading it just for hits. You sick shameless man. Truely I wish i could express my level of disdain for you and all you are. You shame us all, you sick sick man. You deserve no happiness in life until you take this down and apologize.
    In fact every day you keep this article up I will continue to shame you on this comments and your twitter page.

  2. yawn says:

    Integration has nothing to do with out of control behavior in our community and please stop counting other people’s money and go out and get your own the way most people who have money did. By the way none of you complained when the community was told to vote for Obama because white people were voting for him, smdh.

  3. toomanygrandkids says:

    Also, many blacks accuse rich whites of being not only racists but capitalists as well. Yet rich blacks spend more of their money with these so-called racists than in the black community. Why is that? And they’ve been spending money with them for years.

  4. toomanygrandkids says:

    I agree w/ Terrence and Realman2. I’ve had those thoughts for years.

  5. See documentary movie Born Rich. Girl says country club she belongs to in Long Island New York, would Not want a Black member no matter How much Money they make. Rich black people Love to show white people they are Not like the Black masses, and wanna buy expensive stuff in White businesses but Never build foundations for their people’s communities.

    Black folks, no matter How much Money, Education, position (see Obama) you have, we will Never!Be accepted by whites – Never. Marcus Garvey has/had the answer, but black folks wanted integration over self empowerment. Thus our pitiful pathetic state we are in today.

  6. Realman2 says:

    Todays black athletes the entertainers, 99% of them, only care about themselves. They are lethally ignorant and selfish, they promote everything that’s wrong with today’s black community and are proud of it. JayZ, his wife, and the rest of this bunch have in many ways done more harm to blacks than the Klan did in the last hundred years. And equally sad is that most blacks are too damn stupid to see this and eagerly contribute to their own demise.

  7. hmmm says:

    U expect J to do what Obama who works for you couldn’t do-STFU!

  8. The Soul Man says:

    First of all jay z don’t owe nobody anything, he didn’t borrow from the public to get where he’s at,he provided a product of his own creation and people bought it, a simple ticket laundry thing, cosby is an educated fool who fooled the public with his product by attempting to set the example as the world’s greatest dad while having a bootie call in his private life, then attempted all the other rigamaroe that comes with those types of actions to cover the smell of his behind,then throw rotten vegetables at those that refuse to play the Tom game on jobs that are red lined for Black’s because the playing field changes when it’s time to make some real money for a brother or a sister, and this doesn’t make these people bums as the educated fool with no DING-A-LING control. My point? .it takes a special individual poor or wealthy to make changes as they see fit when they see others struggle with life issues, if jay z don’t have the tools in his mind or the guts as others want him to have because he has an abundance of income, then it is better for him to be silent than to throw vegetables at those who put him where he is at until he’s figured it out for himself or until he has a feel for the community chest.

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