Last week, in an interview with the Hollywood Insider, Harry Belafonte came down pretty hard on celebrities — calling out Beyoncé and Jay-Z specifically — for failing to use their celebrity status for the greater good.
On Tuesday, Beyoncé’s camp responded with “an unabbreviated list of the unselfish work Beyoncé has done and continues to do,” the Wall St. Journal reports:
Belafonte reportedly told the Hollywood Reporter “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 Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.” Belafonte didn’t immediately return the Journal’s request for a comment. In response to Belafonte’s words, Beyonce’s representative emailed what she called “An abbreviated list of the unselfish work Beyoncé has done and continues to do.” The list included co-founding The Survivor Foundation “a multi-purpose community outreach facility in downtown Houston”; donating “100K in 2008 to the Gulf Coast Ike Relief Fund to aid Texas victims of Hurricane Ike”; performing in “MTV’s Hope For Haiti Now! Benefit in addition to making a generous monetary donation,” among many other charitable activities.
The fact is, Belafonte was a full-time humanitarian and civil rights activist who used his celebrity to propel his tireless work for social justice in the United States and worldwide. He did real work, on the ground, from helping to organize the March on Washington here in the U.S. to fighting hunger in Ethiopia. He’s still working tirelessly against child incarceration. No artist whose efforts to give back consist of writing checks and creating foundations — no matter how generous — will compete with him when it comes to dedication or impact.
So we certainly understand his frustration that younger black entertainers haven’t come forward to fill his legendary shoes. It is “sad,” as he put it; no question about that. But we’re not sure that slamming well-intentioned artists in the public sphere and questioning their very blackness is the best way to get them on his level. It would be great for Belafonte’s legacy if he could use the same aptitude for educating and motivating that made him a one-of-a-kind activist to inspire the next generation to become more meaningfully involved in the causes that matter to them and matter to the world.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.