Does Jay Z Want to Be This Generation's Harry Belafonte?

Jay Z and his wife Beyoncé attend an All-Star game earlier this year. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Jay Z and his wife Beyoncé attend an All-Star game earlier this year. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The kerfuffle between Jay Z and Harry Belafonte over the rapper's so-called failed activism represents the gulf between the civil rights and hip-hop generations, writes Rahiel Tesfamariam in the Washington Post. "When, if ever," she asks, "will the two meet?"

This past weekend, Jay-Z and Beyoncé attended a Trayvon Martin rally in New York City, standing in solidarity with the slain teen's family, their lawyers and Al Sharpton. Later that night, Jay-Z and Justin Timerberlake closed out their sold-out "Legends of the Summer" concert at Yankee Stadium by dedicating the song "Forever Young" to the 17-year-old whose death has sparked international outrage.

Jay-Z spoke about the anger he felt upon hearing of George Zimmerman's acquittal and how he sees America's race relations in a recent interview with Rap Radar's Elliot Wilson. While it's disappointing  to hear the rapper minimize the power of racism yet refreshing to hear him speak so passionately about the nonsensical "Stand Your Ground" laws, the most revealing part of the interview is Jay-Z's comments related to civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. Explaining why he took offense to Belafonte's critique of his lack of social responsibility, Jay-Z says, "My presence is charity. You know how many people are inspired by my story? Period. Cause it's actual. It's realized. It's not hypothetical."

Until now, no statement has more succinctly captured his outlook on social responsibility: "my presence is charity" explains it all. Jay-Z compares himself to President Obama as an inspirational figure who offers hope to people globally. He makes it clear that self-actualization and the ability to achieve massive success against all odds are powerful community contributions on their own.

Read Rahiel Tesfamariam's entire piece at the Washington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`