Belafonte, Usher Talk Pop Culture and Activism

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Civil rights activist Harry Belafonte made headlines last weekend following discussions he had with American R&B artiste Usher about popular culture and activism.

Last Friday evening, scores of young people turned up at the Kaufmann Concert Hall in New York City to listen to both men speak on issues surrounding the need to be involved in activism. The discussion, under the theme ‘Breaking the Chains of Social Injustice’, was moderated by former CNN anchorwoman Soledad O’Brien.

Belafonte, 88, suffered a seizure the evening before but was well enough to engage the audience in a riveting discussion, according to online sources. The entertainer charged his fellow musicians to remember that they have a social responsibility, a message he has been preaching for several years and which led to a falling out between himself and hip-hop mogul Jay Z.

Belafonte and Jay Z have been at loggerheads since 2012 when Belafonte said that one of the great abuses of modern times is having high-profile artistes and powerful celebrities who have turned their back on social responsibility, citing Jay Z and his wife, BeyoncÈ, as examples.

Jay Z responded to Belafonte’s reasoning in 2013 by stating that his presence as an artiste-entertainer was better felt in charity.

It is also widely believed that Jay Z took a hit at Belafonte in one of his songs, where he said, “Mr Day-O, major fail.”

Gatekeepers Of Truth

However, on Friday, the two seemed to have put their differences aside as Jay Z was a member of the audience at the discussion. It was also reported that the two had been engaged in conversations backstage before the discussion started.

Belafonte has been critical of popular artistes for not doing enough to address social injustice. “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth,” he said during the discussion on Friday, while heaping praises on director Steve McQueen for the film 12 Years a Slave. He said the film functions as a strong rebuttal to those who would whitewash slavery in history books.

Usher spoke about the need to vote and the need for education. He shrugged off the term “activist” to describe himself, preferring to reserve it for people like Belafonte, who fought for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s and has been a prominent voice demanding social justice for more than half a century. Coining a term for himself, the singer described himself as an “actionist” and said he hoped his new video would move people to get involved in various organisations like Belafonte’s group, Sankofa.

3 thoughts on “Belafonte, Usher Talk Pop Culture and Activism

  1. Reblogged this on GlobalSisterzMedia, LLC and commented:
    Excerpt:
    [•••] Last Friday evening, scores of young people turned up at the Kaufmann Concert Hall in New York City to listen to both men speak on issues surrounding the need to be involved in activism. The discussion, under the theme ‘Breaking the Chains of Social Injustice’, was moderated by former CNN anchorwoman Soledad O’Brien.

  2. My dad was a big HB fan. I spent a lot of hours listening to and enjoying his music.

    Mr. B’s comments about “cutting back on everything” make me wonder if Baltimore Mom of The Year had responsibly built a smaller family she could more easily supervise and provide for, would her son have become depressed and attempted to cause grave harm to police charged with protecting their peaceful neighbors…though more importantly, would there be more funds to assist their community@large if eighteen-year-old Ms. Graham choose to build a smaller family while at the same time depending on her neighbors to support and feed her family.

    Same for Tavis Smiley’s mom who at eighteen-years-old began irresponsibly building a family of ten children. In a May 2015 interview on FN Tavis revealed his nine now adult brothers and sisters continue struggling with poverty to this day.

    Does Mr. Belafonte believe there would be more funds available for the good of entire communities if immature, selfish teen girls and young women “cut back” on building families until they acquire the skills, PATIENCE and means to raise and nurture a fairly happy child who experiences and enjoys Safe Streets to travel and play on?

    https://knutesniche.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/jay-z-raps-about-child-abuse-the-fear-and-harm-he-caused-to-peaceful-people/

    Black *(Children’s)* Lives Matter; Take Pride In Parenting; End Our National Epidemic of Child Abuse and Neglect; End Community Violence, Police Fear & Educator’s Frustrations

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