Iconic actor Harry Belafonte is speaking out on what he feels is a lack of social and political activism among the “elite” members of the African-American community including Jay-Z, Beyonce and even the President himself.
“The power in many societies has become almost absolute,” Belafonte told the Tinseltown industry outlet. “What we did during the Bush period, what we still continue to do, even with Barack Obama, is the continuency of not changing the paradigm, of not changing the view. We still have laws that encourage torture, we did not change Guantanamo, we have laws that allow the police to arrest you at any time, not having to tell you why, and take you wherever they want. This kind of capitalism is taking us to the doorstep of [a] Fourth Reich, I think.”
Belafonte, along with entertainers such as Sidney Poitier and Josephine Baker, are part of an older guard of African-Americans in the public eye for whom it was as important to be politically active as it was to be wealthy and watched.
Belafonte’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement are numerous — including financially assisting Dr. Martin Luther King, who considered Belafonte to be a close confidante. He is dismayed that today’s African-American celebrities do not in his opinion reflect the same level of dedication. Belafonte even believes that at least one white star could teach black luminaries a thing or two about social awareness.
“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,” he accused. “That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.”
Jay-Z has been vocal in his support of President Obama’s support of marriage equality. Beyoncé has also publicly endorsed Frank Ocean’s revelation that his first love was a man.
Aside from these instances, it is difficult to name cases in which high-profile black celebrities have spoken out on political issues.
We can name few more black celebs that have spoken out publicly about social and political issues but, does Mr. Belafonte have a point?
Or is there just a generational disconnect between methods used to generate social and political awareness now and then?