by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I’m posting this on my blog, because I find it rather sad that we have devolved to this level. My best friend, Annie Gee, sent it to me, so I want to thank her for making me aware that we really do have some serious issues when it comes to how we address each other.
I recently commented on this roiling controversy on FaceBook, and I now see that it has taken on a life of its own. One can only hope that there are some lessons to be learned by us all.
First of all, as I mentioned previously, Jay-Z was certainly out of line disrespecting Harry Belafonte, no matter what his statement was. Harry is one of our Esteemed Elders. He has done more in his lifetime than ten Jay-Z’s. That said, I was not aware that our brother Belafonte compared him to Bruce Springsteen. That was bound to have hurt him deeply, and has probably caused some rancor that might not have been forthcoming otherwise.
Springsteen, of course, has made a great many contributions in his own right, but, like the brother said, a Black man placing a white man ahead of another Black man is painful indeed. We are family. We have to stick together. There were definitely other, more quiet approaches that could have been used by our wise elder to get the point across.
I also understand the frustration Harry may be experiencing with seeing our youth, who have made immeasurable marks on the world at such young ages, “squander” their wealth. And, though I’m not sure that’s the case with Jay-Z, I am sure that Mr. Belafonte sees the possibilities his impact can have on those youth who look up to and admire him. He probably wouldn’t have made the comparison between Springsteen and Jay-Z, but the future and fate of Black people is an emotional and personal issue for him, and when the heart speaks, sometimes things come out in ways that others can’t always filter through.
However, I think everybody is missing one important point: JAY-Z IS NOT AN ACTIVIST. He is not Harry Belafonte. He is Jay-Z. And while Harry may have blazed that trail, it many not necessarily be the right one for Jay-Z to walk in. So stop trying to force him to be something he isn’t. He has his own merits. They need to be accepted for what they are.
Unlike Brother Boyce Watkins, I’ve never met brother Jay-Z, nor his wife. I’ve met Russell Simmons on several occasions, but not enough to have formed a relationship of any kind with him. Just enough to say “hi!” “bye!” I think it admirable that our Black (?) millionaires want to sign half their fortune to charity – just want to make sure which charities they’re speaking of. I would also like to find out if there are some ways to develop living trusts, and combining some of the funds now, so some of those funds can be applied RIGHT NOW People are in pain, losing homes, jobs, health, dignity – RIGHT NOW.
Despite those statements just made, I do not expect our celebrities to get out there and shoulder the entire burden of Black people on their backs. Let’s face it – our brothers and sisters (we) have to be part and parcel of our own salvation. Not everybody is going to be a Jay-Z, a Muhammad Ali, a Magic Johnson, Beyonce`, Mary J. Blige, etc., so let’s get that out of the way right now. Somebody (a whole bunch of somebodies) are going to have to get jobs, work; create jobs, get educations, take responsibility for their children; stop buying or using guns against each other and innocent bystanders; drop the drugs, the four letter words, the n-gr behaviors; and that is NOT Jay-Z’s job. He can only lend his celebrity to the endorsement of gun control in the communities, better neighborhoods, clean streets. I don’t suggest he get out there and try to do it hands on – unless that truly is his calling.
We all got to get off each others’ backs – RIGHT NOW. Rev. Jackson said we need to learn to turn TO each other, not ON each other. I totally concur. We have a tendency to have a judgmental attitude towards each other that causes schisms rather than unity. Not everybody walks the same path. Muhammad Ali came along during the time that we were dealing with Viet Nam, and a disproportionate number of young Black men were being drafted and sent to the front. The whole US was in an upheaval – from flower power hippies to Black power. We had 5 assassinations in the 60’s: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy. Totally different era from Michael Jordan. Not a fair comparison.
If Jay-Z can inspire our wannabe J-Z’s to do better, wonderful, well and good. But that change really has to be generated inside the kid himself, and it starts in his home, with his parents – his mother being the first educator. If she hasn’t taught him to respect his elders, then you have another Jay-Z on your hand who would be just as rude to him, as he was to Harry Belafonte.
What we need across the board is a paradigm shift. A shift in our core values; a shift in who we listen to, what we do, what we learn and who’s teaching us. Now Jay-Z may be able to help underwrite those programs; but he can’t do the whole thing by himself. Nor should he, unless he wants to.
I used to work with a Japanese firm, and learned a great deal about allowing the person to be / do who he or she is – of course from the most positive, highest and best standpoint. If you help cultivate that, you’ve done something. Their talents are nurtured and they benefit themselves and the world. If you try to force them to be other than what their inner spirit dictates (provided it’s healthy and positive, of course) you will always get less than their best.
We Black people have abrogated the responsibility of raising our children – or it’s been legislated out of our hands, so that instead of corporal punishment, our kids, when they do get out of hand, become target practice for trigger happy cops, or undisciplined peers.
Despite this, Jay-Z successfully emerged from the Marcy Projects; they can too. Hopefully, using a much more positive path. They may not realize the monumental success he has achieved – but it’s a testament to who he is on the inside, and the fact that he dug deep enough to find that inner man and bring it out. There are certainly things we (the so-called elders) can learn from him that can be translated into some methodologies for training our young men (and women). But until and unless he himself decides he wants to fill the activist role, let the brother be who he is.
By the way, did my eyes deceive me, or didn’t I see photos of Jay-Z with Beyonce, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Trayvon Martin’s Mom, Sybrina Fulton during the March for Trayvon last Saturday? It seems to me that he was pretty hands on at that time.
I made the following statement in response to a posting from a brother on Facebook in reference to President Obama, and the back biting he’s taking from Corny West and Tavis Smiley – and a few others: “We know how to be gracious losers; but we’re poor winners. We don’t know how to win and be grateful; we don’t know how to be happy for other winners. We’ve always got to find something wrong with them. It’s as if we don’t really trust winning, since so few of us have any real experience at it. We think they must have done something illegal, illicit, or it was blind, dumb luck. We have the tendency to pick it apart until there is nothing left but resentment (on both parts).”
Jay-Z’s a winner; Beyonce’s a winner. Harry Belafonte is a winner. Oprah Winfrey’s a winner; Bill Cosby is a winner. They all have made and continue to make great contributions to our culture. If they inspire us, make us feel as if we have a shot of breaking through, so much the better. If they don’t we still have to find that place within ourselves where God placed it to begin with, and begin to follow our own inner light.
STAY BLESSED &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com