Russell Simmons Responds to Jay-Z w/ a Stinging Open Letter About Occupy Wall Street

In recent days a firestorm erupted around rap star Jay-Z when he was quoted as saying he thought Occupy Wall Street was ‘Un-American’ when it demonized the 1%…

Jay-Z went on to state that he didn’t get down with the Occupy Movement because he didn’t know anything about it’s goals. Many of us found this to be a bit odd since Jay-Z had embroiled himself in a controversy last year when he announced that he would be making Occupy Wall Street t-Shirts, but he had no intention of sharing the loot with OWS.. Russell Simmons who is friends with Jay-Z noted that he talked with him about it..Eventually Jay-Z released a t-shirt line called Occupy All streets.  Its with tht in mind we found Jigga’s remarks about not knowing about OWS’s goals.. The other day Simmons set the record straight witha public response to Jay-Z’s NY Times interview.. Here’s the open letter which first appeared in Global Grind..

-Davey D-

Jay-Z Is Right 99 Times, But This Ain’t One By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons

As a person who cares deeply about Occupy Wall Street, I have to honor their year-long effort and educate my long-time friend, Jay-Z. This weekend, he was interviewed by the New York Times where he discusses OWS, where he was quoted as saying “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?” If he understood it and endorsed the movement, it would make a big difference to poor people. As the same man that said he would pay more taxes if it helped educate more children and create affordable healthcare, Jay-Z’s words matter. He was honest enough to say that he didn’t understand it. A lot of Americans don’t. He was also honest enough to recognize that there are some in the 1 percent who “deceiving” and “robbing,” so I know in his heart he gets it. I know he is a compassionate person who cares about the poor, so I’m certain if I had two more minutes with him, I could change his mind.

I went to Zuccotti Park, the home-base of the Occupy Wall Street movement, almost everyday for months. I listened to the young people talk about their 99 problems. The 99 percent. Healthcare reform. Prison industrial complex. The war machine. Bad schools. Lack of access to affordable higher education. Genetically modified food. Gay rights. Immigration reform. Crumbling housing projects. Climate change. Everyday, there was a new protester with a new sign, fighting for the rights of the under-served. There was never an official agenda or media-friendly talking points. Zuccotti Park and the Occupy camps that sprung up around the country were places for any and every person to come and share ideas about how to better perfect our union. Our democracy.

I would agree that for many it was hard to understand the purpose of the movement if you did not attend any of the General Assemblies, or march hand-in-hand with the millions of protesters around the country. The months during the height of the beginning of the movement were unlike anything we had seen before in our nation. A protest led by no one, but always led by leaders. Organized through social media, yet no organization at the forefront. This was a true people’s campaign.

If we look back at the accomplishments thus far of Occupy Wall Street, there are many. For one, the national conversation that preceded September 17th, 2011 was dominated by a manufactured political fight in Washington to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a credit default. Within the first weeks of OWS, the conversation had been changed to the real issue that is eroding America; economic inequality, a topic that hasn’t been discussed for decades. Within the first few months of OWS, the conversation evolved into an examination of how Wall Street’s money has destroyed our political system and took control of our democracy. The prison industrial complex, lower taxes for the rich, the outsourcing of jobs, Wall Street running rampant, poisonous foods for our children, even some wars and almost everything that disempowers the poor, is a result of money passing from lobbyists and corporations to our politicians. And that is what Occupy Wall Street is fighting against. It is a sad state that the politicians work for the people who pay them, not for the people who elect them. That is not democracy.

f you look at the current Presidential election, Money Mitt Romney and his buddies are spending 12 times that of President Obama in special interest money and/or Super PACs. Money Mitt is clearly being manipulated by big corporations and folks who can write $10 million checks. The man changes his position every three days. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizen’s United, our democracy sign was placed on the front lawn with big red letters: FOR SALE! I am encouraged by President Obama’s support of using a Constitutional Amendment as an option to return our democracy back to the people. This will be his legacy issue. I am sure of that. And without the pressure of Occupy Wall Street, this conversation might never have happened.

So, Jay, here’s the deal. You’re rich and I’m rich. But, today it’s close to impossible to be you or me and get out of Marcy Projects or Hollis, Queens without changing our government to have our politicians work for the people who elect them and not the special interests and corporations that pay them. Because we know that these special interests are nothing special at all. In fact, they spend millions of dollars destroying the fabric of the black community and make billions of dollars in return. For example, the prison lobby paid politicians to create a so-called “War On Drugs” that resulted in a prison economy that disproportionately locks up black and brown people, including many of your friends and mine. They took drug-infected, diseased people, locked them up, educated them in criminal behavior and dumped them back into our community, thus producing a jail culture for our streets. There are more black people under correctional control (prison, jail, parole, probation) today, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War. This is just one issue that has been bought and sold. If we have to occupy Wall Street or occupy All Streets to change the course of direction of this nation, then we must. We must take our democracy off the market and let the world know that it is no longer for sale! Mic check!

Your Friend,

~Russell Simmons 

Comments

  1. Great article … here’s a 99% inspired song we made recently. http://soundcloud.com/boomspot/dor-99-percent

  2. Amen..Time

  3. Disgusting Jay Z you got rich off those folks in the hood and the projects and now you diss a movement that is talking about their plight…I say boycott him and anything he does..when he is on the air turn the station refuse to view him on TV…you are really disgusting…

  4. Darkoverlord_Definer says:

    How strange that with all his wealth hes to goddam lazy to even take the time to do the reseach or read about the issues Russell had to SPOONFEED him.This seems to be to often the mentally of alot blk folks,who have some cash. Most would rather, sit and talk shit about the following,the large number of whites involved,how they look and the fact of the protesters,making it harder for other folks trying to survive. These same parasites are the first ones to shout when one of their kids gets killed by the police or they can’t get jobs or feel racically descriminated against.

    This reminds me soo much of the 60s,70s when you had blk celebrates talking this UNAMERIKKAN SHIT ,AGAINST MARTIN LUTHER KING AND LATER THE PANTHERS.
    As I keep saying we have become a nation of 2nd rate media follow fashion vampires,who have become everything we claim to hate so much about WHITE CAPTIOLIST,RACIST VAMPIRES WHO RUN THIS FOUL NATION.
    jAY-ZITS IS JUST THE LATEST INCARNATION OF THIS SICKNESS AND A POSTER CHILD FOR HOW DEEPLY INGRAINED STUPIDITY AS BECOME THE NORM AMONG BLK FOLKS RICH OR POOR.

  5. For all the people b*tching about Jay-Z’s lack of understanding of the OWS movement, it’s rather simple. As someone who has both spent time living in some of the OWS camps and researching the movement online it’s not a clear-cut campaign. Just like 99 problems there seems to be 99 factions of OWS all vying to get different things accomplished. Are we trying to end personhood of corporations or stop genetically modified food production? Is this about the prison state and drug wars, or the rich paying their fair share of taxes? Is this a democrat/republican thing or a call for a new form of political representation? The answer is all these, or none, depending on who you talk to and their sources.

    The top contributors to both Romney’s and Obama’s campaigns are corporate entities from the council on foreign relations, so is this a pro-democratic movement or a non-affiliated movement?

    When people get upset that someone doesn’t understand the message of OWS the question to me becomes if OWS actually has a clear-cut message because so far it seems like a loosely-affiliated clusterf*ck (technical term) of competing ideologies and there is clearly no single message other than the over-dramatic “us vs them” or “99 vs 1″ which does nothing more than foster further dualistic thinking and competitive positioning whereas a more complete approach would be more about subversion through inclusion instead of all this stance and posturing that is going on.

    My 2 cents for whatever they are, or are not, worth.

    Lumin

  6. Mic Check!

  7. This from the guy who created the ‘Rush card’, a high rate debit card designed to exploit lower-income people of color. When you think of the Hip Hop 1%, who has capitalized more from the industry than anyone else that ever or never held a mic. Last I checked, he was #3 richest person in hip hop after P Diddy and Jay-Z…..so on what basis can he voice concern for the common man? GTFOH Russel Simmons. Watch out for these industry cats. They’re ‘tricky’.

    http://madamenoire.com/110180/russell-simmons-rush-card-under-investigation-for-hidden-fees/

  8. I wish you Haters, Racists would stay on romneys page, we know better, spread your poison on the repub., we the 99% have learned better. fox airwaves lie with phony propaganda to push their Agenda of “Greed is good”, it’s a Sin, ask any catholic. Waste is a mortal sin, etc…Rush card…one & only credit card offered to them when he started it. Kardashians took it to another level…for greed. I believe Russell was trying to help the ones refused a card while life without one was becoming very difficult…. What have you done to assist these people working two jobs & still can’t pay their damn overpriced rent for rat infested traps. (death traps). Owned by Slum-lords…

  9. @hippieclones – I surely hope you not referring to me. Clarification i’m a BLACK MAN that doesnt support Romney (wait for it) OR OBAMA! Both sides of the politcal spectrum are skewed, biased, and not in favor of the success of the Black man at large. With that said, Russel Simmons is nothing more than a capitalist. DEFINITION: someone who CAPITALIZES off of others having less fortune, so they can have MORE fortune. The Rush card was charging people to put on money, and to spend money……WTF?? How is that helping the people?!? And look here, there are also still such things are checks, money orders, etc. Sure, the world may be more inconvenient without a debit card, but not impossible. An Besides, the prepaid debit card game is wiiiide open these days, so what exactly does Russel ‘bring to the table’ to help his people that Visa doesn’t??? GTFOH! People that want to help do 1 of 2 things: 1) Give a man to teach or 2) Teach a man to fish…….NOT 3) Sell a man a fish………The 3rd option is capitalism and not philanthropy, and one should do well not to confuse the two. As you were….

  10. Thank you, Mr. Simmons for being the bridge of knowledge between the 99% and those lucky and gifted enough to rise up to such prosperity as yourself as Jay-Z.

  11. Jose castellar says:

    It’s good that u put this info out and let people no about the shit that’s going on out there I undstand everything u were saying I come from Camden nj and the things that are going on out here is off the chain if there is any thing I can do to help u in ur moment let me no u just can’t just give any body da opportunity cause it will hunt u in the long run their for u fine new talent

  12. Reblogged this on Hip Hop Prophets and commented:
    An interesting and insightful analysis of the issues behind the Occupy movement from the pen of a wealthy hip hop mogul. Check out what Simmons has to say

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