At the height of his career actor, singer Harry Belafonte had a variety show which was exploding in the ratings.. He was bringing on all sorts of guests and making things pop..There was one problem, TV stations in the South disliked the fact that he had racially mixed cast.. The networks stepped to Harry and told him he could continue the show, but he needed to tone things down and make some adjustments and they would give him the World.. Belafonte turned down the offer and quit the show the next week..
This would not be the first time Belafonte would walk away from something so tempting and potentially lucrative from the world of Art and Entertainment..He did this on several occasions.
Fast forward to 2013.. We have a high-end department store named Barneys New York with a reputation for humiliating its African-American customers even as African-American celebrities who are crossed over pop icons, make the store a desirable place.
The latest incident where a 19-year-old young man was arrested after buying a belt has led to calls of boycott and punishment for the store. Caught in the middle is rap star Jay Z who has lucrative deal with Barneys New York which includes a clothing and jewelry line..Up to now Jigga has remained silent as calls for him to end his relationship with the store grow louder with each passing day..
Now the rubber in many ways is meeting the road and question becomes What’s a Jigga to do? Keep the money and make his presence felt and influence from the inside? Or does he pull the plug and make a public statement that racial discrimination will not be tolerated by entities he’s involved in no matter what the cost? Is this about Jigga? The community or is this case of we got bigger fish to fry?
Back in the days, James Brown did a song called ‘America is My Home‘ where he gave props to the US and said it was the best country on earth.. Problem was it came in the aftermath of the riots in Watts, Malcolm had been killed and the Black Power Movement was emerging.. Folks stepped to Brown and dissed the song, SNCC leader H Rap Brown had a meeting with J Brown about the song and pushed him to do something grand..
Brown responded to the pressure and produced the anthem ‘Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud’.. Almost overnight Brown lost radio airplay and concert dates, because his crossover audience perceived him as a racist for doing the song..
He definitely took some financial hits, but the community loved him for it.. What’s a Jigga to do? What would James do? What would Belafonte do? Will his charitable presence be enough to turn the tide?