Usher Raymond joined longtime activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte and former CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien Friday evening at Manhattan’s Kaufmann Concert Hall for a dialogue on political activism, entitled “Usher Raymond: Breaking the Chains of Social Injustice.”
The singer’s new song, “Chains,” which is dedicated to unarmed Black Americans gunned down without receiving justice, sparked the meeting. The video to the song, which was first released on Tidal, displayed the faces of the many high-profile victims of killings that many have argued were unjust.
O’Brien served as the evening’s moderator, and 88-year-old Belafonte imparted his usual wisdom on current social ills. One memorable comment from the living legend occurred when an audience member asked about how to deal with the anger that results from discrimination, and, according to The Root, Belafonte said that “anger with violence is ineffective, but anger combined with courage creates change.”
He also acknowledged Jay Z, who was in attendance and who Belafonte had criticized in the past for not doing enough work in his community.
“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth,” said Belafonte.
Usher, who labeled himself an “actionist,” also offered insightful viewpoints. He stressed the importance of voting, “especially at the state and local level,” and spoke on the necessity of getting an education.
Usher added that he hopes “Chains” will inspire others to become involved with Belafonte’s social justice organization, Sankofa, which links celebrities with grassroots efforts to bring about awareness of disenfranchisement.