Entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte‘s 2012 criticisms of superstar couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé‘s perceived lack of activism have sparked a war of words in the media between he and Jay. The hip-hop superstar fired back at Belafonte, both in song (on Magna Carta Holy Grail‘s track “Nickels and Dimes”) and in a recent Life+Times interview, where he defiantly declared that his “presence is charity.”
In a recent interview with MSNBC, Belafonte addressed the controversy.
“I would be hard pressed to tell Mr. Jay-Z what to do with his time and his fortune. All I can be is critical of what he is not doing,” said Belafonte. “This conflict that is emerging was not from me as a direct attack on Jay-Z or Beyoncé. I was at a press conference in Switzerland. Questions were raised by the international press. They asked about the artists and the social engagement of the past based on a film we were watching…and how artists responded earlier in my life and how they responded today.”
“And I made the observation that the highly powerful voice that our community has—Black America has—there is so much celebrity power that it was sad to see that the collective of the celebrity power had not been applied to bring consciousness to the inequities that we face,” he explained.
In continuing what has a been a public life dedicated to fighting for change, Belafonte is currently camping out with the social activist organization Dream Defenders, at the Florida capitol. The group has been camped out since July 16, days after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“Artists that heard [about Dream Defenders] responded in a very strong way,” Belafonte shared. “You’ll find that Jamie Foxx, you’ll find Chuck D [of Public Enemy]…you’ll find that any number of highly profiled people have taken that critique and called for [a meeting]. We’ve sat. We’ve talked. And I will tell you now that these people that I’ve just mentioned are officially behind Dream Defenders. They are prepared to come down. They are prepared to perform.”
“I would hope that Jay Z would not take personally what was said because it was not said about him personally,” said Belafonte. “Having said that, I would like to say to Jay Z, to Beyoncé: My heart is wide open and filled with nothing but hope and the promise that we can sit and have a one-on-one. And lets understand each other rather than try to answer these questions and these nuances in a public place.”