Skip to content

Usher, Jay Z, Soledad O’Brien and Harry Belafonte discuss social injustice

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: (L-R) Jay Z, Usher, Harry Belafonte and Soledad O'Brien attend the "Breaking the Chains" of Social Injustice conversation at the 92nd Street Y on October 23, 2015 in New York, New York. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media Service

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 28: (L-R) Jay Z, Usher, Harry Belafonte and Soledad O’Brien attend the “Breaking the Chains” of Social Injustice conversation at the 92nd Street Y on October 23, 2015 in New York, New York. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media Service

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.

View pictures from the gathering below.


  1. KnutesNiche on October 25, 2015 at 5:45 am

    Growing up in the 60s my dad was constantly playing HB’s music. Not once did I hear Harry Belafonte perform music that characterized women, aka our moms, sisters, grandmas, daughters, Aunts and nieces as *itches and *hores, or essentially less than human creatures and people unworthy of respect.

    I wonder what happened that caused many local and nationally popular America rap performers, beginning in the 80s, to start characterizing in their music performances the MATERNAL HALF of our population as *itches and *hores?


    • The Truth on October 25, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      DRUGS….children having children and the streets raising them. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s parents were teaching their children too respect their elders and other people. Respect is no longer being taught too these children of today. SAD!!

      • guest on October 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

        Absolutely. Being old enough to remember what it was like in the seventies and growing up as a teen in the eighties I could see the shift in the neighborhood around eighty-five when the crack epidemic really exploded. I remember seeing adults I once respected strung out and kids my age selling to them.

    • shellyTheGreat on October 26, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      did you ever hear lil wayne’s song 6 foot 7? he used the sample from mr. belafonte’s banana boat song, i always wondered whether he gave lil wayne the okay to use that sample, and if he did, why would he do such a thing???

      • KnutesNiche on October 26, 2015 at 11:28 pm

        Hello, Shelly.

        Frankly, I do not listen to rap performances because more often than not the sounds cause me anxiety, reminding me of the Child Abuse and Neglect that fueled the violence I witnesses on a near-daily basis while providing police services to the Brooklyn, NY community Shawn Jay Z Carter raps about attempting to destroy by selling dangerous drugs to depressed, sometimes suicidal people in his community.

        I have no idea why Mr. Belafonte and other genuinely talented
        music artists from our past $consent$ to allowing Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Michael Carter, Jr. and other rap performers to demean their beautifully written music.

        As a preteen Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Michael Carter, Jr was recording rap performances characterizing females as *itches and *hores. Search “True Story”

        Obviously Dwayne and many other American rap performers are victims of America’s expanding and shameful *National Epidemic of Childhood Abuse and Neglect*, *Poverty*, that for more than two generations has deprived untold numbers of American kids from experiencing and enjoying a fairly happy American kid childhood with Safe Streets to travel and play on.

        *Early Childhood Abuse and Neglect* that often leads depressed, sometimes suicidal *(NY Times May 18, 2015 – Rise in Suicide by Black Children Surprises Researchers)* children to develop into depressed, angry, frustrated, unpredictable, sometimes suicidal teens and adults lacking empathy and compassion for others, though needing to vent their pent up negative emotions, often causing emotional and physical harm to peaceful people…instead of venting their anger, resentment and pain on the immature single moms and/or dads who introduced them to a life of pain and struggle by irresponsibly building a family before acquiring the practical skills, *PATIENCE* and means to successfully raise and nurture a developing young child who matures into a fairly happy responsible teen and adult.


        • shellyTheGreat on October 27, 2015 at 12:37 am

          i agree.

        • jim38clone on October 28, 2015 at 11:21 am

          Its just music that talks about their lives, they arent making kids commit suicide or anything, they are just talking about how their life played out, and they say this very well ( with the exception of lil wayne )

          • KnutesNiche on November 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm

            Hi, Jim.

            In my opinion many rappers are victims of child abuse who glorify anti-social behaviors that victimize peaceful people.

            Kids develop depression and sometimes commit suicide when they find themselves being raised by substance abusing caretakers. In his Thats Just The Way It Is rap, Tupac writes about waking in the morning and thinking about blasting himself.

  2. shellyTheGreat on October 26, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    all these little meetings celebs have are real cute, but what is this going to accomplish? Usher’s song was nice, though, although i wish they wouldn’t have used the n-word in it so much…why are we still calling ourselves that? using such an ignorant word, IMO, is disrespectful to the people whose lives they were trying to honor in that video…they are so much more than n-words and should have no connection to that word whatsoever.

  3. shellyTheGreat on October 26, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    OAN, soledad looks great now that she isn’t a news anchor. she looked nice before, but now she just looks free or something…like she’s not forced to look all business-y. she looks carefree now.

  4. KnutesNiche on November 29, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    My dad was a big HB fan. I spent a lot of hours listening to and enjoying his music.

    Mr. B’s comments about “cutting back on everything” make me wonder if Baltimore Mom of The Year had responsibly built a smaller family she could more easily supervise and provide for, would her son have become depressed and attempted to cause grave harm to police charged with protecting their peaceful neighbors…though more importantly, would there be more funds to assist their [email protected] if eighteen-year-old Ms. Graham choose to build a smaller family while at the same time depending on her neighbors to support and feed her family.

    Same for Tavis Smiley’s mom who at eighteen-years-old began irresponsibly building a family of ten children. In a May 2015 interview on FN Tavis revealed his nine now adult brothers and sisters continue struggling with poverty to this day.

    Does Mr. Belafonte believe there would be more funds available for the good of entire communities if immature, selfish teen girls and young women “cut back” on building families until they acquire the skills, PATIENCE and means to raise and nurture a fairly happy child who experiences and enjoys Safe Streets to travel and play on?

    Black *(Children’s)* Lives Matter; Take Pride In Parenting; End Our National Epidemic of Child Abuse and Neglect; End Community Violence, Police Fear & Educator’s Frustrations