Jay Z’s streaming music platform Tidal is donating $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter, as well as other social justice groups such as Dream Defenders and Black Youth Project.
Funds will also be directed to organizations created by families affected by racialized brutality such as the Oscar Grant Foundation and the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
The funding for these nonprofits was generated through a charity concert called Tidal X: 10/20 that featured Beyonce, Jay Z, Lil-Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
But Jay Z gets the hat tip on this one.
This year, as Black History Month celebrates its 40th anniversary in the United States, we are already being immersed in the tragic beauty of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.
As we delve into his speeches, his protesting and his heartbreaking assassination, most of his life is laid bare for our mass consumption. Yet there is one aspect of Dr. King’s life that is overlooked with alarming regularity: How Harry Belafonte’s tremendous emotional and financial support allowed MLK to become the activist the world knew him to be.
Belafonte believed in Dr. King, and he knew that marches and activism would not always sustain the pockets of a man who was a husband as well as a father to four young children — so he stepped in when things got tough. In her autobiography, Coretta Scott-King stated, “whenever we got into trouble or when tragedy struck, Harry has always come to our aid, his generous heart wide open.”
Belafonte’s name has been in the media quite a bit for the past few years, mainly because he believes that fame, fortune and influence imbues Black entertainers with the absolute responsibility to advocate on behalf of their communities. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Belafonte infamously said:
I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay Z and Beyonce, for example.
Immediately after Belafonte’s comments hit the web, Beyonce’s camp struck back by listing all the philanthropic efforts she has donated to, while Jay Z essentially dissed Belafonte on the song “Nickels and Dimes” from his Magna Carter Holy Grail album, inferring that Belafonte was ultimately clueless about how much he actually has contributed to social justice causes.
Then, in an interview with Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson, Jay stated, “my presence is charity.” That comment rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and it seared the image of Jay being selfish and anti-activist in the minds of many, whether he deserved it or not.
So when Jay Z launched Tidal as a revolutionary force that was impassioned to overcome the restrictive barriers of big business, the launch mainly fell on deaf ears. It was hard for people to buy in to the anarchistic and subversive beauty of their brand, when that same overtly factious spirit was nowhere to be found on issues that mattered the most to people.
Jay Z couldn’t shake that image, despite the fact that he was instrumental in delivering the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavs players before their December 8th, 2014 game, in support of the Eric-Garner protests.
they didn’t have a shirt in jigga’s size? pic.twitter.com/Wed7ij8i7A
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) December 9, 2014
But this is a move that needs to be widely acknowledged and applauded from all members in our society because, regardless of what influenced this particular deed of social activism, those funds can go a long way in allowing our young activists to keep confronting the issues that confound us and keep exposing us to injustices that need to be addressed on every level in our society.
The fact that presidential candidates are being challenged to address whether they believe black lives matter during debates is proof that the effort we see from our young social justice warriors is worth supporting.
Hopefully, we’ll get to a place where entertainers will actively support activists, just as Harry Belafonte willingly supported Dr. King. Until that day, it’s more than fair game to demand that these performers, who we lend our endless financial support to, continue the legacy that famous black athletes and artists started decades ago.
Props to you Tidal, and I hope this can be the start of a beautiful relationship with Black Lives Matter and other groups, because the fight for equality is far from over.