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The feud between Belafonte and Jay-Z

Combatants Belafonte and Jay-Z during happier times (25969)
Combatants Belafonte and Jay-Z during happier times

The Internet is abuzz with a disagreement between Jay-Z, the impresario of Hip Hop, and legendary crooner and actor Harry Belafonte. It seems Belafonte’s comments about Jay-Z and Beyonce rubbed Jay-Z the wrong way last year and now on his latest album Jay-Z shoots back.

But first here is what Belafonte said in an interview as reported by the Hollywood Reporter in 2012 that stirred Jay-Z’s anger. “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 Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is Black.”

Jay-Z’s response, “I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity,” the rapper said during an interview with “The Truth.” “You’re this civil rights activist and you just big’d up the White guy against me in the White media.”

But that’s not all. Jay-Z went on to flex his Hip Hop muscles on his new Magna Carta Holy Grail album on a track called “Nickels and Dimes” in response to Belafonte’s comment:

“I’m just trying to find common ground, before Mr. Belafonte come and chop a n*a down … Respect these youngins this is my time now … You don’t know all the shit I do for the homies.”

A dedicated social activist, Belafonte recently sat down with MSNBC to discuss the current issues, which included Florida but he also took the time to address the recent misunderstanding between Jay-Z and himself. He explained that in a press conference in Switzerland he was asked, “I have to also say that this conflict was not from me as a direct attack on Jay-Z and Beyonce,” he said. “I was at a press conference in Switzerland. Questions were raised by the international press. They asked about comparisons between the artists and their social engagement of the past based on a film we were all watching, and what did I think about the way artists were responding earlier in my life and how they were responding today. And I made the observation that the highly powerful voice that Black America has. There is so much celebrity power that it was sad to see that the collective of celebrity power had not been applied to bringing consciousness to the iniquities that we face.”

“I would hope with all my heart, that Jay-Z not take personally what was said … I would like to take this opportunity to say to Jay-Z and Beyonce: I’m wide open, my heart is filled with nothing but hope and the promise that we can sit and have a one-on-one to understand each other.”

It’s understandable that Jay-Z and Beyonce would believe they were unfairly singled out by the mention of their names, but with so much at stake it would make for better press if they sat down and talked to each other. According to some reports, Belafonte’s comments did spur other high-profile Black performers such as Jamie Foxx to a call to action.

Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr. and many notable Black and White celebrities not only put their careers but their lives on the line to fight for social justice in America. I can remember reading in Poitier’s book “This Life” (1980) how under the cloak of darkness, Black folks in a small town got them out of their city safely to keep the KKK from getting them.

I never forgot that, because they made their presence known at a time when some White folks only saw the color of their skin. But Black folks saw the true color of their hearts.

It is my fervent hope that soon I will be able to report to you the meeting of two great minds, Belafonte and Jay-Z, in a show of solidarity.