As a young Black man with an acute interest in Black history, I cannot learn and hear enough about great men and women like Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott-King, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Dr. Dorothy Height. But I have a problem with the ancientness with which we address their struggles and the societies that they lived in. When we talk about Martin and Malcolm, to some younger (ignorant) folk we must be talking about Jesus and Moses because they believe those men and the people and ideologies they fought were so long ago that their struggle has no relevancy in our presumed “post-racial” society. And it’s that thinking that can lead our modern day Black artists to disrespect the legacies of older artists and activists who lived and protested in those times.
Last year, Harry Belafonte accused Jay-Z and Beyoncé of “turning their back on social responsibility,” which led Jay-Z to pen this verse on the song “Nickels and Dimes” from his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail:
“I’m just trying to find common ground/
‘fore Mr. Belafonte come and chop a nigga down/
Mr. Day O, major fail/
Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now/
Hublot homie, two door homie/
You don’t know all the shit I do for the homies”