When NewsOne reported the story yesterday that legendary artist, actor and activist Harry Belafonte called out Carter Power Couple, Jay-Z and Beyonce, to The Hollywood Reporter for “turning their backs on social responsibility,” I immediately scrolled through my mental Rolodex and questioned the validity of that broad indictment.
“Back to the occasion of the award for your acting career. Are you happy with the image of members of minorities in Hollywood today?” THR asked Belafonte.
“Not at all,” he firmly replied. “They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. We are still looking. We are not determinated. We are not driven by some technology that says you can kill Afghans, the Iraqis or the Spanish. It is all — excuse my French — shit. It is sad. And 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. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.
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Well, tell ‘em how you really feel, Harry. There’s just one small thing: That’s not entirely true.
Contrary to popular belief, Jay-Z, who earned $38 million last year — not the much hyped about $63 million that he earned the year before — has donated a lot more than the approximately $6,400 for which he’s given credit. Most of us know that the historic concerts at Carnegie Hall benefited the United Way of New York City and the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation of which his mother, Gloria Carter, is president and CEO; but a lot has not been said about what that foundation actually does.
According to SCSF:
With an original vision and mission to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning, Shawn and Gloria Carter kicked off the Foundation’s efforts by awarding one student with full college tuition in 2002. In 2003, the Foundation provided 50 scholarships to students in 50 different states. Since 2004 the Foundation has provided scholarships to a growing number of students from across the nation. In 2005, in addition to providing scholarship awards, the Foundation launched the Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation College Tours. Since the Foundation’s inception, over 750 students have received awards totaling over $1.3 million dollars. The Foundation is currently on the precipice of growth and is reviewing its current grant-making priorities as it plans for expansion as the Shawn Carter Foundation.
Shawn Carter Scholars are studying at nearly 100 institutions of higher learning throughout the nation.
Shawn Carter Scholars receive financial support from the Shawn Carter Foundation from college admission to college graduation.
Oftentimes students’ educational progress is derailed by financial burdens unrelated to tuition. That is why Shawn Carter Scholarships can be used to defray the costs of books and lab fees, food, travel and other self-care expenses.
Admittedly, that’s financial, so let’s discuss the socially responsible aspect of the Foundation. Who exactly does it benefit?
Scholarship 360 reports on the most recent class of Shawn Carter scholars:
• 66% come from single parent households
• 64% come from households earning $40,000 or less
• 34% represent households at the federal poverty level
• 3.86 is the average household size
• 34 is the number of US states represented in the applicant pool
These students receive between $1,500 and $2,500 and can reapply annually.
Plus, there is the College Bus Tour sponsored by SCF that exposes more children to higher education. See the numbers below:
Goal: to expose aspiring college students to the world of HBCUs
States served as stops on our bus route
Educational, impactful, and memorable days on the bus tour
Historically Black Colleges and Universities welcomed us to their campuses
High schools from the tri-state area represented by 2012 students
Students on the 2012 Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation HBCU Bus tour
Percent of Students on the tour will be the 1st in their family to attend college
Percent of HS Seniors on our tour were provisionally admitted to at least one university
or more students have had the chance to take a ride on the SCSF HBCU Bus Tour
miles traveled from Brooklyn, New York to Atlanta, Georgia
Marks the 7th Anniversary of the Shawn Carter Foundation College Tour
“The Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation is unique in that it offers scholarships to single mothers, children who attend alternative schools, students who have earned a GED, students with grade point averages of 2.0 and students who have previously been incarcerated, etc. but desire a higher educational opportunity, said Gloria Carter. “This group is generally not the recipients of college scholarships and is typically ignored by the Board of Education. The Shawn Carter Foundation offers scholarship opportunities to any under-served student across the United States who desires a higher education. One of the key questions asked by the Foundation when students apply for a scholarship is: What are your plans to give back to the community?”
In addition to education, the SCF Toy Drive ensures children in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects have toys for the holidays and focuses on “giving back home.” In addition to Marcy, toy drives have also been organized for an LGBT Service Center, The Children’s Hospital at Downstate Medical Center (Brooklyn, New York) and the Calvary Baptist Church (East Orange, New Jersey).
Last year, yes the year that everyone keeps talking about the $6,400 donation, the Shawn Carter Foundation carnival fundraiser at New York’s Pier 54, raised over 1.1 million for underprivileged children.
In addition to the SCF, he partnered with the UN and MTV, traveling to Africa to raise awareness about the global water crisis, saying that clean water was a “basic need” to which everyone should have access.
“In my business, we like to say we’re from the hood,” he said while visiting a shantytown. “We’re not in the hood. By no means. Not even close.”
See Jay-Z’s journey to Africa below:
Now let’s discuss the Mrs. Beyonce, while quiet about her charitable contributions, has done more than her fair share to be socially responsible.
“Pastor Rudy [in Houston] is still my pastor, she said to SELF Magazine in 2010. “I watched my parents get involved in [community charities] there, and that taught me how important it is to ‘give ’til it hurts.’ I saw how happy you could make people, whether just giving someone a hug, having a conversation or spending some time, and it became a part of me.
“I’ve always felt that you should give because it’s what you can do to help. You don’t do it to get praised. For a long time, being quiet about what I did was a conscious decision. When you look around at all that’s wrong in the world, the need to do something, no matter how big or how small, is clear.”
And she does, in fact, do something.
Beyonce has been a vocal supporter of amfAR, a foundation for AIDS research, and has spoken with young girls openly about the dangers of unprotected sex and battles with temptation to ensure that they stay safe.
See Beyonce and Solange raise HIV/AIDS awareness here.
She also donated her entire salary from 2008’s Cadillac Records to Phoenix House, a drug and rehabilitation clinic she visited for research to play the incomparable Etta James, and is also a spokeswoman for Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS).
From the GEMS website:
The GEMS Council of Daughters is a national network of individuals and communities committed to strengthen laws and public policies that protect and provide services for girls and young women who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking, to encourage Americans to support girls’ and survivor empowerment initiatives at the local levels, and to bring this urgent issue into schools, offices, college campuses, places of worship, and other community spaces.
In addition to donating her entire salary to Phoenix House, she also funded the Beyonce Cosmetology Center, a job training endeavor that helps recovering addicts acquire the skills they need to pass the NY State Licensure Exam Requirements.
Just last week, the megastar joined Global Aid Organizations and donated her music to shedding light on World Humanitarian Day.
“We all see the headlines and we think what can I really do to help?”, said Beyoncé. “World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for all of us to work together to make a difference. This is our time to leave our mark on the world and show that we were here and we care.”
When asked why she chooses to remain quiet about her charity work, Beyonce acknowledged that might not be the best tactic and that she was actively working to change that:
“I’ve realized that sometimes it helps a cause more if I talk publicly about it,” she said. “That’s what increases awareness.”
To spread the icing on the cake, the Carters also donated the vast majority of daughter Blue Ivy’s baby gifts to charity as well.
On his track Moment of Clarity, which appeared on 2003’s Black Album, Jay-Z had this to say:
If skills sold
Truth be told
I’d probably be
I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
(But i did five Mil)
I ain’t been rhymin like Common since
When your sense got that much in common
And you been hustlin since
Go with what makes sense
I know what i’m up against
We as rappers must decide what’s most impor-tant
And i can’t help the poor if i’m one of them
So i got rich and gave back
To me that’s the win, win
The next time you see the homie and his rims spin
Just know my mind is workin just like them
(The rims that is)
Maybe, just maybe, we should try acknowledging what this couple has done, which may encourage them do more, instead of band-wagon jumping on the opinion of one — albeit, great — man and taking his justifiably frustrated criticism even further than I believe that he intended. There has been a new refrain in Black America since the election of President Barack Obama. Apparently, he is not expected to do much for the Black community, because he is the president for all Americans, not just us, and we have do for ourselves. So, maybe, just maybe, we should respect the people that do take the time to do something — even if it’s not up to the standards of Harry Belafonte.
I understand — and completely agree — that neither Jay-Z’s nor Beyonce’s music, public personas nor lifestyles scream social responsibility and they should be held accountable at every opportunity; but it is completely disingenuous to foster this narrative that they do not give back — both financially and actively — to the community. They do — in spades. Could they give more? Maybe, but couldn’t we all? I have nothing but the utmost respect for Belafonte, and his invaluable contributions to mankind. Still, we can not completely disregard a couple that works to help communities that most in Black America have thrown away like yesterday’s garbage or tomorrow’s statistics.
Think about it.