On the “A” w/Souleo
On the surface two major events held this past weekend could not appear to be further apart. Separated by over 200 miles was the Washington, D.C. kickoff to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and in Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park the Afropunk Festival. The former event was to commemorate a watershed moment in our nation’s civil rights movement while the other was held to celebrate the alternative music scene. Yet despite these seemingly disparate concepts there was a connection between the two concerning values of freedom, social consciousness and social justice.
Afropunk veteran performer, Saul Williams believes there needs to be greater respect for the contributions of civil rights leaders such as Harry Belafonte. The poet shared his frustration with Jay-Z for recently calling Belafonte a “boy” on his song “Nickels and Dimes.” The insult was released in response to Belafonte’s comments that Jay-Z was not socially responsible. “Calling Belafonte ‘boy’ on record is not bold or courageous,” says Williams. “It is misinformed. Artists of our generation need to realize there is difference between social activism and charity. Belafonte gave money too but he was there. So I wish those who have unprogressive and practically Republican frames of mind would rap and talk about sports and stay quiet on the other shit.”
When asked whether he thinks the conflict was a case of intergenerational issues between those of the civil rights and post-civil rights era, Williams vehemently disagreed. “You can say it’s intergenerational but the truth and consciousness is not generational. I see someone [Jay-Z] who has brought into consumerist capitalistic ideals of the American dream and turned a blind eye to Dr. King and that’s the history of capitalism in black America.”
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