Alternative Views - 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Getty Images

Jay-Z Pushes For Projects That Demand Social Justice: "This Is Our Power" (Guest Column)

"Trophies are nice, but some projects — like two Spike docs on the lost black lives of Kalief Browder and Trayvon Martin — can lead to far greater rewards, writes the rapper/executive producer."

The power of one voice is strong, but when it comes to social justice, the power of our collective voices is unstoppable. Now is the time to recognize that through our voices we really can effect change. Some of us will do the important work locally at the micro level to awaken our neighbors. Some of us will work for progress regionally. And a few of us will be like Kalief Browder, a modern-day prophet whose death two years ago started a discussion that continues today about how poor, black juveniles are treated in the criminal justice system.

Kalief grew up in the Bronx and started out like so many kids I grew up with in Brooklyn, kids who have to choose the right fork in the road every day. He wasn't an angel, but he was a good kid on the right path who held up under the social pressures common in the Bronx. This young man at 16 was arrested — for something any suburban kid could have gotten away with — and held at Rikers Island for three years, mostly in inhumane solitary confinement. The post-traumatic stress disorder he came out with led him to suicide two years ago, but not before he had the chance to talk about what happened to him.

It is up to us to continue to amplify his story so that we can save a generation of kids from the same fate. His is the kind of story that you can't ignore, and people are starting to see that what happened to him is not an isolated case. He's just one example in a system that is broken. We need to be the ones who fix it.

When I started talking with Harvey Weinstein about Kalief's short life, it made me realize that a documentary series like Time: The Kalief Browder Story could raise our voices and create that collective we need. We can work together to demand change from our elected government officials. We put them in office, we make the laws, and we show them the path to progress. That is our power, and it's the only way that healing will come for Kalief and his family.

We've seen some of that change slowly start to happen. President Obama outlawed solitary confinement for juveniles. New York has started the long process of closing Rikers Island, the prison where Kalief was tortured, starved and held without a trial.

My hope is for my next documentary, Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, to create a similar conversation that leads to change and helps keep our children safe. And it's an honor to have the support of Trayvon's family in telling the story.

But social justice isn't a political issue. It's a human issue. It's a story of empathy. When we are able to identify that we are all not perfect and have compassion for someone else, we can move forward as a society.

Look around at what's happening in your town and your city right now. Think small, and you can do much bigger things.

This article was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Elizabeth Morris/SHOWTIME

In 'The Chi' Season Finale, Everyone Puts Together A Life With Broken Pieces

“I ain’t no perfect man. I’m trying to do the best that I can with what it is I have.”

Before the title screen appears or a single character on The Chi utters a word, Mos Def’s airy vocals from “Umi Says” permeate the on-screen montage of characters settling into the lives they’ve constructed. Brandon happily serves customers out of his food truck. Emmett tries getting in contact with Tiff, the mother of his third (and possible fourth) child, while at his job. Ronnie puts up positive affirmations on his fridge. Then, their lives smash into the fragments of moments and lessons that they’ve been this whole time.

Ronnie finally confronts his estranged father, who he lived across the street from his entire life, in an emotionally unnerving scene. In his heart-wrenching monologue, Ronnie tearfully explains to the man who created him that his son is nothing more than a lost child who grew into a broken adult by scavenging for pieces of a man to make himself whole. He says he “needed some things from you that I’ve been searching all over the place for.”

In that one scene, Ronnie’s alcoholism, and subsequent criminal history, can be tied to his never-ending search to fill the holes left by an absentee father. Ronnie is roughly 40 years old and a 1993 study conducted by professors June O’Neil and M. Anne Hill concluded kids who grow up in a household without a father had the highest incarceration rates than other groups of children. The feeling of abandonment by a parental figure is often cited in studies as a reason children grow up to disrespect authority figures and indulge in illicit substances.

In a flashback sequence from earlier in the season, Ronnie opines about feeling out of place returning to Chicago from the military because had no sense of direction or what to do everyday. His time in the military had detrimental effects on his mental state and nearly drove him to suicide but, also gave him the sense of family and purpose that Ronnie yearned for from his father. In essence, his father being absent from his life drove Ronnie to seek the structure of a military environment that became so integral to his well-being and perception of life that being removed from caused irreparable damage.

You never really know which people are shards of a broken life until you see the cracks. For the better part of two seasons, Brandon was an upstanding member of society who unwaveringly stuck to his morals. Yet, after revealing he had knowledge of Perry’s involvement with 63rd Street Mob to Jerrika, Brandon flips out on her over her disapproval. Jerrika thinks Brandon is falling into the same trap as others who have got involved with gangs. Brandon vehemently refutes that, seeing his work with the gang as a way for him to escape his past of staring into empty fridges, begging random people on the street for money to eat and pulling his mother out of pimps’ cars. Brandon didn’t knowingly join a gang, but due to an unflattering past bubbling under the surface of his positive demeanor, he sees being affiliated with an illegal organization as making the best out of the cards he was dealt.

The National Gang Crime Research Center (NGCRC) surveyed 4,000 gang members in a 1996 study which concluded that only 25 percent of them join gangs to make money. NGCRC director at the time, Greg Knox, and longtime juvenile probation officer, Tom Schneiderl, agree that for most young gang members, the central appeal is having protection from a group of peers who validate your life choices. Knox goes as far as to deduce from his research that “the deeper a kid’s involvement in a gang, the more dysfunctional his/her family life.” Perry validating Brandon’s ambition, the on-demand protection he could call on from Reg and the ability to escape his impoverished standing in life are primary reasons for Brandon reconciling his gang involvement with the content of his character.

In this episode, Ronnie is the long-term effect of a broken home, Brandon is the initial acknowledgement of those effects and Jake is the beginning of those effects. Perry tells Reg that “Jake needs to be insulated from the trappings of the block” by taking him from the trap house to working in Perry’s legitimate pizza business. That way they can prevent Jake from having a criminal record that would draw police attention when he gets older, and presumably, more active in the gang. Jake’s father has not been in the picture the entire series and we learned earlier this season that his mother is a recovering drug addict who Jake has never met. So, when Perry decides Jake’s future for him with his brother Reg, he’s doing so with the only parental figure in Jake’s life.

This is why Jake goes back to selling drugs outside of school even after his friend Kevin got suspended, or why he lived in Chicago his entire life but had no idea about Lake Michigan. Who he is, is the nature he has been given, just like the scorpion that bludgeons the frog helping it cross the water.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

XXXTentacion Friend And Affiliate Reportedly Shot In The Head

Christian Moore, a 16-year-old rapper and affiliate of the late XXXTentacion, was reportedly shot in the head over the weekend.

According to WPLG Local 10, the young man– who performs under the name C-Glizzy– was reported shot in the head on Saturday night (Jun. 15) in Pompano Beach, Fla. while leaving a store. His brother and friend reportedly tried to drive him to the hospital, but “lost control of their car” and hit a wall on an exit ramp on I-95.

“The group eventually made it to the hospital where Moore underwent hours of surgery to remove the bullet from his head,” WPLG reports. Moore was sent to Broward Health North to be treated for his injury. “Family members say Moore is currently sedated and is not talking.”

Moore’s mother says she is “expecting” and “hoping” that he will survive the gunshot wound he sustained. It is currently unclear what the motives behind the shooting are, and The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the circumstances.

XXXTentacion, who was friends with Moore, was fatally shot on June 18, 2018 in Florida as he was leaving RIVA Motorsports. He was just 20 years old.

UPDATE: @CGlizzyofficial’s mom tells me he is heavily sedated and not talking right now, but she is expecting and hoping that he’ll survive the gunshot wound he sustained to the head. Someone opened fire on him as he was leaving a store on MLK Blvd. in Pompano Beach yesterday. pic.twitter.com/BKXhFMslaz

— Madeleine Wright (@MWrightWPLG) June 16, 2019

 

View this post on Instagram

 

TBT🤦🏾‍♂️🖤

A post shared by Baby Gremlin🐲 (@cglizzy) on Jun 18, 2018 at 7:56pm PDT

Continue Reading
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wyclef Jean Reflects On Past Decision To Run For President Of Haiti

Nine years ago, Wyclef Jean announced his trek to become president of Haiti. The public decision was made after the country endured a damaging earthquake that altered its external and internal infrastructure. Now, during the Cannes Lions Festival, Jean is revisiting that time he stepped into the world of politics.

"What I did in Haiti, it has galvanized the youth around the entire world because sometimes our job is not to get there, but our job is to inspire the next generation to get there," the "Gone Till November" singer said, according to Page Six. He continued, "I need people to understand that rappers have brains. I really don't think they understand how smart celebrities are. Not all of them, you know, but a lot of them."

In a 2010 interview with TIME, Jean, 49, outlined his reason for seeking the presidential seat. "The quake drove home to me that Haiti can't wait another 10 years for us to bring it into the 21st century," he said. "If I can't take five years out to serve my country as President, then everything I've been singing about, like equal rights, doesn't mean anything."

According to The Guardian, the country's electoral council rejected Jean's ballot for office but opted to not give a reason as to its decision. Still, the desire to be involved in politics in his home country has remained prevalent since his youth. "I'm all about job creation," he noted. "That's my whole thing within my country."

Continue Reading

Top Stories