High profile entertainment industry figures call for racial equality
When the COVID-19 health crisis emerged on U.S. soil and officials labeled the virus as a serious threat, a number of high profile CEO's and Hollywood A-listers took quick action.
Some made donations to relief efforts while others sacrificed their own pay to cover the cost of health care/pay for their employees.
But as the country continues to heal from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, yet another crisis has gripped its residents in fear.
Racism, though an ongoing problem in the United States, has become the source of widespread political unrest and violence since an unarmed black man named George Floyd was murdered last week.
When video of Floyd's unlawful killing, at the hands of a police officer who mistakenly viewed him as a threat, went viral, hundreds of citizens took to the streets of their cities to protest racism and police brutality.
Now, leading figures in the entertainment industry are reaching out to government officials and supporting initiatives designed to promote racial equality.
Jay-Z, for example, spoke with Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota during a private phone call, the two of them steps that Minnesota and other states can take to end police brutality and racial profiling.
After his call with Walz, Jay-Z released a statement saying, "After our earnest conversation, thank you to Governor Walz for doing what's right and calling in Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over the George Floyd case. Earlier today, Governor Walz mentioned having a human conversation with me. A dad and a black man in pain. Yes, I am human, a father and a black man in pain and I am not the only one. Now I, along with an entire country in pain, call upon AG Ellison to do the right thing and prosecute all those responsible for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent of the law."
Jay-Z added, "This is just a first step. I am more determined to fight for justice than any fight my would-be oppressors may have. I prevail on every politician, prosecutor and office in the country to have the courage to do what is right. Have the courage to look at us as humans, dads, brothers, sisters and mothers in pain and look at yourselves."
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Additionally, J.J. Abrams, the director of box office hits such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Mission Impossible, is donating millions of dollars to organizations "committed to anti-racist agendas."
Variety announced that his production company, Bad Robot, is working alongside the Katie McGrath & JJ Abrams Family Foundation to donate $200,000 each to the following groups: Black Lives Matter LA, Black Futures Lab, Community Coalition, Equal Justice Initiative, and Know Your Rights Camp. They eventually hope to donate a total of $10 million dollars to these kinds of organizations over a five year period.
The two companies released a statement regarding their pledge, saying, “Enough is enough. Enough police brutality. Enough outsized privilege. Enough polite conversation. Enough white comfort.”
“The centuries long neglect and abuse of our Black brothers and sisters can only be addressed by scalable investment,” it continued. Corporate and private philanthropy can never achieve the impact needed to address these systemic inequities, but companies and individuals who are able must do what we can until our political leaders lead.”
The music industry is also attempting to show support of racial equality and call for change in the way black Americans are treated.
A message circulated widely on Instagram and other social media platforms on Friday evening (May 29) calls for “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with out community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”
Under the hashtag #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED, The sentiment of the post, taking responsibility as “gatekeepers of the culture,” is one dozens of companies took to heart in the hours after violence broke out in Minneapolis and other cities across the U.S.
Columbia Records was the first to publicly decry injustices towards under-served populations, with chairman Ron Perry posting late on Thursday night (May 28): “We stand together with the Black community against all forms of racism, bigotry, and violence. Now, more than ever we must use our voices to speak up and challenge the injustices all around us.”
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On Tuesday night, talk show host Conan O'Brien used the hour normally reserved for his humorous late night show to discuss Floyd's murder and the topic of racism in America.
But he chose not to do the talking.
Instead, the typically jovial comedian was somber as he said, "We’re rightfully sickened by the needless killing of a Black man named George Floyd. But it doesn’t feel right to talk about my feelings of sadness and anger. To do that today feels inadequate and even somehow wrong. Our national crisis is that a large and vital community in our country is in real pain ? pain because they do not feel safe, or dignified or seen. And most important of all, they do not feel heard. … So I’d like to use my very small part of television today not to speak but to listen … to someone who knows what it’s like to be Black in America in 2020.”
He then introduced Van Jones, a CNN political commentator, attorney, and CEO of Reform Alliance.
Jones went on to discuss his view of the situation and what it's like to live in a society where the color of his skin makes him a target of violence.
“We kind of sprinkled this fairy dust on our kids every day about how to survive encounters with police,” Jones said. “In this situation, there’s nothing we could have told our kids to survive. It was a lynching.”
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