Black Celebrities & the Unfair Responsibility to Lead
It seems that the older I get, the more disdain I have for certain celebrities and the life they portray. This is not born out of jealousy by means. I just believe successful people, especially people of color, owe it to the communities that molded them to give back and inspire. It’s cool to show the fruits of your labor, but what good is flaunting your collection of fast cars, diamond watches, and designer clothes when your fans don’t understand the hard work, sleepless nights, and discipline behind it all?
Like it or not, especially in the black community, you are seen as a leader once you’ve achieved a level of greatest in the eyes of millions. That being said, you should be held to a higher level of accountability -- personally, professionally, intellectually, financially and otherwise.
Black celebrities should not be allowed to simply exist under the umbrella of being a “famous person.” We’re simply not there yet. Not when the murderers of Sandra Bland, Travon Martin, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and so many others are allowed to walk free. Not when so many of our neighborhoods are becoming gentrified at our expense, because in large part, we as a people are clearly behind the curve.
This isn’t fair, but it’s the hand we've been dealt.
We're not Miley Cyrus: exploit the culture, but to later denounce your actions and become America’s sweetheart. We're not Justin Bieber: exploit the culture, make an ass of yourself, but chances are a dime a dozen. We're not a Kardashian: exploit the culture, leverage millions off of the successes of others, yet not thought of to be responsible for those that look up to you.
It is the understanding of the responsibility that comes along with celebrity status that distinguishes great talent from transcendent stars in the 21st century. -- People who understand that children are watching, that legacies depend on how they utilize their platforms. That they have the opportunity to change lives.
I could look back on the last few months in music and say that we are in good hands. With Kendrick Lamar's Damn. following suit in the artist's quest for telling the truth about life as a black man. And J. Coles 4 Your Eyez Only and False Prophets projects calling for improvement of self. And Joey Bada$$'s All Amerkkkan Badass project ditching the filter as you see the world through the eyes of young black male. Even Nas' Nas Album Done off of the critically acclaimed Major Key project by DJ Khaled stated the case for the "local black-owned grocery store." Not to mention Jay-Z's 4:44 providing accountability in the highest order by arguable the most famous black man not named Barak Obama.
Truth be told, I do not know the significance just yet of all of these musicians picking up the mantle for their communities and the culture but I'm sure proud of them all. Let's see who else follows.