Jay-Z has been doing so much behind close doors that is taking the black community by surprise.
Just this week, Jay-Z’s philanthropic team has reportedly helped secure the dismissal of a case against 11-year-old Central Florida boy who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance last month, Complex reports.
Team ROC, a division of Jay-Z’s entertainment company, helped Jabari Talbot, a sixth-grade student at Lawton Chiles Middle School, score the legal victory. The company enlisted lawyer Alex Spiro to head the case.
Last month, Bay News 9 reported that a confrontation between Talbot and substitute teacher Ana Alvarez on Feb. 4 escalated after the student refused to stand for the pledge, citing how he thought “the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people.” “Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” Alvarez reportedly told the student. He reportedly responded, “They brought me here.” “Well you can always go back,” Alvarez reportedly told the student. “I came here from Cuba, and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another to place.”
Dhakira Talbot, the student’s mother, told WTSP 10 that the substitute also told her son to go back to his homeland in Africa.
Last month Jay-Z hired attorney Alex Spiro to help with 21’s immigration case.
Also last month, JAY-Z and Meek Mill announced the launch of a new criminal justice reform organization called REFORM Alliance. The organization, inspired by Meek’s ongoing battles with the law, would focus on reforming parole and probation policies. The two rappers were among the new group’s founding partners. Also on that list were a group of billionaires: 76ers owner Michael Rubin, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, hedge fund manager and investor Daniel Loeb, cryptocurrency titan Michael Novogratz, and Vista Equity Partners founder Robert Smith. With people like that on board, it was no surprise that REFORM Alliance began with $50 million in funding.
It’s not uncommon for musicians to be written off as activists – sometimes for good reason, sometimes not – but Jay has consistently stepped up and spoken out for what he believes in. One thing he definitely doesn’t believe in is the US criminal justice system, which often turns a blind eye to police brutality and disproportionately criminalizes black youth. It also tends to punish prisoners after their release by imposing harsh restrictions on them.
He’s paid legal fees for Meek Mill as well as back taxes for Lil Wayne. He went from surmising, “less is more…it’s plenty of us (successful Black executives)” on Drake’s “Pound Cake” to being one of hip-hop’s biggest advocates of Black ownership and representation.
His Roc Nation entertainment company has not only made (most of) his pre-rap day ones rich, it’s become a refuge for ‘90s bred contemporaries like Fat Joe, The Lox, and Jim Jones, who he huddled together under the Paper Plane flag as the last bastions of a bygone era of hip-hop.
Jada Pinkett Smith is also stepping up in a big way with her ‘Red Table Talk‘ Facebook show. She’s not afraid to cover issues that affects the black community.
Essence magazine wrote,
We’re used to seeing the Smiths do the impossible.
Before he became the new king of social media and Instagram, Will Smith broke box office records for sport. Before they graced the March issue of ESSENCE and created their intergenerational platform via Facebook, the Smith ladies were busy overcoming the trappings often felt deeply by Black women: navigating fame and responsibility at a young age in an industry that often boxes us in.
Their latest feat just so happens to be facing off with pop culture’s mainstream media darlings, the Kardashian-Jenner family. Caught in the crosshairs of the drama, the Smiths are friends of both the Kardashians-Jenners and Jordyn Woods’ family thanks to middle son, Jayden. When Jordyn, the 21-year-old influencer and best friend to Kylie Jenner, found herself at the center of a media storm after she was linked with Kylie’s older sister Khloe’s rumored boyfriend, Tristan Thompson, (are you following?!) she ran directly to her extended family to tell her side of the story, just as any Black girl would do. Only, in this case, her family just happened to be Hollywood royalty. After all, who can be mad at the “fresh prince of Bel-Air”?
Jordyn visited Auntie Jada and Uncle Will on Jada’s Red Table Talk to exclusively share her side of the story. It’s already become one of the biggest interviews of 2019. At the time of this piece, the discussion with Jordyn has garnered over 30 million views, undoubtedly upping the monetary value of the show. And although I don’t believe that the Smiths created this moment for monetary gain, it was refreshing to see a Black family profit off of a family that often profits off of Black culture.
In summer of 2017, the youngest of the klan, Kylie and Kendell Jenner created “vintage” tees that featured the late rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Claiming they were huge fans of the two — both of whom have been deceased almost longer than they’ve been alive — the girls decided to plaster their faces over the artists. Kylie is seen posing seductively in a bathing suit with Tupac in the back, and there was also a large “KK” plastered over him on another tee. The hip-hop legends were fodder for their brand, and the tees sold out immediately until the mother of the late Notorious B.I.G. stepped in. The Kardashians didn’t even have the decency to reach out to his estate for the approval to use his image.
During that same summer, indie designer Destiney Bleu battled with their sister Khole over stolen designs. The designer provided a backlog of receipts to show how the Kardashian sister was infiltrating her work. Bleu had to bring in lawyers after noticing the likeness of Khole’s new Good American designs with her own. Khloe claimed that wasn’t the case and their legal strength seemed to work in their favor. “This world we live in where everyone with more money and power are the ones that are heard — I’m just sick of it,” the designer shared with Women’s Wear Daily. “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t untrue. I really feel that they copied and made sure to order everything in small [to be able to scale it up].”
The Smiths, who are undoubtedly a family that represents Black love and progress, did not inherit their success. Both Will and Jada come from Black, urban cities, and worked their way up in Hollywood.
The Smiths are also a family who hold and uphold their own and use their platform to create space for positive change, reflection, and dialogue. How sweet to know that in their intention to protect Woods, they also one-upped the Kardashian circus who’ve stepped over Black women culture on a continuous basis.
In Hollywood, it truly is about who you know. And with a family like the Smiths, who are unafraid to go against the status quo — whether it’s boycotting the Grammys, or holding the Oscars accountable, or standing up for a young Black woman at her most vulnerable — we all feel safer to mess up knowing that there’s a family there to catch us.