The non-violent activists known as the “Dream Defenders” began occupying the capitol building in Tallahassee, Florida, last Tuesday after the Zimmerman verdict was announced. The group plans to remain there until Governor Rick Scott has met their demand to convene a special session of the legislature to review the controversial Stand Your Ground law. On Friday, the “Dream Defenders” and their supporters gained a prominent supporter when long-time activist Harry Belafonte announced his backing.
On All in With Chris Hayes Friday evening, Belafonte stated his reasons for joining the group: “I’ve come down to be at the disposal of young people. Not only to tell the history from whence we’ve come; but to talk for a host of artists who are very high profile, a number of leaders who are very high profile, who are waiting to hear, ‘How do we look at a strategy in the immediate future?’” He noted that Jamie Foxx and Chuck D. have signed on as official supporters of “The Dream Defenders” and are prepared to go to Florida to provide support and greater exposure for the cause.
“To boycott is an important thing for people to do; it touches the economic nerve; it touches the way people are sustaining themselves. And if we interrupt the machine; if we interrupt the economic flow, then I think we can make a difference,” Belafonte said. He applauded Stevie Wonder for his decision, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, to boycott performing in Florida while its Stand Your Ground law remains on the books.
Noticeably omitted from Belafonte’s roster of celebrity supporters were Jay Z and Beyonce. In 2012, Belafonte expressed his disappointment in the couple for backing out on their “social responsibility.” When asked, by Chris Hayes, if he thought that Jay Z should cancel his upcoming concert in Florida, Belafonte said, “I would be hard pressed to tell Mr Jay Z what to do with his time and his fortune. I can only be critical of what he is not doing.”
The legendary singer said he wasn’t attacking the high-powered couple but was making a broader point about the lack of unified support of black celebrities. “I made the observation that the highly powerful voice that our community has–that Black America has–there is so much celebrity power that it was sad to see the collective of the celebrity power has not been applied to bringing consciousness to the inequities that we face.”
“I would hope with all my heart, that Jay Z not take personally what was said,” Belafonte said. “I would like to take this opportunity to say to Jay Z and Beyonce: I’m wide open, my heart is filled with nothing but hope and the promise that we can sit and have a one-on-one to understand each other.”