REYNOLDS: Hip-Hop Role Models Wanted

Dr. Barbara Reynolds | 7/16/2014, 3 p.m.
What does the platinum pair Beyoncé and Jay-Z so honored by the Obama White House have to do with the ...
Jay-Z (Courtesy photo)

Beyoncé and Jay- Z's 17-city "On the Run" tour concert is drawing millions of fans across the country. The dynamic husband and wife duo's spectacular includes a portrayal of the pistol-packing Bonnie and Clyde outlaw couple with lots of fake guns and fireworks.

Meanwhile across the nation during the July Fourth weekend there was real drama, real tears, real guns, injuries and death. A small snapshot: Eighty-five people were shot in Chicago. Fourteen people were killed, including two teens, ages 14 and 15, that were shot by police. In Rocky Mountain, N.C., grandmothers dived for cover, shielding young ones under their bodies as shots rang out at a picnic. And on Monday after the holiday, Wanda Ross, a minister at D.C.’s Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church, learned her nephew Joshua Johnson, 26, had been robbed, shot in the head and was on life support.

Nearly all of these shootings were black-on-black crime and data shows blacks are more likely to be killed by gunfire than whites. The Department of Justice reported that in 2010, the rate of firearm homicides for blacks was 14.6 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the rate for whites was 1.9 per 100,000.

So what does the platinum pair Beyoncé and Jay-Z so honored by the Obama White House have to do with the homicide epidemic sweeping across black communities? Some would argue a lot.

Dr. Keith Magee, a distinguished senior fellow, of the University of Birmingham in England attended the concert.

“I was astonished by their masterful artistry and capable performances, but was equally astounded by the thematic thread of Bonnie and Clyde," he said. "To think that they would utilize outlaws and robbers noted for gang violence and murders in the midst of our current crisis of violence was disappointing.

“Though they were careful to reiterate throughout the concert ‘this isn’t real’, the reality of what is happening in cities and towns across America is. Jay-Z, a product of the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, knows first-hand the impact of gangs, gun violence and bloodshed. Beyoncé was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year and therefore has global impact on young girls. The two of them should perpetuate positive, life-affirming messages to the audience they serve,” MaGee concluded.

To raise these issues is not to blame the current murderous cycle on Beyoncé, Jay-Z and their filthy rich hip-hop cohorts. Certainly, parents, professors, preachers and others have a role. But those performers who have struck gold promoting drugs, guns and violence should take some ownership of the problems that lethal combination has created. They must be challenged to write and perform lyrics that inspire the young to value life, education and peace.

Can’t be done? James Brown’s "I'm Black and I'm Proud" inspired a generation, as did Aretha Franklin’s "Respect" anthem. Whether multimillionaire idols like Beyoncé and J-Z own up to it or not, they are role models. Their most popular lyrics have become part of the reality narrative mixed with guns and bravado that are raising the death tolls across America.