"The greatest form of giving is anonymous to anonymous."
-Jay Z lyric from "Nickels and Dimes"
I am generally skeptical of people who feel the urge to publicly call out what they perceive to be the lack of generosity of particular celebrities. In essence, sitting at their computers, people imagine it something like this: If I had the amount of money that Jay Z has in his bank account and even half of his influence, I'd be doing A, B, and C.
The thing is, it's just not that simple. You can't superimpose someone else's net worth on top of where you are today and then think of how much better you'd be if you had their cash and clout because if you had their cash and clout, you'd also have their challenges and concerns.
I have one tenth of 1 percent of the cultural influence of Jay Z and even less of his money, but those around me have already come to understand that when I do something as simple as retweet something they are doing, haters and racists and trolls come running out of their holes in droves to critique it. Having experienced this reality on a much harsher level for years, Jay Z, already known for being a fiercely private and even shy dude, opted for being an anonymous Robin Hood many moons ago.
Below the fold are some things that I am absolutely sure of about Jay's charitable endeavors that you probably didn't know.
Jay Z is meeting Today with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to urge him to appoint a special prosecutor in the choking death of Eric Garner.
Jay has paid and is still paying for the tuition of the children of NYPD shooting victim Sean Bell.
Quietly, Jay has given financially to people working on the ground in Ferguson.
Quietly, Jay has supported justice for those discriminated against in the trans community.
Jay has paid to send HUNDREDS of high school students, who, by the way, are very often on the margins of society and actually have to have a GPA of 2.7 or below, through college.
I was literally steps away from Jay Z and Beyonce at a rally for Trayvon in New York City. When they stepped on the scene, and the entire time they were there, they were all anyone cared about. The man on the mic at the time could've screamed "I have Ebola" and started spitting in every direction and people would've ignored him.
Instances like this, and dozens and dozens of others like it, seem to have caused Jay Z to feel that it's in everybody's best interest if he goes behind-the-scenes-incognito on his giving and his advocacy. It's easy for people without influence to think this is a blown opportunity and how if they were him, they'd do yadda, yadda, yadda, but Jay's attempted advocacy at the Brooklyn Nets game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers only further proves that when you are as influential as Jay Z, somebody is either going to find wrong in everything he does or find a way to make a story about justice no longer about justice but about Jay Z.
Long story short is this: NBA players have been showing their support for the family of Eric Garner by wearing T-shirts during warm-ups which state Garner's last words, "I Can't Breathe."
Nationally televised, and attended by both British royalty and American royalty (Jay Z and Beyonce), activists decided to get jerseys to the players to wear. A former investor in the Brooklyn Nets, activists made the shirts, and through several channels got them to Jay Z, who helped get the T-shirts to the players.
Proud, Jay Z took this photo with some of the players.
Jay Z took the image with the players precisely to show his support of them and the message they were conveying. He was personally and directly connected to the activists who made it happen. The action that the activists planned was not about Jay Z, but about NBA players wearing the T-shirts before the game and it was a huge success. The media coverage of all of them wearing the T-shirts, on a night in which the story of the game and the British royal attendance alone could've dominated headlines, exceeded expectations.
Yet, now media pundits and cultural critics alike are using the fact that Jay Z didn't wear a T-shirt in the photo as commentary for how he could've gone harder for the cause and opted not to. Fundamentally, this is just misinformation. Jay Z helped make the designed action happen and successfully highlighted it without making himself the center of attention and ultimately detracting from the players who were making a bold step themselves. While it would've been cool to see Jay Z wear a statement shirt, that's what artists do. The NBA players were violating league rules by doing so and Jay Z, as he does well, knew where and how to stay in his lane on that evening.
Ultimately, the critique of Jay Z in this instance and in most instances where people complain that he doesn't do enough comes down to three main thoughts:
1. How people mistakenly think they'd know how they'd act if they were rich and famous.
2. The incorrect assumption that because you don't see Jay Z parading around giving life-size checks in photo ops that he must not be giving real money that deposits into real accounts.
3. The reality that Jay Z doesn't tweet or live his life on social media, but is a private artist and an even more private citizen who lobbies and gives and connects and networks and influences people and causes completely offline fuels people who think if it ain't on Twitter or Instagram it ain't real.
Ultimately, and this much I know, Jay Z doesn't care that you think he's not this or that. He damn sure doesn't care that you think he's not charitable because he isn't charitable to make you think he is, but because the dude wants to make a difference.
More of us should be this way.