A few weeks ago many folks in New York City were in an uproar. First because a young man, who lives with his mom in Corona, Queens, is studying engineering at the New York City College of Technology, and has a work-study job was detained by law enforcement stemming from the purchase of a $349 Ferragamo belt at Barneys. Second because Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter refused to speak out on the issue. Jay-Z is launching a signature collection at Barneys and is receiving pressure to dissociate himself from Barneys.
For reasons I’m sure are different than Jay-Z’s I chose not to make any comments until I saw how this whole thing played out. As I expected, in our world of instant gratification and information overload, this story is now buried somewhere in cyber space.
That doesn’t mean the story is no longer newsworthy or there aren’t some serious dynamics worthy of discussion. It only means the “wow factor” and the controversy the media was expecting to come out of it did not materialize.
Succumbing to the pressure Jay-Z finally commented on this issue:
“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts.” —Life and Times: A Statement from Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
We all know the media thrives on controversy and make a habit of sensationalism. That’s the business they’re in and readers drink it up like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. What I found interesting was the media seemed to focus more on Jay-Z and his affiliation with Barneys than the real issue. Is it possible the media saw a chink in Jay-Z’s armor? Was this an opportunity of create a rift between Jay-Z and his loyal fans? History has proven that the media is not above exploiting an issue to polarize the masses. I am not making any accusations against the media (I have to be careful with my words) but I am questioning their motives. How could you do this to me?
It’s two weeks later and the story is somewhere in cyberspace. It is most likely that Jay-Z’s collection will still be sold at Barneys. Money will be raised for the Shawn Carter Foundation and many individuals will be helped.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility.
The Marketplace is an educational and charitable organization formed for the purpose of promoting and supporting programs, initiatives, and events that address the needs of culturally diverse and economically challenged youth.
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