Nine Stars Who Were Criticized For Standing Up For Black People
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1. Nina Simone: Accomplished pianist, singer, songwriter and activist Nina Simone stayed true to her self throughout her career. She was beloved in the soul and blues realms, although she wanted to be seen as a folk singer. She drew inspiration from her time at Julliard and performed in jazz and soul clubs. In the 1950’s the singer released her full length album and reached Top 40 status. In that time, she also became close to the civil rights movement. Her release of “Mississippi Goddam,” helped paint a soundtrack to the movement. The song was inspired by the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four African-American girls. Her connection to the movement caused her to be blacklisted in Hollywood and criticized by her own husband, who was her manager. After finding continued fame overseas, the singer released more music to her own liking and returned to the states to perform a handful of times. Her story was told in the recent documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” unveiling her abusive past with her husband and troubles after her affiliation to the civil rights movement.
2. Muhammad Ali: Known to many as the greatest fighter of all time, the boxer used his fame to speak out on many racial issues. After he earned a gold medal for 1960 Olympics in Rome, he was refused service in a diner for the color of his skin. These and other moments led the fighter to speak out against racism. He also stayed true to his Muslim beliefs and refused to fight in the Vietnam war after he was drafted. His decision to not fight with the Army led to him being stripped of his heavyweight title, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He returned to the ring in the 70’s, and had wins and losses during his battles with Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Larry Holmes. After he retired from boxing in 1981, he discovered he had Parkinson’s Disease in 1984.
3. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis: Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were the epitome of Black love and power throughout their long lasting careers. While Ossie and Ruby were dominating the theater and big screen in the 50’s and 60’s, their love of the people and civil rights made them icons in the movement. After advocating for rights for African-Americans, the couple was met with criticism by reporters who claimed they were “ambushing captive white liberals” during panel discussions. The couple continued to fight for rights and took dominating roles together and apart. Some of their shared memorable films include the Spike Lee flicks, Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. Their stars continued to shine bright well into their later years, with both actors performing in the theatre. Ossie passed away at 87 in 2005 and Dee at 91 in 2014.
4. Kanye West: The artist has seen more than a few moments of political correctness in his career. In 2005, the rapper slammed former president George Bush by saying he didn’t care about black people because of his delay in assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina. His statements made him a controversial force on stage, although he maintains his musical success.
5. Denzel Washington: Everyone is aware of Denzel’s Oscar winning roles and charming sex appeal, but the actor had to face challenging stereotypes early in his career. During an interview in 2012, the actor says his transition form TV to film was met with directors pressing him to play a harsh stereotype of a black man. In a movie he jokingly called, “The Nigga They Couldn’t Kill,” the actor says during the film’s development, he was told he had to perform minstrel-like tendencies as the white characters found ways to kill him for a crime he allegedly committed. He declined the role and was later in films like Cry Freedom, Glory and fan favorite, Training Day. Denzel continues to dominate films and will star in the remake of The Magnificent Seven and a sequel to the 2014 hit, The Equalizer.
7. N.W.A: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Ice Cube and MC Ren came together as N.W.A. in the late 80’s to deliver their depiction of life in South Central L.A. The artists also told stories of gang violence and police brutality. The group’s release of Straight Outta Compton put the city on the map and also a target on their backs. They were investigated by the FBI over the tracks “F*** Tha Police” and “Gangsta Gangsta” for their criticism of police brutality. Despite criticism and people burning their CD’s, the group continued to grow and sell over 75 million records worldwide. Label and management issues led to the group’s breakup, but before Eazy-E’s untimely death, he and the rest of the group reconciled. A biopic on the group was released in August and topped the box office, making just over $60 million.
8. Azealia Banks: There aren’t many female voices in hip-hip as dominating as Azealia Banks. The Harlem bred artist bursted to the scene at the age of 17 and found success in 2012 with the release of “212.” With cosigners like Kanye West and a huge social media following, Banks found herself at the top and pressured to release her debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. In the years it took to the get the delayed album on the shelves, the singer made a name for herself by speaking out on culture appropriation of Black women, sexism in the rap game and shared her thoughts on the country’s moral compass when it comes to addressing racism. Her statements, in just 140 characters, shook up the industry, leaving her to fall out with producers like Pharrell and Diplo. Backlash has yet to stop the artist from touring and performing and finally in 2014, her album was released and was praised by fans. Currently the “Ice Princess” spitter is on tour in the U.S.