It was a night where two kings shared a throne in the city where dreams are made of. Jay-Z and Kanye West rocked Madison Square Garden, where they played hit after hit after hit in front of 20,000 screaming fans. After the show, the boss-man Russell Simmons and I went backstage to say hello to the two heavyweight champs. The room was hot…New York City summer hot, even though outside it was November…but the fever in the room was still buzzing from the energy of the show. The first king to walk into the room was Jay-Z. I turned to Russell and said, “look at what Jay got on…” With a black skully on his head, Jay donned a black shirt with the words “Occupy All Streets” written across it. “Who you know fresher than Hov? Riddle me that.” As Jay and Russell conversed, I picked up my cell phone and snapped a picture. The next morning, we put the photo on GlobalGrind and Russell tweeted it. We had already been the center of a media firestorm with Kanye when he came down with us to visit Occupy Wall Street, now we were about to embark on another battle with the media with Jay to the Z.
Throughout my life I have always admired great cultural figures who put their weight behind political movements. In my home, I have an original print of the famous photo of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their black fists in the air at the 1968 Olympic games. I have studied the life of Muhammad Ali religiously and cherish the dozens of books about him that fill my bookshelf. I admire and respect one of my dearest friends, Brendon Ayanbadejo, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, and who most recently did a video in support of gay marriage in the state of Maryland. In my previous life as a filmmaker, I followed Russell for four years in his quest to end the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York state. I recognize the importance of artists, actors, athletes, musicians, writers, poets and the entire creative community to give voice to those who are in struggle. So when Kanye came to visit Zuccotti Park or Russell Brand and Katy Perry stopped by or Michael Moore did a nationwide tour or Alec Baldwin showed up…I was thankful, cause I know that their voices help spread the message of the 99% and give more attention to all of those who live, sleep and occupy parks across the nation. And I respect Jay for supporting the movement and creating the t-shirt, cause that helps too. When a quote from a Rocawear spokesperson came out on Friday that said they weren’t sure where the money from the sale of the “Occupy All Streets” t-shirt would go, I knew that the media was about to attack…and yes they did, but like Jigga-man said, “It wouldn’t be wise, to bet against the kid.”
Jay NEVER said that they weren’t going to give the money away; Rocawear said they just weren’t sure where yet. When Russell gave a donation to the Occupy Wall Street movement, there was a lot of confusion about where it should go…should it go to the medical team, the kitchen, the library, the clean-up crew, the media center, security…these were things we had to figure out. But, this isn’t really about where Jay should give the money, cause that is his decision and I respect that. It’s a lot bigger than t-shirt sales and you all know that. I challenge the media to spend as much time as they have on the made-up controversy about the sale of a Rocawear t-shirt to the real issue that there is a fast growing percentage of our population that can’t even afford a t-shirt. Real talk. Real life. Things that really matter.
The corporate-controlled media is so thirsty for the blood of the celebrities that they try to find silly and frivolous things to separate great messengers from the people. The media, and I am not just talking about the right wing media, needs to give up on this divisive style of journalism and start to support the 99%. You can own your old-school corner of the media, but you cannot own our future. We are sick and tired of the media treating the Occupy Wall Street movement like it is some rag-tag group of hippies who are camped out in a park. This movement has grown so quickly and so widely that it has inspired heroes of ours, like Jay-Z, to spread the message for us. As young people, we look to our cultural leaders for support and welcome them with open arms, for WE are the generation that is inheriting a future that is bleaker than the ones inherited by our parents. WE are the generation that has more student loan debt than credit card debt. WE are the generation that has been mentally and physically worn down by two wars that most of us never even supported. WE are the generation that is being warehoused in prisons and jails across this country under draconian, unjust laws. WE are the generation that has to live with the consequences of decisions made by politicians who are completely controlled by greedy corporations. WE make up the majority of the 99%.
Our generation has spoken and we have spoken loudly. We want our country back from the grips of corporate greed, corrupt politicians and a factious media. We don’t need to show you a list of demands, because you can’t provide us with what we want anyway. We must do it ourselves and we must do it together. So, the next time you think you can try to divide us with your lazy, so-called journalism, remember “it wouldn’t be wise to bet against the kid.” Who’s gonna stop us now?
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik