Jay-Z needs more than #ParchmanPrison to balance the scales of justice — He needs Accountability

Omowale Afrika
7 min readFeb 27, 2020


#FreeDrShakur #MutuluIsWelcomeHere #StraightAhead

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against.” ~ Malcolm X

“I want to be held accountable for what I’m doing… It keeps me sharp… Let’s me know that I can’t play around… I have to do what I said I’m gonna do…” ~ Jay-Z

In response to my latest essay, “Why is Jay-Z’s Criminal Justice Reform helping to erase the Struggle to Free Political Prisoners?,” I’ve received several private communications, asking if I’ve considered Jay-Z’s advocacy on behalf of the prisoners at Parchman. To be clear, I am in no way opposed to any of Jay-Z’s philanthropic efforts, which bring both awareness, and much needed resources, to pivotal issues in our community.

FYI — Here’s an issue I’d love to see Jay-Z/Team Roc get behind…

What I am most concerned with, is the ways in which his advocacy often furthers the interests of the State, and or corporate America, at the expense of those advocates on the “front-lines” of said issues (i.e. Freedom for U.S. Political Prisoners). This is a major blind-spot for Jay-Z, and although he has publicly asked to be held accountable, he clearly has no one in his inner-circle capable of raising these contradictions.

This glaring chink in Jay-Z’s “Social Justice” armor, is exacerbated by the fact that the type of “accountability” he’s requesting, is the type of truth-telling he resents the most. This contradiction was made painfully obvious, in his Roc Nation/ NFL press conference, where in one breath he embraces the call for accountability, and in the next, he chastises the folks attempting to hold him accountable.

Is it Oochie Wally Wally…

“…it’s a lot of turmoil — And I think that we all have a responsibility to push it [the conversation] forward… It’s good to have conversations… to bring awareness to it, so I’m not knocking the conversation — I actually welcome the conversation. I want to be held to a higher standard… I want to be held accountable for what I’m doing…”

~ Jay-Z (Roc Nation/NFL Press Conference) 8/16/19

Or is it one mic?

“It’s a natural emotion to be upset. But where do we go now? Where are we gonna take it? What are we gonna do? How do we fix it? and what is everyone doing? Everyone can speak, like those twitter people… Everyone can talk. Ask them what have they done. There’s 365 days last year, I can tell you exactly what I’ve done last year. I can tell you the amount of people I’ve saved from going to jail. I can tell you the amount of people I’ve gotten out of jail… I can tell you exactly what I’ve done with my 365 days. What has everyone done… It’s a challenge…

Jay-Z (Roc Nation/NFL Press Conference) 8/16/19

This brazen attempt at silencing critics of his partnership with the NFL, calls into question the sincerity of his request for accountability. After all, Jay-Z isn’t an elected official, so by what means does he expect people to voice their disapproval, if not the public square (i.e. twitter)? To call into account people’s work, and ask for a measurement of their contributions, was perhaps the most tone deaf demonstration of his entire press conference. Had he been better advised, he would’ve known that the corporate philanthropy of a billionaire mogul, could never measure up to a “Widow’s Offering.” Said differently, no matter how many dollars Jay-Z brings to the table, it will never compare to the contributions of those who offer their lives.

Jay-Z’s brand of “Freedom Fighting” represents a model of controlled opposition, or “alternative resistance,” that is encouraged by the State. His call for “actionable items” is nothing more than a dismissive rebuke, that limits the scope of action, to State-approved acts of resistance. This elitist posture towards grassroots organizers, and militant forms of resistance, puts him into direct conflict with the grassroots.

While Jay-Z is openly embraced as a modern-day extension of the struggle for Civil Rights, he’s also indicative of the consciousness of that movement, which was anti-revolution, during the revolutionary 60’s:

“…comrade, you will encounter the faint-hearted and illogical types like Ali/Clay, entertainer and tool of the capitalist cliques. Their line is: “Aint nobody but black folks gonna die in a revolution.” ~ Gerorge Jackson

How do we bring Jay to account for these contradictions? After all, Jay-Z isn’t the first prominent Civil Rights activist, to be used in the interest of the State, to co-opt a grass roots movement.

Most people in the Black community are reluctant to voice any displeasure with Jay-Z, because he’s one of the few Black celebrities that recognizes his obligation to the community, and attempts to fulfill it. Even my own critiques of Jay are tempered by this fact.

Note: There’s a difference between a coon and a Negro, and any fair-minded person will acknowledge that Jay is no coon.

That being said, there are 3 issues that every black person, no matter how thankful we are for Jay-Z’s philanthropy, should want him to account for.

When it comes to the grass-roots, Jay-Z has been publicly on the wrong side, and remains on the wrong side, on each of the following issues. He’s yet to account for his role in any of them; nor has he attempted to make things right.

  1. Assata Shakur vs Obama Administration
  2. Black residents of Brooklyn vs Barclays
  3. Black Political Prisoners vs Bi-Partisan Criminal Justice Reform

Me raising these 3 points, is not an attempt to drum up hatred for Jay, but to push him to do better. We need more Jay’s in the fight for liberation, but we need them fighting on the right side. With us, not against us.

Assata Shakur vs Jay-Z’s Hiplomatic excursion to Cuba

For those with a solid understanding of United States foreign policy strategy, it is clear that Barack Obama used his own version of Nixon’s Ping-Pong diplomacy (i.e. Hip Hop Diplomacy), to ease travel restrictions with Cuba.

Where Jay gets into hot water with the Black community is, in order for this deal to be finalized, Obama needed to signal to law enforcement (the nations largest lobby against lifting travel restrictions to Cuba) that he’d continue the hunt for an innocent victim of the FBI’s, illegal, counter intelligence program: Assata Shakur.

Within one month of Jay-Z’s return from Cuba, the Obama Administration added Assata Shakur to the FBI’s most wanted list, and placed an additional one-million dollar bounty on her head.

To date, Jay Z has never once come out an condemned the Obama Administration, or America, who he assisted with changing their Cold War policy towards Cuba, even as they doubled-down on their Cold War policy towards Assata.

The Barclays Center & Gentrification

Jay-Z has only publicly addressed his trip to Cuba once, which was done in a 2013 freestyle, titled, Open Letter. In this same freestyle, he addresses his role in bringing the Barclay’s center to Brooklyn:

Hear the freedom in my speech
Got an onion from Universal, read it and weep
Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free
Except I made millions off it, you fuckin’ dweeb

Jay has yet to publicly acknowledge the role he played in silencing the cry of gentrification in Brooklyn, which according to him, he made “millions off.”

It is clear to anyone with a brain, that the city need Jay to be involved with this project, to provide political cover — I mean, after all, the Barcaly’s center couldn’t be bad for the Black residents of Brooklyn, if Brooklyn’s favorite son was supporting it, right?

Jay Z and Neoliberal “Bi-partisan” reform vs Black Political Prisoners

I’ve written an entire article on this last point, which is linked below.

Let’s all hold one another accountable, and push folks to do better, by their people.








Omowale Afrika

Father. Husband. Fighter. Writer. #IWriteWhatILike