Jul 22, 2013

I was sitting here trying to think of some prophetic words to write about Stevie Wonder boycotting Florida and how none of today's stars, besides gospel duo Mary Mary, have joined him.  I quickly realized there was no need for me to write this article because Jack Hamilton over at Slate has already written the article for me.

So instead of wasting my time trying to re-invent the wheel.  I'll just share with you what Hamilton wrote and why it's important that today's stars take a stand with musical giant Stevie Wonder.

Here's what he wrote:

The British critic Charles Shaar Murray once described the central drive of American popular music as “the need to separate black music (which, by and large, white Americans love) from black people (who, by and large, they don’t).” It’s a glibly polemical assessment that too often feels sickeningly right: You don’t need to look far for evidence that this country values black American culture substantially more than it values the lives of black American people. Last Saturday the top three slots on the Billboard album charts were occupied by black American musicians; that evening 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s shooting death was deemed a blameless occurrence by a Florida jury, a ruling that left many wondering just how little one young black American life was worth in that state’s judicial system. 

In the 1970s, when Stevie Wonder grew up to become the most successful musician in the world, winning Grammys for Album of the Year in 1974, 1975, and 1977, his music pulsed with moral conscience. Wonder’s hit singles “Higher Ground,” “Living for the City,” and “You Haven’t Done Nothing” railed against racism, poverty, and injustice, all from the top of the charts. His 1976 magnum opus, Songs In The Key of Life, was a concept album on the subject of human improvement and human empathy. Songs like “Village Ghetto Land” and “Pastime Paradise” portrayed a world in need of urgent correction; “Love’s In Need of Love Today,” “Black Man,” and the incredible “Sir Duke” offered compelling ways to start correcting it. In the 1980s, Wonder was the musical spearhead of the campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and lent his talents to USA for Africa and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Even as his creative output and chart presence diminished in recent years, Wonder has remained active in causes ranging from global poverty to disability research to the campaign of almost any Democratic candidate that asks him.

While Stevie Wonder’s boycott of an entire state might have exerted real pressure in, say, 1976, in 2013 it’s almost entirely a symbolic act. But symbolic acts are often the first step toward kicking off concrete ones, and we should imagine what would happen if likeminded artists followed suit. BeyoncĂ© in 2013 might not be Stevie Wonder in ’76 but she’s not far behind, and her husband is said to be a figure of some renown. Rihanna’s 8.4 million Instagram followers felt her outrage on Sunday, and some of them must live in Florida; Miley Cyrus, who tweeted a memorial late Saturday night, has been recently embroiled in her own racial controversy and might want to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak. Questlove, who wrote about the Zimmerman verdict with characteristic eloquence, is one of the most ubiquitous and respected figures in contemporary music, and would surely make some phone calls. If these artists were to join in Wonder’s boycott, the bottom lines of club promoters and festival organizers and concert arenas would start to look different in a hurry.

And good luck finding a decent hip-hop show in Florida. Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Ghostface Killah, Big Boi, Q-Tip, Ace Hood, Mac Miller, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, and Chuck D are just a few names who’ve expressed sorrow and consternation at the Zimmerman verdict. A widespread hip-hop boycott of Florida would be hugely powerful, particularly given Miami’s emergence in the past decade as one of the music’s epicenters. Rick Ross shooting videos in Venice Beach instead of South Beach, or sitting courtside at Nets games instead of Heat games: These images alone would jar the minds of a generation. Furthermore, rappers boycotting Florida might also offer a firm rebuke to one of the more despicable insinuations of right-wing discourse throughout the Martin case, that hip-hop “culture” justifies the murder of black children at the hands and guns of men who fear them. This September, 46-year-old Michael Dunn will stand trial for shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis to death at a Jacksonville gas station. Dunn has pleaded not guilty, claiming he feared for his life during an argument with Davis and his friends and that he saw a gun that was never found; some have reported he’ll invoke “Stand Your Ground” in his defense. The cause of the argument? The volume of the rap music on the teenagers’ car stereo. Hip-hop should not and must not be fashioned into probable cause for fearful adults to shoot unarmed kids. Hip-hop musicians can make this statement more effectively than anyone.  Click here to read the entire article

Don't get me wrong, I realize that some artists did show up at the rallies on Saturday.  But in my opinion if they want to really affect change then they need to do what Stevie Wonder is doing.  I just don't think we have any artists today that have that type of courage.  Sure they'll put on a Trayvon Martin t-shirt and maybe even show up at a rally or two, but do they have the courage to do the real work of affecting change. 

Being an activist doesn't come without a price and I realize there are a lot of us out here that's not willing to pay that price.  I can't expect an artist to be any different.  This life isn't for everybody.


  1. Stevie is boycotting ALL states with SYG laws. Considering that is over 20 states, I would say that makes it harder to commit to a boycott. However, the size and scale of it is what makes the statement so impactful. Something else has to be done to add to the voices of the people. The protests of old are not necessarily bringing the results people would like. The opposition controlling these legislatures are holding fast to their positions and ignoring the protesters not even giving them the courtesy of listening to their concerns, much less offering a compromise. We have to hit harder and stronger, which means sacrificing even more.

  2. According to April Ryan, of American Urban Radio Networks, a source close to Stevie Wonder has said that other artists have joined in with Stevie to boycott including:

    Mary Mary
    Eddie Levert
    Rod Stewart
    Patti Labelle
    Kanye West
    Mary J Blige
    Trey Songz
    Jaz Z
    Rolling Stones
    Justin Timberlake
    R. Kelly
    Alicia Keys
    Keyshia Cole
    Young Jeezy
    Erykah Badu
    Frankie Beverly

    I don't know how true this is, but that is what is floating around on the internet