As he considered his growing commitment to activism, Usher only needed to look at the man seated next to him, Harry Belafonte, to know how much more he could give.
“Unfortunately, no matter what I say I’m never going to be able to upstage (Belafonte),” the million-selling musician joked during a weekend appearance at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
In an hourlong conversation moderated by Soledad O’Brien, the 37-year-old Usher and 88-year-old Belafonte related with obvious warmth to each other as fellow artists, activists and celebrities and as elder statesman and protege.
Usher called Belafonte a hero, mentor and father figure. And Belafonte spoke far more positively about young black celebrities than he did two years ago when he chastised Jay Z, Beyonce and others for turning “their back on social responsibility.”
At the 92nd Street Y, Jay Z was in the audience nodding his head as Belafonte praised him, Usher and Common for renewing a commitment to change after a “very me” generation immediately following the civil rights era.
“I’m glad I lived long enough to see this emergence,” he said.
Usher has a new single out, “Chains,” which protests racism and police violence. “Chains” features cameos by Nas and Bibi Bourelly, and an interactive video that stops playing if you turn away from the images of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other black men who were killed recently. The video was made with the assistance of Belafonte and his nonprofit organization www.sankofa.org, which supports social engagement by artists.
“This conversation comes at a time when I think it’s a necessity for us as artists to use our platforms in a significant way,” Usher said, adding that Belafonte and his peers “used everything they’ve got, or they had, in order for us to have that platform.”
Read more: cnsnews.com