April V. Taylor
There are a number of black celebrities who have joined the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on social media but have failed to speak out about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri surrounding the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As the Atlanta BlackStar points out, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge requires that those who participate respond within 24 hours of being challenged, but weeks have passed since Brown’s death and the unrest that saw Amnesty International and the United Nations speak out about the state of race relations in the United States has sadly not garnered the same attention.
Black celebrities are in a unique position to help ensure that awareness, action and change are part of the narrative when black people are seeking fair and just treatment from the criminal justice system. They also have the ability to shine a spotlight on this issue long after initial protests and outrage over and incident have faded. Despite these facts, Oprah Winfrey is just one of the black celebrities who has not publicly addressed Michael Brown’s killing. Winfrey’s OWN television network did send spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant to Ferguson to film a segment for OWN’s show Iyanla, Fix My Life, but Winfrey, who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge has not spoken a single word regarding Michael Brown’s death.
Will Smith is another prominent black celebrity who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a testament to his reach, the video of him participating in the challenge earned more than a half-million views. Smith did not speak out about the Michael Brown killing or the Trayvon Martin killing.
Despite Michael Brown Sr. publicly acknowledging that his son was an avid fan of rapper Lil Wayne, the rapper participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge generating similar awareness as Will Smith, but he also has failed to speak out about the Brown case or any of the social justice issues facing young Black men. The list of Black celebrities who are deafeningly silent about the issue of Black people being gunned down by cops despite having the time to bring awareness to ALS goes on and includes the likes of Zoe Saldana, Kevin Hart, Lebron James, Idris Elba, Kevin Durant, Gabrielle Union, Sanaa Lathan, and Dr. Dre.