Rapper calls on blacks to combat anti-Semitism
Music producer Russell Simmons, considered a founding father of rap and hip-hop culture, is now entreating the African-American community 'to join forces with the Jews in a common struggle against expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe and America.'
NEW YORK - Music producer Russell Simmons, considered a founding father of rap and hip-hop culture, is now entreating the African-American community "to join forces with the Jews in a common struggle against expressions of anti-Semitism in Europe and America."
Simmons wrote these words together with his friend Orthodox Rabbi Marc Schneier, in an article that is to appear this weekend, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day, which is observed next Monday. The article will be published in newspapers that reach Jewish and black readers across the U.S.
Simmons, who founded his Def Jam production company in 1985, has also gained a reputation as a clothing designer who sells his goods under the Phat Farm label. He is a revered role model to millions of African-Americans. Rabbi Marc Schneier is the founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, in which Russell Simmons serves as secretary.
"The Jewish community cannot fight anti-Semitism on its own," Simmons writes in the article. "Blacks and Jews have a long history of shared struggles to promote social change, such as in the struggle for equal rights." Simmons subsequently quotes Martin Luther King: "In our struggle for equal rights, we need the help, partnership and courage of our Jewish brothers." Now, Simmons argues, "The Jewish community needs the partnership and courage of the blacks."
Simmons also writes that in his time, Martin Luther King emphasized that "every leader in the black community knows from personal experience that racism does not distinguish between black and Jew." He continues: "If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would protest against the new wave of anti-Semitism. Nor would he be silent in the face of the behavior of many political leaders who do not protest against loathsome expressions of hostility toward Jews."
In the article, Simmons cites a recent public opinion poll that revealed that 77 percent of African-Americans and 73 percent of American Jews answered affirmatively to the question "Should blacks and Jews form a partnership to work on civil rights?"
Leading figures in the New York Jewish community, aware of the impending publication of the article, said there was much significance to Russell Simmons' call for participation in the struggle against anti-Semitism. "This is the first time in many years that a major, popular figure among African-Americans, particularly among young people, has called openly and unequivocally for a renewal of the historic alliance between blacks and Jews," a source in the Jewish community said yesterday.
Russell Simmons is a recipient of last year's Martin Luther King award, which is conferred each year by the Israeli consulate in New York on a public figure who has worked to improve relations between blacks and Jews.