Say It Loud: Celebrity Activists Who Speak Out On Social Injustices
We march the streets in droves, pitch signs high up in the air and shout out to the masses our stance on certain issues like women’s rights, abortion, gay marriage, and most recently – demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. There is power in numbers, and we know that through speaking out, our voices will be heard and change will come. When celebrities fight for the same causes as us, it gives us a sense of solidarity and humanizes superstars. Here’s a list of some of the most famous celebrity advocates who lend their fame and voice to many social injustices of the world.
Longoria served as a co-chair of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and has become a passionate advocate for Latino causes through her eponymous charitable foundation. Longoria says, “I do all of my civic work because I was raised in these communities and they gave a lot to me. I started giving back to the special-needs community because my sister benefited from so many programs that were in our community. I grew up with the Boys & Girls Club and LULAC and National Council of La Raza and applied for scholarships. So these are the organizations and communities that helped me evolve and grow as a person.”
During Alicia Keys’ first trip to Africa in 2003, she witnessed the drastic impact AIDS can have when left largely unchecked and came to understand AIDS as much more than a deadly disease capable of orphaning children, devastating communities, and stifling economic progress. Ever since, Alicia, along with Leigh Blake, has been the driving force behind Keep a Child Alive.Thanks to Alicia’s tireless efforts, KCA has been able to raise millions of dollars to care for AIDS patients in Africa and India. As a dedicated Global Ambassador for KCA, Alicia’s work includes well-known media initiatives, such as the “Spirit of a Child” campaign, the controversial “Drug Dealer” campaign and the star-studded “I am African” campaign, spearheaded by Iman and featuring David Bowie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Gere, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lenny Kravitz, and many other top artists. Alicia makes a valid point in her June 2008 interview for CNN.com, “Helping keep a child, or mother, or father or brother or sister alive means turning the worst epidemic of our lifetime into the greatest victory of our generation.”
Rosario Dawson currently puts the majority of her energy into Voto Latino, an organization to get young Latinos registered to vote and remain politically engaged. Dawson co-founded the organization with Maria Teresa Kumar, V-Day, of Eve Ensler fame, and New York City’s Lower East Side Girls Club, which is dear to her heart since she grew up in the neighborhood. Rosario explains, “I want to make sure that I’m as effective as possible and it’s hard because I care about so many different issues.” If Dawson were to take to Twitter by storm, her hashtag of choice: #acceptance.
Actress Ashley Judd makes headlines for her commitment to using her fame to bring global attention to issues she cares about, including HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and reproductive rights. Judd has been an outspoken, well-traveled activist for feminist and humanitarian causes, including gender equality, public health and alleviating poverty. She wrote a widely discussed online essay for The Daily Beast last spring about criticisms of her appearance, saying such complaints about women’s bodies represent a subtle form of violence. She spoke on the same topic at a Nashville fundraiser in April. Also a democratic advocate, Judd took on the role of delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. in 2012. She’s an at-large member of the Tennessee delegation and was a campaign surrogate for President Barack Obama, speaking to supporters on his behalf.
Rula is one of those women who is so incredibly beautiful that, I’ll admit even as a guy, I almost want to not like her because she’s just so darn gorgeous!. I find myself watching her, often on the weekend morning talk shows like Up with Chris Hayes and just hoping that she’ll say something I disagree with so my inexplicable beauty envy can be rightfully justified. Alas, she’s often right on point with her views and her Italo-Palestinian ethnicity and Israeli nationality give her a refreshing insight into middle eastern issues and events. She’s also the one of my top 5 here that I was thinking of when I decided to create this list.
Tamron Hall is involved with several charitable organizations that strive to end homelessness and illiteracy, as well as others that fight domestic abuse. She has been recognized by Day One, a New York-based advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, for her work and support of their efforts. She also wrote a personal account of her sister’s death for theGrio.com in 2010, which garnered praise from several outlets for its honesty and attention to the often-overlooked issue of domestic and dating violence.
Lupe Fiasco, also known as Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, is a devout Muslim who supports Palestinian rights, and has spoken out against the use of violence. Known for his socially conscious lyrics, philanthropy and global activism, hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco headlined a Peace Corps 50th anniversary benefit concert in Hill Auditorium.
Ruby Dee has been an activist fighting against injustice and racism in the U.S. for many years. During the Civil Rights Movement, she participated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963 and has received many accolades for her activism, including the Frederick Douglass Award for distinguished leadership toward equal opportunity in 1970. Most rececently, Ruby Dee was arrested for her participation in the protest against the fatal shooting of an unarmed West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo by white police officers in New York City.
Yasiin Bey, aka, Mos Def
Rap music veteran Mos Def is known to express his social consciousness in his music, but he has also lent his voice and rhyming talents to speak on behalf of victims of Hurricane Katrina and political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal. Recently, Yasiin Bey, the actor and activist formerly known as Mos Def, submitted to the type of force-feeding imposed on hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay — and it wasn’t pretty. The Brooklyn-born entertainer joined with the human rights group Reprieve to demonstrate what the hunger strikers are enduring at the U.S. military lockup. The demonstration was videotaped and posted online early this month. In the graphic footage, Bey, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, writhes in his restraints, then wretches and coughs as a feeding tube is inserted up his nose and down into his stomach. When the tube comes out and is about to be re-inserted, Bey pleads for those administering the feeding to stop and partially breaks free from his restraint.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s activism extends to the realm of politics, having been a key supporter helping to get President Obama elected in 2008. She’s also an advocate for education, founding the South African boarding school, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. The mission for the academy is “to nurture, educate and turn gifted South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country’s future leaders.” The academy’s doors opened in January 2007 with 152 students.
Actress Kerry Washington is active in the fight to end violence against women and girls. Washington sits on the board of V-Day, an organization that works to end violence against women. She was also a staunch supporter of President Obama during both his 2008 presidential campaign and his re-election campaign in 2012. Kerry also spoke at the at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Actress Gabrielle Union is noted for her support of raising awareness about rape, having been the victim of a brutal sexual assault at the age of 19. Union lobbies for state legislatures across the country and the federal government to help raise funds and awareness for rape crisis centers, and speaks to all different kinds of people across the country about what happened to her. Her goal is to never hear the words ‘me too’ from someone after saying ‘I was raped.’ She also supports causes in the fight against breast cancer.
In the second half of his career, pioneering hip hop mogul Russell Simmons has been an ardent political activist. He is most noted for forming the Hip Hop Summit Action Network, an organization devoted to using hip hop music as a catalyst for education and political advocacy with regards to the empowerment of youth. He was also a public supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement.