Celebrities Who Risked Their Careers For Human Rights: You Always Have A Choice

February 8, 2021

Smrutisnat Jena, writing in scoopwhoop.com of 7 February 2021, lists 10 celebrities from different walks of life who risked their careers for things they believe in. Beginning with a post in 2014 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/] I have regularly referred to the use and abuse of star power (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/celebrities/), and the article below is a welcome addition be it that such a list always remains a bit arbitrary and in this case very US-centered.  Where they are known to have received recognition through a human rights award this indicated with a link to the Digest.

1. Nina Simone

This African American musician was also a civil rights activist. With her unique voice and powerful music, she would often talk about the injustice and discrimination that black people had to face in the United States. And more often than not, radio stations, at the time, would simply refuse to have her on or play her songs. 

Source: Phillymag

2. Harry Belafonte

Another musician, Belafonte had his boyish charm and powerful voice do the work for him. But he was also a civil rights activist and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. Due to this, the white American media ostracised him, labelled him a communist during the age of the McCarthism Witch Hunt. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2083D5D5-2B65-456E-8BB0-9CEFEE7B3EC0

Source: Essense

3. Colin Kaepernick

The former NFL quarterback is famous for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and the judicial murders of people of colour. As a result of this, not only was he demonised by ‘patriots’, who believed that he had insulted the American troops, but Kaepernick also lost his spot in the team and has been a free agent ever since. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c871b795-61a3-40e8-8635-37aeb02bc205

Source: Sky Sports

4. Sir Don Bradman

During his years as a cricket administrator, Sir Don Bradman met with South African President, John Vorster during the height of apartheid. Vorster was of the opinion that black people or people of colour were inferior and thus would be a curse on the game of cricket. Bradman then reportedly asked him if he knew who Sir Gary Sobers was. He came back to Australia and said ‘We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis’. Following this he cancelled Australia’s tour of South Africa.

Source: Sportsadda

5. Muhammed Ali

The greatest boxer of all time was also one of the fiercest defenders of human rights on the planet. When his name was drafted during the illegal war in Vietnam, Ali promptly refused to go. This not only cost him heavyweight title belt but the man also had to spend his prime years in jail. He had very famously said: My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America… And shoot them for what? They never called me n*****, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father…Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/76C5F0C9-D414-3DC0-BB0C-AFBD1EEDBD6A

Source: Respectability

6. Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman

During the medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, two African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem. They were also wearing black socks at the time to raise awareness about black poverty. The duo also had other symbols on them protesting the lynchings and murders of black people in America. 

Australian Peter Norman, who had been a staunch critic of the White Australia Policy, also participated in the protest. The three would never participate in the Olympics again and would be ostracised by their countries’ media for years to come. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/22/peter-norman-the-missing-third-man-that-famous-picture/]

Source: The Independent

7. Shabana Azmi

Following the murder of the communist playwright and director Safdar Hashmi, actor Shabana Azmi started protesting against the INC government. Addressing the crowd at the 12th International Film Festival of India in 1989, Azmi said: We filmmakers and film lovers wish to register out protest against the system that, on one hand, claims to promote creativity and on the other connive in the murder of a cultural activist.

8. John Boyega

Following the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, many celebrities stage rose in support of protests against police brutality. One of these celebrities was Star Wars actor John Boyega. Boyega, who was once advertised as a key selling point in the Star Wars franchise, had been gradually losing screen time as the series progressed. Many believed internalised racism was a cause of it. The actor was on the streets on the day of the protests and addressed the crowd: We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting…We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland. We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin. We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence… I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.

Source: John Boyega

9. Aretha Franklin

Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul. In fact, when she passed away, people referred to her as the best America ever had. However, when she was alive, she was a huge supporter of Angela Davis. Davis was and still is quite vocal about black rights, human rights, which at that time was frowned upon in the USA. So Franklin’s white audience wasn’t too please about her association with someone like Davis. 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

10. Paul Newman

Newman was a  famous Hollywood actor and director with awards like the Oscars and BAFTAs associated with his name. He was also one of the more consistent activists during the civil rights movement in the USA. He even marched with Martin Luther King in 1963, along with his colleagues that involved celebrities of the stature of Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan. 

Source: Medium

https://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/celebrities-who-risked-their-careers-for-human-rights/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: