With celebrity philanthropy under a microscope, some stars are finally paying up
In the week since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, donations have poured into bail funds, Black Lives Matter, and other mutual aid relief organizations. As protests sprouted accross the country every day thereafter, the deepened need for financial support in anti-racist movements became an imperative. Many called on influential public figures to chip in. And after several initial missteps, they have begun to open up their wallets in record numbers.
Virgil Abloh, the prominent designer and men’s wear artistic director of Louis Vuitton, followed criticism of the protests and looting with a meager $50 donation to a Miami fund for protester’s legal expenses. Many on Twitter were quick to point out that it pales in comparison to the cost of most items on the Off-White webstore. (After someone edited his name on Wikipedia to Virgil “Cheap Ass” Abloh, among other things, he clarified that he’s donated a total of $20,500.) A number of other celebrities, including Seth Rogen, the Safdie brothers, Steve Carrell, and Ben Schwartz matched a fan’s $50 donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. (Rogen claims he added “much more” than the original $50.)
But now the standard’s moved several decimal places over, with some celebrities shelling out six figures for bail funds and other justice organizations. Chrissy Teigen doubled her $100,000 donation to $200,000 after she saw one follower attack the arrested protesters as “rioters and criminals.” Drake, after keeping relatively quiet last week, posted a $100,000 donation to the National Bailout Fund on his Instagram story.
And most notably The Weeknd, who’s been among the year’s best selling artists, shelled out $500,000, split between Black Lives Matter, National Bailout, and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. “Keep supporting our brothers and sisters out there risking everything to push for actual change for our black lives," he wrote on Instagram. "Urging everyone with big pockets to give and give big and if you have less please give what you can even if it's a small amount.”
On Tuesday, he took it a step further and went after the moneyed gatekeepers practicing the Music Industry Blackout — Spotify, Apple Music, and the three major labels — to actually give money back to the black artists they’ve looted for profits. It’s rare to see one of the biggest pop stars working to speak in no uncertain terms about the industry’s oppressive practices.
Mainstreaming of ideas that were previously regarded as radical concerns — abolitionist bail funds and seeing apolitical athletes support Black Lives Matter — proves that this is a different sort of protest movement. Pressure is the first crucial step in getting lawmakers to demilitarize the police, and in getting rich celebrities to put larger shares of their money where it counts.