BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has challenged the entertainment industry on denigrating lyrics, on Monday supported a state senator's idea to pull public investments from companies that won't clean up their act.
Holding the entertainment industry accountable will be a primary goal of the newest chapter of Sharpton's National Action Network, said the activist minister, who announced the formation of the Buffalo-Niagara branch while in town to address a convention of black criminal justice professionals.
Roughly $3 billion from New York's state pension fund is invested in the entertainment industry, according to state Sen. Antoine Thompson, who requested an inventory of entertainment industry investments from the state comptroller earlier this year.
Thompson suggested leveraging the investments to open dialogue with industry executives.
"We just want to have more responsible entertainment where we're not using language that's offensive to anybody," the Buffalo Democrat said.
"The idea of divesting New York State taxpayers' money from record companies that have a double standard when it comes to language is something that will be a priority," said Sharpton, who led the drive to have Don Imus fired from his syndicated radio show for calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."
In April, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said the recording and broadcast industries should consistently ban three racial and sexist epithets from all so-called clean versions of rap songs and the airwaves. Expressing concern about the "growing public outrage" over the use of such words in rap lyrics, Simmons said the words "bitch," "ho" and "nigger" should be considered "extreme curse words."
Sharpton said the Buffalo chapter of NAN also would consider town hall forums and other venues to steer young blacks toward positive goals, especially now that the city has elected its first black mayor and has a black schools superintendent and police commissioner.
"I remember many years ago when I would come to Buffalo, we dreamed of days of black empowerment," Sharpton said. "Now we have to make sure the conduct of our black citizens complements that achievement. We cannot undermine them with the conduct of killing each other, selling drugs to each other and really celebrating a culture of depravity and decadence."
The Buffalo-Niagara Falls chapter is the 36th branch of NAN, which Sharpton founded to protect civil rights for minorities.