Jay Z has broken his silence over pressure to shutter his forthcoming holiday collection for Barneys New York, and the hip-hop mogul says he’s being unfairly “demonized” for not responding to protests.
After two high-profile incidents of young shoppers -- both of whom were black -- being questioned after purchases from Barneys, an online protest emerged calling on the multi-platinum star to withdraw his support from the luxury retailer.
Change.org, a site that has previously taken rappers like Rocko, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne to task over controversial lyrics, launched the petition last week and have already garnered more than 16,300 signatures.
Jay Z made his first statement on the flap by issuing a statement on his website on Saturday.
"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion," the statement said. "I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?" he said, referring to the fury of headlines directed his way (the New York Daily News put him on a recent cover with "Zero Respect" in massive letters).
The line of limited-edition apparel and accessories, called "BNY SCC Gallery" (standing for Barney New York Shawn Corey Carter), debuts Nov. 20 and serves as the theme for this year’s holiday collection. Last year’s theme was Disney, and before that Lady Gaga. Jay Z is working with the store to create its holiday window display.
A portion of proceeds from sales will go to his foundation, and reminded detractors that he stands to make no profit from the deal.
“This collaboration lives in a place of giving and is about the Foundation. I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported. I need to make that fact crystal clear. The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys,” he wrote. “This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity… not profit.”
Trayon Christian, 19, said after purchasing a $349 belt from the store, police waiting outside handcuffed him and questioned the validity of his credit card. Another shopper, Kayla Phillips, has filed a $5-million notice of claim informing the city of her plans to sue the New York Police Department after a similar incident when she purchased a $2,500 handbag.
Mark Lee, the CEO of Barneys, said he agreed to meet with New York civil rights leaders and would launch an internal investigation led by longtime civil rights advocate Michael Yaki.
"Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies," it said on its Facebook page. "To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality."
Barneys isn’t the only New York retailer embroiled in controversy over racial profiling. Rob Brown, star of the HBO show “Treme,” said he was “paraded” through Macy’s Herald Square in handcuffs and detained for an hour after being accused of using a fake card to buy his mother a $1,350 watch. He is filing suit against the retailer and the NYPD.