We've already seen how many famous people have showed their support for #Ferguson on Twitter, with many jumping in to join the conversation, offer blanket support, or retweet thoughts from lesser-known activists on the ground.
Yet, for people of a certain level of wealth and recognition, a passing tweet does not seem like enough. Don't mistake this sentiment for some sort of shaming aimed at black celebrities, because that's not my intention. If an actor, singer, dancer, rapper, band-member, Vine celeb, YouTube star, or generally recognizable person wants to use their fame for their own ends, that's a valid choice. But those with access to the public eye are able to choose to occasionally use that power for good (you can insert your own version of the Spider-Man responsibility quote here) and the celebrities who have put themselves in harm's way to cheer up, organize, or otherwise stand with the people of Ferguson should be commended.
Here are a few who've made the trip to Missouri, and what they've done while there.
Last week, Nelly was under a lot of scrutiny for his perceived lack of support for his hometown. Since then, the 39-year-old rapper has shown that he's proud to come from St. Louis by organizing rallies in L.A. and actually getting on a plane to Ferguson. Now that he's in town, Nelly has been under even more scrutiny for his rally-chant "calling for a plan," especially in this particularly snarky Washington Post article. The piece compares Nelly to Jesse Williams, whose CNN address was "like Harry Belafonte" in eloquence. I agree that William's address was inspiring, but I'm not sure why that needs to be compared with Air Force Ones-on-the-ground activism.
Perhaps we should all be encouraging both the Nelly approach and the Williams discourse, as proof that both peaceful activism and intellectual discussion have a place in major national crises. As an added show of support, Nelly has also created a scholarship fund in Michael Brown's honor, showing that what he lacks in loquaciousness, he makes up for with hard-earned dollars.
When he did speak out about his motivation for entering the town so early, Cole said he was there because "It matters. [The shooting] could have been you, it could have been me, it could have been anybody." He also encouraged other artists to join him.
Although Kweli hails from Brooklyn, he hasn't hesitated to stand with communities all over the country faced with racial oppression. He has also been critical of his own art in the past, through lengthy discussions on Twitter, like this one with Lupe Fiasco about negative lyrics. The 38-year-old hip hop star hinted his trip to Ferguson on Twitter Saturday, saying "I need to put my money where my tweets are," then confirmed his arrival on Tuesday. After arriving in Ferguson, he was reportedly a part of a group that was chased by police with drawn firearms.
These four activist-celebs have upped the ante. Now the bar for laudable celebrity involvement has been set at physical appearances in Ferguson, and that's a great thing.