August 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm EDT | by Staff reports
Russell Simmons: Athletes leading our cultural awakening
Russell Simmons, Def Jam, gay news, Washington Blade

Russell Simmons (Photo by Fadil Berisha)


One of the greatest obstacles standing between us and our ability to evolve is our tendency to behave like sheep. For far too long, many people in our nation have followed the herd of hatred against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I could never understand one person’s desire to keep another person from living a life full of joy and happiness, but for decades I have witnessed this kind of oppression across this country. That is why I am a proud gay rights activist, as I have always believed that the rights I take for granted are worthless unless I fight for those same rights for others.

So I have stood hand-in-hand with the LGBTQ community fighting for equality, freedom and the right for a peaceful existence and although the lights have been out for quite some time, a match has been lit that now burns bright.

One of the proudest days of my life was when marriage equality was passed in New York State. Knowing that we played a small part in creating happiness for thousands of families across my home state was very special. And now to witness state after state after state legalize marriage for any two people who share love in their hearts, regardless of sexual orientation, has been extraordinarily gratifying.


The spiritual awakening that’s going to lead to the change in our nation’s department of compassion and eventual enlightenment can come at any second. And what we have seen over the past few years is that change has come and it has come with new leadership and new allies. Leadership that is young and energetic and allies that have come from an unexpected domain for many of us; the fields of football and the courts of basketball, the stadiums of baseball and the ice rinks of hockey, the stages of rap concerts and the screens of Hollywood — there has been an emergence of athletes and entertainers that have transformed the compassion of our country’s heart to a level we have never seen before.

In my belief, it has been the “main-streaming” of this movement that has led to this recent cultural awakening. When Super Bowl champions like Brendon Ayanbadejo and rap icons like Jay-Z advocate proudly and loudly for gay rights, our country can evolve much quicker. It is no longer just the gay community fighting for themselves, it is a wealth of comrades and allies who march alongside them vigorously defending their constitutional rights.

I am inspired by this new wave of heroes who wave the rainbow flag with pride, knowing that they are creating a more compassionate America that ultimately will directly affect the hearts and minds of millions around the world.  They are now the herders of hope, leading this nation to the top of that mountain Dr. King so eloquently spoke about the night before he passed the torch.

About Russell Simmons:

Forbes Magazine recently named Russell Simmons one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities.” USA Today named Russell Simmons one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” calling him a “hip-hop pioneer” for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, the jewelry industry, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy. From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings in 1984, to his fashion industry changing brands including Phat Farm in 1992, Baby Phat in 2001 and current men’s lifestyle brand Argyleculture, to founding UniRush in 2003 providing instant access to a set of basic financial services for over 48 million Americans who could not previously establish traditional banking relationships, to the 2007 publishing of his New York Times best-seller “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” to founding, the leading online destination for celebrity entertainment, music, culture and politics for the new, post-racial America and his latest New York Times bestseller “SUPER RICH: A Guide To Having It All”, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy. Giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life and as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to give back. A devoted yogi, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, social engagement, and promoting racial harmony and strengthening inter-group relations. Russell is a native New Yorker who attended City College of New York. Russell has two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.

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