Jamie Foxx: Actor, Humanitarian

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“I’ll never forget seeing the difference between Black generations in the grandmother speaking and the young girl speaking. The grandmother was in a wheelchair, and when I walked over and asked, “How’re you doing?� She said, “Well, you know God told us to wade in the water. Jesus is good. We’re strong and we will survive. I know that this is just a test for us.� And then, immediately, the daughter goes, “Tell him how they did us. Tell him how they changed the Superdome to the Niggerdome…�

After playing a patriotic Navy pilot taking on terrorists in Stealth, Jamie Foxx’s next outing, Jarhead, has this year’s Oscar-winner (for Ray) back as an enlisted man in another military-oriented adventure. This time out he plays a Sergeant in charge of a squad of Marines sent to the blistering desert during the 1991 Gulf War in the Middle East. Here Jamie, a Texas native, talks about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some of which he witnessed firsthand.

BSN: Why did you agree to be the spokesperson for the NAACP’s disaster relief fund for Hurricane Katrina?
JF: Actually, what we’re trying to do is get the NAACP to reach out to young Black folk, because most of us don’t even know what NAACP means to the average the average 15, 16, or 17 year-old. So, it was a great opportunity to kind of bridge that gap. And it was all for a good cause.

BSN: What was your role as spokesperson? Was it essentially promotional and for fundraising or did you get a chance to visit the region and meet with some of the victims?
JF: We went down to Houston, and we went down to Dallas to see for ourselves, how devastating it was for those people. Coming from Texas, it was also fun to go back to my roots and to be able to hang out with some of the preachers who were involved. It was an incredible experience.

BSN: People must’ve been surprised to see you show up?
JF: It was amazing when you walk in there and the faces light up. And by having the NAACP there, it gives us a chance to restart that. We need somebody young. We need someone that can inject some energy into the cause.

BSN: What was the situation like for the survivors?
JF: It was so sad, you feel overwhelmed by it. There were some bright stories. I’ll never forget seeing the difference between Black generations in the grandmother speaking and the young girl speaking. The grandmother was in a wheelchair, and when I walked over and asked, “How’re you doing?� She said, “Well, you know God told us to wade in the water. Jesus is good. We’re strong and we will survive. I know that this is just a test for us.� And then, immediately, the daughter goes, “Tell him how they did us. Tell him how they changed the Superdome to the Niggerdome. Tell him how they held guns on us and forced us on buses. Tell him about the woman who asked for help to bury her husband who was told, ‘Just throw his nigger ass in the water. That’s all we’re
going to do with him anyway.’ So, that was interesting to see.�

BSN: How were you able to help them?
JF: By being in the NAACP, I sat with those folks and said, “This is what we’re trying to do. I’m trying to make sure that they don’t forget about you down here, because what’s going to happen is eventually the story is not going to be hot anymore, and it’s going to be running down at the bottom of the ticker-tape. But the great thing, when we were down there, it was everybody helping. You’d look up and see white folks from Texas, Black from North Carolina, I mean people from all over really helping. A lot of stories that didn’t get shown.

BSN: Your acceptance speeches earlier this year at The Oscar, The Golden Globes and elsewhere were very inspiring in terms of your personal triumphs and your grandmother who raised you. Given that you’ve made a couple of military movies this year, will you comment on the war, if you win again for one of these?
JF: Dick Gregory told me this, “Whenever you get the chance to speak to the multitudes, make it count.“ And that’s what you do, if it comes up. What I think is great about this movie coming out at this time is it keeps it in the air. It keeps people talking about it. It’s like, now, when you go out and you meet these guys, hanging out on the aircraft carrier, or you go perform for them, it’ll at least open up the dialogue some more as far as whatever the hottest thing in the media is concerned. I mean, what is our end game? It looks bad. It looks like it’s going to be like this for a long time, like it’s just going to be part of our culture. Kids that are coming up, and their kids, are going to be dealing with this war for a number of years. I still sit there and wonder, sometimes, like, how can we even have war in these times? It seems so primitive. You always question how does war happen.

BSN: What did you think of Kanye West’s complaining about the lack of response to Katrina and his saying George Bush doesn’t care about Black people?
JF: It’s easy to focus all the attention on Kanye. “How dare this rapper do this!� A lot of people went nuts over what he said, but the guy was absolutely frightened out of his mind, when he said it. He’s a hero in the Black community, because somebody needed to say something. And if you listen to his CDs, he’s always been that way. But this was his chance to speak to the multitudes, and I think he did a great job. It raised questions, since not one person out of George Bush’s White House went, “Hey, I think we need to get down there, things are going crazy!� So, I’m not going to sell Kanye down the river just because a lot of people think what he said wasn’t cool.

BSN: Do you think his remarks might have gone too far?
JF: That’s my friend. Whatever he said, I stand by him. He made a good point. Think about what the Presidency used to stand for. When we were coming up as kids, it looked like the most heralded job, and you had to be the smartest, and like a father, where the United States is your family. Now, it’s almost a joke.
If I was president, and my family was going through a crisis, I would have to go down there and check on my family.

BSN: What’s on the horizon for you?
JF: I’m working with Michael Mann [director of Collateral] again on Miami Vice, and I have a CD called Unpredictable with a guest list which includes Kanye, Snoop, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige, Buster, it’s incredible. The first single is already out now, Unpredictable. Somebody leaked it, so we’re scrambling to get the video done. And December 23rd, Christmas Party at my house.

BSN: What time should I arrive?
JF: Any time, brother, the door is open.

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