New York City may commemorate Jay-Z Day soon – Here are four ways he’s given back to the city

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 9, 2024 2:55 PM EDT
Black billionaires
Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. Photo credit: Leon Bennett

Rapper and businessman Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is being considered for his own commemorative day in New York City. A new bill presented to the New York City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations proposes that his birthday, December 4, should be recognized as “Jay-Z Day” in the Big Apple.

The proposal says the day should be celebrated to honor Jay-Z’s “legendary status as a masterful MC and lyricist and as an innovative entrepreneur.”

In 2019, New York born-and-bred Jay-Z became the first rapper to be crowned a billionaire. As part of his business dealings, the 24-time Grammy Award-winning rapper sold his majority stake in music streaming company Tidal to former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for $302 million. He also sold half of his Armand de Brignac champagne brand to LVMH for approximately $640 million.

Carter has insisted that “the greatest form of giving is anonymous to anonymous” but he is known to have invested into a number of projects aimed at giving better opportunities to underprivileged New Yorkers. He has often held up as a good example of a celebrity giving back. through creating employment opportunities to awarding lucrative scholarships.

Here are four ways Jay-Z has given back to the city.

1. Jay-Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation
Alongside his mother Gloria Carter, Jay-Z founded The Shawn Carter Foundation in 2003. The foundation has since provided nearly $4 million in scholarship funds, tours to HBCUs, counseling programs, and study abroad opportunities to youth from underserved communities. Last year, The Shawn Carter Foundation raised $20 million to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships pursue postsecondary education. The foundation donated $1 million in aid relief during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.

2. Art-vism
Beyond his socially conscious music, Jay-Z is known to merge art and activism. In 2016, he released “The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail,” an animated documentary in which he describes the racist patterns of the criminal justice system. Jay-Z also produced a miniseries on Kalief Browder, who was arrested at 16 on a false accusation and forced to spend more than 1,000 days in New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison. He also executively produced Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story which focuses on the killing of Trayvon Martin that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement.

3. The Book of HOV
In a record-breaking collaboration with Roc Nation, the Brooklyn Public Library exhibited the “Book of HOV” in 2023. The exhibit brought in over 600,000 visitors during the five-month display period. The record attendance numbers brought about a 74% increase in attendance. The Book of HOV features a fresh take on Jay-Z’s story with an artistic display of some of his most iconic lyrics, a replica of his first recording studios and never-before-seen photos.

4. Roc Nation
Jay-Z founded his own entertainment company Roc Nation in 2008. Although the company has offices in Los Angeles and London, it is headquartered in Manhattan in New York City. Roc Nation has grown into a $22 million revenue multi-disciplinary enterprise with endeavors in music, television and film, fashion and educational and philanthropic initiatives.
The company has partnered with the NFL to support social justice efforts through the Inspire Change initiative. It started the Roc Nation School for Music, Sports, and Entertainment in partnership with Long Island University in Brooklyn and The Bitcoin Academy, a financial literacy program targeting residents of the Marcy Houses public housing projects where Jay-Z grew up. Its annual UJC Summit brings over 5,000 attendees from across the country to New York City’s Javits Center to lead social change.