I want to start off this letter by letting you know that your voice is magic. When I heard you on “Lost One” and “Can’t Forget About You,” I had huge faith in your abilities. Ten-plus years later, you’re still here, and I’m happy you are, especially after all of the changes, challenges and triumphs that you’ve gone through.
I’m sure you know that I’m writing this letter to share my thoughts about your decision to sing for Trump’s inauguration festivities. I’m not here to rudely shame you for your decision to perform and for your performance. I’m here to ask you, with so much love and respect, to think harder and more strategic about your goals in bringing unity to our divided nation and home.
Even though you performed at the inauguration’s festivities as someone who didn’t support him, you choosing to perform made it look like you did. And even though your goal was to “be a bridge” as you said in your open letter, I don’t believe that was the best way to do it. We’ve had black creatives perform at festivities for presidents in hopes of bridging the gap, but they haven’t been successful. Why is that? I believe it’s because, in these types of situations, attempting to bridge the gap for institutional problems like the ones we’re faced with as people of color in this country won’t be solved with one single action. This definitely won’t occur in a country that has elected a man who used those problems in his campaign to encourage negativity and wants to cut a federal arts office.
I’m no political genius either, but it’ll take time and a lot of work in multiple avenues with multiple resources to see something occur. The eras of Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, which were the closest things to us seeing some relief in the gap that we didn’t create, had multiple players and viewpoints that made the gains possible. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who you referenced in your open letter and in your spoken word piece, had a group of people with diverse talents and viewpoints around him that attacked the issues using multiple tactics that made the dream become a glimpse of reality.
Also, Chrisette, many people believe you performed for the money. That’s truly none of my business, even though your hopes to “be a bridge” would have echoed higher if you hadn’t taken it. But, a lot of those people feel skeptical of you for reasons outside of your performance. One of those reasons is that despite #BlackLivesMatter being a source of pride and a platform for black inclusion into spaces where we aren’t appreciated, you used your voice to say #AllLivesMatter, which has been used as a way to shut down black people’s logical concerns that claim the former. I’ve also read that you believe that marches and boycotts aren’t necessary in addressing police brutality awareness. That’s unfortunate because our collective wealth is a strong weapon and marches have been a way for our folks to vocalize their frustration, which were tactics by MLK, a man you continue to reference in your justification in your most recent action.
I appreciate your hopes and goals in being that bridge that I’m sure the Creator wants for all of us to work towards. But, your approach, especially as a creative who has access to some of the resources to do more, has to be more refined. Conversations can’t happen only once and they can’t be the only approach. Your vocals and the words that you sing, no matter how beautiful they are, are only the bare minimum in this situation. I hope that if this is truly your intention that you tap into your inner Nina Simone much more as these four years go on. I hope that we do unite as a community and country to bring change in a positive direction, but that we don’t shun each other while doing it. I hope that we can shame the negative energies that float around us and embrace the light that we’re destined to have.
Despite our differences in opinions, I love you and your voice, and I pray that the Creator keeps us strong and makes us victorious in this fight.
Love & light,