In Defense of Chrisette Michele (And Anyone Who Has The ‘Audacity’ To Be Free)

Defending Chrisette Michele, Though No Defense Should Be Necessary (Editorial)

Chrisette Michele has done nothing but uplift and support the Black community, while striving for the acceptance of Black people for over ten years in music.  CHRISETTE MICHELE?! So there’s no reason I should be defending Chrisette Michele, but just one look at social media and clearly the songstress needs some support in what are clearly going to be some dark times for African-Americans for at least the next four years.

By now, you know Chrisette has confirmed that she will be performing at the Donald Trump inauguration, an opportunity that any artist would be honored to take part in—for any other President not named Donald Trump apparently.  However, since Donald Trump is the upcoming 45th President of the United States, everything surrounding the man must give us pause and it requires extra reflection. Understandably so.

Let’s be clear, Donald J. Trump is a piece of work.  His ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign is scary to say the least.  His history of racism, both overt and hidden is  despicable.  The things he said on the campaign trial and leading up to his election were completely absurd.  Yet, he is still going to be the 45th President of the United States.  He will be America’s face for years to come, whether we as minorities acknowledge his presence or not.  The sad reality is that neither protesting his election nor protesting his inauguration will do anything to change the results of the 2016 election and the outcome.  We can’t impeach the President because he has a low approval rating, we learned that with George W. Bush didn’t we?  We’re here now and in a matter of hours, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our American President.

That brings me back to defending Chrisette Michele.  News of her performing at the Trump inauguration broke from a post from the NY Daily News, with a headline ‘Chrisette Michele Set To Join Trump’s D-list Inauguration Line-Up‘.  An avid reader of the Daily News, I saw the alert first thing this morning, but decided it wasn’t a story I wanted to touch.  The way The News reported that Chrisette was hiding the performance seemed shady to me.  The story was written to prompt readers to give Chrisette the same type of backlash Jennifer Holiday received, but it gave a pass to the other performers like Toby Keith already confirmed to perform.  Was she being treated differently because she was a woman? A Black woman.  If say Miguel, or even Tyrese had agreed to perform would he get the same type of reporting???

Shortly after the story went live the backlash started.  Questlove of The Roots crew helped lead things off to much applause of the social media world:

It wouldn’t be long before people were calling Chrisette Michele all kinds of names, making all kinds of threats and completely trashing and dragging the singer. While Essence has been the only magazine to confirm the performance, many other magazines and blogs have rushed to judgement, helping lead to some of the worst treatment of an R&B singer—who had done nothing to warrant the treatment, at least not yet—that I have ever seen.

So now Chrisette Michele is cancelled???

I ask again, Chrisette Michele???

The same Chrisette Michele that has songs with The Roots?! Questlove knows.

The same Chrisette Michele that has an album called Let Freedom Reign?? An album she put out in 2010 shortly after Obama came into office, when Blacks were going through it at an extreme time and politically and socially things were in a bad place, leading up the the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.  An album where Roots front man Black Thought features on the title track with Talib Kweli.  I checked their twitter feeds, they aren’t defending Chrisette Michele.  In fact:

The same Chrisette Michele who just last year had a song on her mixtape and then on her album called “Black Girl Magic”??  A song saluting Black women and their efforts. A song symbolizing the grace, beauty and fortitude she has shown in a male dominated music industry since she entered the business.

The same Chrisette Michele who recently said she was “traumatized” by the Donald Trump election!?!  An artist who has performed for President Obama at his request!

I can go on and one.  But, in my book defending Chrisette Michelle is just the beginning.  The reaction to the Chrisette Michelle news is the same crabs in a bucket mentality that has kept us down as a people for generations.  It’s the same reason Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X had public spats and constantly bumped heads.  (Not saying this to compare Chrisette to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) The callous rush to judgment has done nothing to stop the impending Donald Trump election.  It’s doing nothing to derail his policies.  And it’s not going to stop his Supreme Court nomination.

According to reports Chrisette Michele agreed to do the inauguration under the condition that she be allowed to do an R&B set.  I’m of the belief that the decision was purposeful.  Music is supposed to heal, soul music is supposed to help make the best of the worst situations.  Chrisette Michele is an entertainer first, but she hasn’t let us down yet! Chrisette Michele’s set may be the first real moment where a Black voice brings the protest to a national audience.  Imagine Chrisette Michele live in front of a room full of Trump supporters doing a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ or any song she sees fit.  I’m not saying I have any information about her set, but let’s give the woman the benefit of the doubt before we attack her!

Remember when the Dixie Chicks stood on stage in protest of Bush and the war?  They were all the way in London and while it made headline news, just imagine the impact even a tempered Chrisette Michele act of protest can have, an act through her gift of song.

After calling her all kinds of a “coon” and a number of words I’ve read tonight that I don’t even want to share, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chrisette sat this out.  But I hope that she doesn’t.  While there are very little people defending Chrisette Michele today, I stand by her.  Undoubtedly knowing that I’ll be facing some backlash as well, by many who won’t even take the time to finish reading this.

Tonight, I revisited Chrisette’s Let Freedom Reign album.  While the album was soaked in heartbreak and love lost among other things, there was a message there that transcended music and love.  The CD booklet held a story, some of which I will share below.  On days like this I hope Chrisette Michelle remembers the words she wrote:

“IF NOBODY SANG ALONG would I still want to sing my song?  Do I only choose popular subjects so that I can be accepted and loved?  Freedom is the courage to be honest even if it’s not popular.  Not disrespectful, not haughty, but humble and honest.  With integrity, poise, as much peace as possible, wisdom and above all, love.”

Sleep well Queen.  “Freedom is risky but loving.”


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Kevin Benoit

Kevin Benoit is the editor of Parlé Magazine. He founded the magazine while in college and continues to run it today. Follow him on IG: @parlewithme Read more articles by Kevin.

Kevin Benoit has 1788 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin Benoit

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