V127: The Thought Leaders Issue With Janelle Monáe

The actor and artist on Black Lives Matter, systemic racism, and the killing of Breonna Taylor.

“This country is on life support. The current administration is not even lending an ear to the people: Black people, women, the LGBTQIA+ community…The people I love. I grew up in one of the poorest counties in Kansas City. My grandmother was a sharecropper in Aberdeen, Mississippi, who migrated to Kansas for a better life. She had 12 children and worked as a cook at the county jail for 25 years. This is someone who was alive when women couldn’t vote and lived through the [passage of] the Civil Rights Act. It was deep for her: She lost friends and family members, saw her brothers and sisters killed, for trying to integrate. She encouraged us to vote in their honor.

“As I got older, I understood that [with] local elections the [elected officials] are the ones enabling the president’s decisions. It’s the local elections that give the fuel to the fire. If you’re upset with how the current president is abusing his power, he’s not doing it by himself. [There are] elected officials on the local level who support him. When we’re screaming, ‘Abolish the police,’ it is because we understand that the police were not built to protect and serve us. I didn’t know this, but I do now: The first policing institutions in the South, during the civil war, hunted down runaway slaves and killed them. They killed anybody who was trying to revolt. There is still no justice for Breonna Taylor, or for my cousin, who was murdered by the police.

“The reason why I will be voting is to vote against racist policies that have continued to oppress and traumatize Black people. I have been gerrymandered. Before the election of [Atlanta mayor] Keisha Lance Bottoms, my county was redistricted, meaning her name was not on my ballot. After the election, they went back to the original counties. That happened to me. Then the [gubernatorial] election was stolen from Stacey Abrams. When [Abrams] reached out to me about her documentary, All In, I knew that I had to be a part of it. We’re in the middle of a revolution and what’s a revolution without a song? I will be voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and I’m excited to hold [them] accountable. And when Stacey Abrams does [eventually] run for president, I will be voting for her. She is the real deal.”


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