Grammy Award-winning artist Chrisette Michele accepted the invitation of President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee to perform at an inaugural ball on Jan. 20 so long as she could sing an R&B set.
The committee wanted Michele to do a performance of the song “Intentional” with singers Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds and Tye Tribbett. It would be a repeat performance of BET’s “Celebration of Gospel” broadcast one year ago.
When the news started circulating that Michele, 34, would take the stage, she received massive backlash on social media from the Black community, including expressions of disappointed by her fans.
Questlove, NBC’s “The Tonight Show” bandleader, tweeted:
I'd pay Chrisette to NOT perform 😔— Dr. Love (@questlove) January 18, 2017
Director Spike Lee took to Instagram to inform Michele that he would not be using one of her songs, “Black Girl Magic,” in his new Netflix series called “She’s Gotta Have it.”
The day before her performance Michele tweeted an open letter in response to the backlash, in which she said she was willing to “be a bridge” and a “voice for the voiceless.”
“I am here, representing you, because this is what matters,” she wrote.
She performed a gospel song with Greene, not an R&B song, at the ball. In an interview in the days following her performance, Michele said that she didn’t even get to meet Trump.
“Originally I was supposed to perform directly after his first speech, and I had done that with Barack Obama before, so I was used to that kind of experience,” she told Billboard.
“And the woman who organized the event came and told me, ‘Now you’re going to go first and he’s going to go after you.’ I looked her in the eye and said, ‘My family has disowned me.
‘If you decide to Google me, you’ll see that America is writing about me in their newspapers. I’m the Black poster child for discord right now, and he’s not going to shake my hand?’
“So no, I didn’t get to meet him.”
But, Michele was paid to perform.
“It wasn’t $750,000, but my manager did negotiate my contract,” she said.
Michele was one of the highest-paid acts at $250,000, according to the Daily Mail.
In an interview on CNN Thursday she discussed why she performed.
“We have to be seen, somebody’s got to see us,” said Michele. “The Democrats aren’t even coming, I’ve got to be one, and I’ve got to be there.”
She continued, “This is what we look like. I want [Trump] to know what we have to say, what we think.”
Michele’s friend, Grammy awarding-artist India.Irie, has come to her defense, even though she said she wouldn’t have performed if asked.
Singer and Broadway actress Jennifer Holiday was asked to perform. She initially agreed but, facing backlash, she ultimately changed her mind citing “a lapse of judgment.”
Holiday said last week in an interview on ABC’s “The View” reading a Daily Beast article that questioned her previously stated commitment to the LBGTQ community ultimately influenced her decision to withdraw.
“The gay community since ‘Dreamgirls,’ for 35 years, has been faithfully there for me,” Holiday said.
“The article in The Daily Beast, they threw my own words back to me — and I’m not a liar or a hypocrite. The gay community… through The Daily Beast was able to say ‘it’s not just we want to be married; there are other things going on that you’re not aware of.’”
Sam Moore, an African-American singer and musician known for the famous track “Soul Man,” said in interviews that he called and offered his services to the Trump team when Holiday backed out.
The president of Talladega College, Alabama’s oldest private, historically Black liberal arts college, has accepted the invitation.
Many Talladega College students and alumni were against the school’s participation in the inauguration parade. The president of Tallageda, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, accepted the invitation, and the band did march.
President Trump and the Black Community
Trump’s checkered history in relation to the Black community dates back to 1973 when the Department of Justice sued Trump; his father, Fred; and Trump Management for alleged racial discrimination at Trump housing developments in New York.
The company would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African Americans. The DOJ pursued a settlement in which Trump and his father would promise not to discriminate. Two years later, the case was settled.
The current rift stems from Trump’s birther movement against former President Barack Obama; slowness to disavow the endorsement of David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan; his reluctance on the campaign trail to condemn the behavior of racist supporters; his disparaging comment about Black communities; and disrespect of civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis, to name a few.
Calls Rep. John Lewis “All talk … no action” despite Lewis’ brutal 1965 beating by police in Selma, Ala., while seeking voting rights.
According to Pew Research Center, only 8 percent of Blacks voted for Trump in the presidential election.
Blacks are also concerned about the how the current administration will address civil rights issues. The Justice Department announced on Friday it would delay two civil rights cases: an overhaul of the Baltimore Police Department and a challenge of a voter ID law in Texas. Both cases were major efforts of the Justice Department under the Obama administration.
“We are deeply concerned that this Justice Department is preparing to abandon its commitment to enforcement of our nation’s civil rights laws,” Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said last week.