Singer Janelle Monáe Gets Down With Black Lives Matter in Philly Protest

The soul artist thinks there are more pressing issues than tabloid chatter about her signature suits or love life.
(Photo: Janelle Monáe/Facebook)
Aug 13, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Accompanied by a slow clap, sparse snare hits, and a megaphone, singer Janelle Monáe broke into the chorus of her tune "Hell You Talmbout" to recite the names of black men and women who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

“Freddie Gray! Say his name!” Monáe and her crew shouted along with a crowd of about 150 protesters who marched on Philadelphia's sunny streets Wednesday afternoon.

The list of names was extensive, including recent tragedies like Sandra Bland and Walter Scott along with events beyond the past year, including the deaths of Aiyana Jones, a seven-year-old who was shot by SWAT members during a raid in 2010, and Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006 during an undercover investigation at a nightclub.

Along with rapper Jidenna, who was at Monáe's side, demonstrators in the Black Joy March carried signs reading “Black Girl Magic,” “Black Love,” and “Black Futures Matter” while chanting the names of lives lost.

“We wanted to make sure that the world knew that black joy is still important and it’s relevant,” Melanie McCoy, one of the organizers, told NBC. “Just as important as black rage is, black joy is equally as important. We feel like we can use both.”

(Photo: Twitter)

Monáe—who has long been a vocal equal rights advocate—joins artists such as Prince, Run the Jewels, and Alicia Keys in using her platform as an artist to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Monáe’s protest isn't over. She re-created the song for her concert audience later that night, noting that these deaths are pressing issues that need to be addressed.

“People are gossiping about what I got on or who's dating who. We need to turn that conversation around about who's being killed,” Monáe said to her fans. “We want y’all to say their names, as we say their names. We want y’all to never forget.”

Janelle Monáe and Jidenna join protest (Photo: Instagram)
(Photo: Jidenna/Instagram)