An Open Letter to Chrisette Michele

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 25:  Singer Chrisette Michele poses backstage at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill  on March 25, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

An Open Letter to Chrisette Michele

Sis...

Published January 19, 2017

Dear Chrisette,

So, I’m guessing you haven’t noticed what a bootleg roundup Donald Trump has. You could fill a stadium with all the entertainers who turned him down. If for no other reason, I would imagine you’d have more respect for your career than to perform for his inauguration when so many of your contemporaries have steered so far away — including musicians you’ve worked closely with!

Why would you want to align yourself with an event that couldn’t even book a Bruce Springsteen cover band? Are you that hard up for a gig? I can’t imagine it will be worth the backlash from your core fans. At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen the response to the news. It’s not pretty. I think they call it “being dragged” over on Black Twitter.

Most of Trump’s supporters don’t know who you are. And that R&B set you’ve reportedly been asked to perform is going to be a snack break. Not a good chance you’ll bring in many new fans — and you’re going to lose many of the faithful ones you have.

Traditionally, entertainers are not paid to perform at inauguration events. So what is this about? Exposure? Are you honored to be asked? Even if you were asked after a 2016 singing contest finalist?

Money is the only reason why I could see you doing this. So if nothing else, I should hope this comes with decent-sized check. Actually, that’s still icky. If you know who this man is and you take his money, I don’t understand your choices.

Also, I read your open letter. It was problematic on many levels. But the saddest part was the very end, when you hashtagged "#nopoliticalgenius."

Clearly you’re not a political genius. Is that why you’re performing for Trump? Because you don’t know any better? That’s a lame cop-out and you know better. Have you taken a look at the people Trump has nominated for top cabinet positions? Google for just a few minutes and you’ll understand why this whole performance is a slap in the face to many. How many people has he nominated that look like you or your family or speak to the issues that align with your own? You’re 34 years old and you're admitting that you’re no political genius? This is not OK. You don’t need to be a genius. But you do need to be informed. Read a newspaper.

Chrisette, are you familiar with John Lewis? He’s a longtime politician and activist whose history goes back to marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Lewis was beat down by police while fighting for the rights of people of color. He’s a man who has the respect of many in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats. He recently gave an interview criticizing Trump and the legitimacy of his presidency. As usual, Trump jumped on Twitter to defend himself by denigrating Lewis. That is what Trump thinks of the people who have fought for your freedoms.

Sometimes, I get caught up in micro reasons why I don’t support Trump and refuse to normalize his presidency. His tweets. His speeches. Even his cabinet picks. It’s all troubling. But when I want to remind myself of who he really is, there is one story I can never forget or normalize. Here it is:

In May 1989, when you were just six years old, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in four New York newspapers, urging the state to bring back the death penalty so that five teenagers convicted of rape — who were all of color, by the way — could be killed. The advertisement, filled with racially charged language, ended with the words: Bring Back The Death Penalty. And Bring Back Our Police!

All five of the young men, later dubbed The Central Park Five, were exonerated because of DNA evidence. But the president-elect you’ve agreed to perform for hasn’t backed down. As recently as October of last year, he still insisted that they were guilty.

Trump shows me who he is over and over again. I only wish you could somehow see it too.

Written by Aliya S. King

(Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

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