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Janelle Monae On How Therapy & Love Helped Her Resolve Anger Issues

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Since her debut in 2007, Janelle Monae has made it her mission to be a voice for the voiceless in the most unapologetic way. Her latest project, Dirty Computer, was a three-part project that offered her audience a breath of fresh air from her mysteriously elusive character that she so adamantly maintained in the past. Her latest work gave us a glimpse into her brilliantly masterminded vision of the future, which is of course doused in afro-futurism and flooded in vaginas.

Janelle Monae is black, queer, and here to stay.

The 32-year-old icon recently opened up about her fight against fear and her social obligation as a black woman with a platform in Trump's America. She told Allure that she made the decision to drop her mask and offer in her audience full transparency not for her own freedom, but for the freedom of the voiceless. She said:

"It's about all of us, all the people that at least I feel a responsibility to. I had to pick who I was comfortable pissing off and who I wanted to celebrate."

She said that the album was a direct response to our current leadership and the changes that we've seen under Trump's administration. Initially, Janelle had trouble channeling her emotions because the only thing she could really feel was anger.

"I will say that after this election, I dealt with a lot of anger. I dealt with a lot of frustrations, like many of us, when it came to the nonleader of the free world and that particular regime."

This anger manifested into feelings of animosity and fury because Janelle, like the rest of the black girl sorcery coalition, was tired of living in a society that subscribes to the idea that women are inferior.

Amanda Edwards/WireImage

"I felt it was a direct attack on us, on black women, on women, on women's rights, on the LGBTQIA community, on poor folks. I felt like it was a direct attack saying, 'You're not important. You're not valuable and we're going to make laws and regulations that make it official and make it legal for us to devalue you and treat you like second-class citizens or worse.' I got to the point where I stopped recording because I was just like, 'I'm going to make an angry album.'"

Her anger comes from a place of hurt, a narrative that is familiar among black American women. We live in a society that expects us to master each facet our identity with grace, and our strength is usually measured by how much abuse we can endure without breaking. Monae says that her celebrity does not exclude her from the injustices and crimes that black women face against our humanity every day.

"This is real-life shit that I'm having to deal with. You strip away the makeup, the costumes, and everything you know about Janelle Monáe the artist, and I'm still the African-American, queer woman who grew up with poor, working-class parents. When I walk off a stage, I have to deal with these confrontations. I have to deal with being afraid for my family."

Upon exploring her feelings with a therapist and having a heart-to-heart with Stevie Wonder, she found that the only way to win a war with hate, is to use love as your ammunition. She practiced this theology, and channeled it into her art.

"I was challenged. It's easy for me to just stay angry, but it's harder for me to choose love."

She realized then that her fight was not with government officials, but with fear.

She mastered her challenge in three parts, each detailing the phases from which she evolved to become the afro-futuristic badass that she is today. The three movements compose an "emotion picture" that realistically portray the hopes and fears of the American people today.

Although she understands that she doesn't have the capacity to speak for every member of the black or LGBTQ community, she will fight for the opportunity to support them no matter the cost.

"There's lots of fears that I have about just living openly and freely and criticizing those who are in the position of power. You just never know. You never know what could happen when you are outspoken. It's a risk. It's a risk that I've prayed on and I'm willing to take."

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Her consistent advocacy for women is proof that none of us are free until we all are. It's celebrities like Janelle Monae who use their platform to speak about real issues affecting black women that have the power to change the culture, and she isn't done yet.

Janelle made it clear that as long as women of color are under oppression, she will be on the front lines fighting with a powerful weapon in her holster.

"I'm not running to Canada. I'm not leaving. I'm standing here, and I am gonna fight for love."

To read the full interview, click here.

Featured image by Amanda Edwards/WireImage

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
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