A decision to perform yesterday, January 20, 2017, at President Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Inauguration doesn’t constitute an endorsement. Although the thought of a Trump presidency is difficult for most on the Left to fathom, and unsettling for some on the Right, accepting an invitation to perform on Inauguration Day has never historically been viewed as a political act—certainly not an overt political act. Those who have had the distinct privilege to present their talent on this day do it not simply for the new president, but also the nation and world. Travis Greene, nominated in 2016 for a Grammy award for the gospel hit single “Intentional,” exhibited his great talent at one of Trump’s inaugural balls. He, lamentably, received crass attacks from many acrimonious black folks for his decision to sing at this event. Given that Greene prefaced his decision by expressing he seriously contemplated how Jesus would respond to this invitation, it’s reasonable to deduce that the artist isn’t a Trump supporter. For Greene, singing at the inaugural ball presents a prodigious opportunity to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Travis Greene, in a joint performance with Chrisette Michele, who was also viciously lambasted for her decision to sing at Trump’s inaugural event, ministered in song with high-energy and brilliance. Regrettably, for Chrisette Michele, Spike Lee upbraided her for choosing to perform at the event: he discontinued considering her music for his upcoming soundtrack to the Netflix television series adaptation of his 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It. Michele revealed how “heartbroken” she is by the numerous harsh, disparaging responses to her decision.
Both Greene and Michele are young national recording artists. Situated in a postmodern, late capitalist society, both artists must constantly seek imaginative ways to market themselves and their music. What better way to market their music and increase their reach than at a presidential inauguration while the world is watching? If most—if not all—of their disingenuous critics would have been in their situations and had an opportunity for a global audience to witness their talent, they wouldn’t have experienced a moment of reticence; they would’ve seized the extraordinary moment, the remarkable opportunity. Greene and Michele did. They deserve laudatory remarks—not childish invective.
For those believing President Trump is an evil man with nefarious intentions for blacks and other minorities, Greene’s desire to inoculate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the inaugural ball would seem to be a ray of hope in a dark place. The Gospel calls all of us to seek peace, justice, and love. Wouldn’t this inaugural event be a fine place to proffer a message of peace, justice, and love? A Christian truly following the example of Christ has no problem meeting with and performing for a president he or she disagrees with on many issues.
These unfounded, precarious, censoriously abusive attacks on Greene and Michele exemplify misplaced anger. If one has a problem with Trump, then let Trump truly be the focus of his or her scorn—not two young black national recording artists elated to have enough talent and acclaim to sing for the president, the nation, and the world. As Bernice King, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., posited at the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, “We still have to find a way to create…the beloved community,” the beloved community her father passionately championed until his odious assassination. Adopting a policy, a strategy of estrangement toward Trump will prove immature and ineffective.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thank you, Ginnie! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Many have not, however, received it well, which, of course, is okay; I just want people to offer balance and sound reasoning when they engage in arguments.
Such sanctimonious bleating: Just as it is their right to shuck and jive for coins, it is the right of others to decry them for it. The anger is well placed, it comes as a reaction to the injustice Trump represents, and the revulsion to those that would lick his boots.
What is even more odious is the fact that they use religion and MLK quotes to shield them from the responsibility of their actions.
In music the artist strives to elicit an emotional response from the audience, and in the case of black music, much of that emotion comes from a place of struggle, not capitulation.
First, I’m not attempting to deprive anyone of his or her rights to critique the decisions of Greene and Michele. I would just like to see more balance and sound reasoning in folks’ criticisms of these two artists. Your assumption that they did it purely for money needs to consider the prestige and global stage that such an event offers them. For them, it has nothing necessarily to do with Trump; it has to do with the power of music to trump whatever negativity, whatever hate there may be. As these young artists are attempting to remain successful in the music industry, they see this as an opportunity to advance their career and communicate a message that trumps hate: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You assume that their employing of spiritual motivations and MLK principles are phony. Now, who is really being sanctimonious? You have not read or heard one time where these artists supported Donald Trump. Why does accepting an invitation to perform at an inaugural event have to mean something as demeaning as shucking and jiving as many blacks where forced to do in the past? Why cannot these artists’ words be valued as they communicate that this was larger, more significant than Trump or the inaugural event itself? Isn’t it positive to use this platform for good? The song performed was a call to serving someone greater than any human being, a call to hope, justice and love. How can that be so problematic, so misguided?
That you are so ignorant to the fact that in their quest to advance their careers they are normalizing the racist aspects of the Trump administration speaks to a greater disconnect you have towards the struggle of the black community, women, and the disenfranchised.
Justifying such hurtful action with the excuse that their ambition is worth the overall disunity and discord it has fostered illustrates a profound callousness that borders on willful cynicism.
The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to avoid and rebuke evil in it’s myriad forms rather than to be used a convenient means to ensure that a slave remains docile while simultaneously enriching ones own self and advancing ones own agenda.
Their so-called message is tainted and distorted by the behavior of the people that have provided them this platform. It invokes a permissiveness, a tolerance of the behavior that was not tolerated by Jesus when he decried the money-lenders in the temple.
You speak of their buck-dancing as a sort of “psalm” that will magically transcends the human-condition, where in fact, the supremacist system they are shilling for has always viewed us and treated as something lessor than human. They support Trump by accepting the thirty pieces of silver. They support Trump with their tap-dancing by legitimatizing his attempted facade of inclusiveness, all the while being propped up by your academic coonery.
In order for there to be the call for “hope justice and love” there must be a mutual and tangible accommodation of equity in terms of our relationship with that oppressive system of supremacy that Trump and the rest of his devils seek to perpetuate. To condescendingly state that anger against their fraternization with such a wretched paradigm is misplaced is offensive in the extreme.
The work that I have done and currently do each day for black people, racial and ethnic minorities, the poor, and marginalized groups is truly distinguished work, so I won’t waste time and space attempting to defend my understanding of “the struggle” and my connection to it. I disagree completely with your response. On this issue, we will continue to disagree, and we will not reach any common ground. I do, however, appreciate your thoughts on this issue.
Although I’m thoroughly disgusted by your apologetics, I wish you all the best in your (tangible) efforts towards the betterment of our people.
Thank you. Blessings to you!
Why not do it at the women’s march, then? These two have just committed career suicide, whether they know it or not. Artists whose pockets could have probably took the hit, and who DO support Trump weren’t fool enough to do this. I don’t know what they were thinking.
Why not do it at both? It’s an honor to perform at an inaugural event. The Office of the President transcends Donald Trump. Performing at this event doesn’t have to have anything to do with Trump. They were thinking that coming from a community that advocates for tolerance and diversity it would honor those phenomena in this situation, too.
She negotiated a bad deal. I would have paid her more (than she received from a well endowed committee) to perform in my back yard. If it’s about the money then she should have negotiated a better deal. If it’s about expanding your audience, does she really think that Trump’s constituency has any interest in her? I’m disappointed that she didn’t think enough of herself to hold out for the big bucks worthy of her talent and of the risks of the move she made.
You assume, however, that it was simply about the money. It is a fact that it’s a distinct honor and matter of prestige to perform at an inaugural event, regardless of the person in office. This was not a performance simply for Trump and his constituency, but, more significantly, for a broader national and global audience. You assume that only Trump supporters watched the inaugural event, and this is certainly a false assumption. The artists do not see performing at an inaugural event as an endorsement of the person in office. In fact, neither have expressed support for Trump. When has it ever been viewed as an endorsement to perform at an inaugural event? Never. I contend that they did not devalue themselves; they simply encountered backlash from those refusing to respect their diversity of thought and action.