Yesterday in North Philadelphia, Janelle Monáe led a rally against police brutality in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, accompanied by her frequent collaborator and label-mate, Jidenna. She was in Philly for the opening concert of her label, Wondaland Records’, Eephus Tour, which happened later in the evening at Union Transfer.
At the rally, which NBC reports comprised some 150 marchers and “gathered near Broad and Susquehanna and marched towards the Uptown Theater on North Broad Street,” Monae said:
They say a question lives forever, until it gets the answer it deserves. Won’t you say their names? Can we say their names right now? Can we speak their names, as long as we have breath in our bodies?
This statement was linked to the #SayHerName hashtag, which, though preexisting, circulated widely after the death of Sandra Bland in prison (following a minor traffic violation); and at the march in Philadelphia, protesters chanted the names of the various black lives that’d been ended by the “justice” system.
The crowd also sang along to Monáe’s Electric Lady bonus track, “Hell You Talmbout,” which bears the topical lyrics, “Red, white, and blue/Here come the sirens/Only to dance/With the little girls on the corner/There’s a war in the streets/Nobody speaks/ And now a boy laying on the ground,” and combines both disdain for the ghettoization of and violence towards black Americans with a celebration of the joy that also exists within these spaces. This duality was likewise present at the march, which at once honored, mourned and verbally fought for the dead while also encouraging and amplifying joy:
Melanie McCoy, one of the organizers of the rally, said:
In the wake of police brutality and numerous other things we wanted to make sure that the world knew that black joy is still important and it’s relevant. Just as important as black rage is, black joy is equally as important. We feel like we can use both.
Here’s Monáe performing “Hell You Talmbout” at the concert after the rally: