A Long Convo With... Janelle Monáe (Pg 2)

You are becoming known for your live stage show, which is very high energy and interactive. Your three-piece band has this huge sound that comes off like there are 10 musicians onstage. How were you able to get that large feel from such a small outfit?

I started out really small, just me and a guitarist. Then I incorporated the drums and keyboards. But I like for things to be very sparse onstage. I don’t like to be crowded by lots of people. I’ve been very blessed to work with good people, but they also happen to be really amazingly gifted musicians that play more than one instrument. I like raw, talented individuals who can just take an instrument and just destroy it. I want people to see that in the players onstage. I didn’t need to go out and search for all these band members and spend all this money flying in such and such. I was like, “Ya’ll better learn some instruments [laughs].” People always ask me who I want to work with. My band is my dream. On guitar is Kallindo, who also plays the piano and the drums. We have Mike who plays the drums and the harmonica. And then we have T. Brown, who plays the keys, the bass and the horn. 

Your stage show points to a lot of different influences. Of course there’s the unpredictable Janelle Monáe side, which compels you to literally jump on tables and interact with the fans. But there’s also James Brown in terms of your dancing and the David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust element, which points to the sci-fi elements and theatrical statements of The ArchAndroid.

Well, I don’t choreograph any particular thing I do onstage. The music hits me in a totally different way each time. It’s as though I’m being possessed. There’s a spirit that lives in me. I get very possessed; I have a spiritual connection to the song and the people are there and my adrenaline is rushing. I don’t even remember half the stuff I do until I watch the video again. But I think I do all those things onstage because I believe in my songs. I want to give so much that I allow myself to have an out-of-body experience each time I perform.

When you first released the Metropolis EP a lot of critics and bloggers didn’t know what to make of you. Do you feel that the intergalactic storyline from your first project overshadowed the music?

I never thought people didn’t connect to the music. From “Many Moons” to “Violet Stars Happy Hunting!” there were so many parallels in the music. I think people are smart. What I’m doing I guess within the context of what’s out today may seem weird. But people connect with me. I feel like the public is ready for a different energy and a different perspective.

Do you feel like the audience is catching on?

Yes, I really do. The thing is we are not all monolithic; we have our own ideas and concepts. I have a right to use my imagination. I’m for the individual and embracing the things that make us all unique. If your art is moving people, I say continue. I’m uniting. It’s not about catering to a blue state or a red state. It’s about getting those states to come out and create a purple state.

You were just recently announced as the opening act for Erykah Badu’s “Out of My Mind, Just In Time” tour. What does that mean for you and what can we expect from your show?

I’m really excited about touring with Erykah Badu. She’s a good friend of mine. We’ve done dates together and we’ve grown very close. I support her and she supports me. I think you are going to get an electrifying performance as she is evolving and constantly coming up with new concepts and ideas, and so am I. We both are for individuality and connecting with the people. And we both actually auditioned, believe it or not, for the same performing arts school (New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts) and got accepted in different years. Her recording career took off so she wanted to further that, which is great because we have her now. So we both love musical theater. I think it will be a very theatrical performance.  


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Kentucky Catholic School Faces Backlash After Students Berate Indigenous Peoples March Protesters

Representatives from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School have confirmed plans to look into their student body after several of their students appeared in a viral video harassing and mocking protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.

The viral video above spread around the web Saturday (Jan. 19) a day after the protest that took place in Washington, D.C. Teens in the video were rocking "Make America Great Again" to support President Donald Trump and the anti-abortion March for Life demonstration that was also taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports  Laura Keener, the communications director with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, released a statement about the video: "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it."

In the video below, Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips of the Omaha tribe was reportedly performing a song meant to calm down the crowd when the large group of teens surrounded him, with one eye to eye as he and another elder chanted.

In tears, Phillips recalled the incident, calling for an apology and that the teens would "put that energy into making this country really great." The teens also got their messages mixed up when they also screamed "build that wall" toward him.

"I heard them saying 'build the wall, build that wall,'" he said.  "This is indigenous land. We’re not supposed to have walls here. Before anyone came here there were no walls, we never even had prisons. We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children. We taught them right from wrong."


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#ipmdc #ipmdc19 #indigenousunited #indigenouspeoplesmarch #indigenouspeoplesmarch2019

A post shared by KC🇬🇺🌴🌴 (@ka_ya11) on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:42pm PST

Speaking to The Enquirer Vincent Schilling shared how Phillips has been attacked in the past for standing up for indigenous peoples. Schilling, who is a member of the Mohawk tribe, said Phillips was pelted with trash just a few years ago by Eastern Michigan University students who hosted a Native American-themed party.

"As a Native American journalist, I find this to be one of the most egregious displays of naïve – I can’t even say naïve. It’s racism. It’s blatant racism," Schilling said.

"The guy has just been through a lot. To see Mr. Phillips treated this way is an incalculable amount of disrespect, and it's absolutely unacceptable in Native culture. As a Native man, I’ve got it countless times myself I’ve been mocked, I’ve been teased, my culture has been ridiculed. This is just another brick in the wall. I wanted so bad to walk up to those kids and say, 'You know this is a Vietnam veteran, right?'"

Director Ava DuVernay slammed the teens for their behavior as well as a number of indigenous social justice figures.

Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I’m reposting this video from “ka_ya11” on IG. This man’s words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope.

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019

Thank you for the kind shout-out @Ava

Nathan Phillips and I have shared in a sacred pipe ceremony to honor Native American veterans.

He is a Vietnam veteran, such behavior is terrible.

Again, thank you for your support.

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019

The teens in the video haven't been identified.

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Carlos Osorio/AP

Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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