Megan Thee Stallion delivered a powerful message to America on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend. She wasn’t talking to white America. This message was for Black people.
“We need to protect our Black women and love our Black women, because at the end of the day, we need our women,” she said, while appearing as the musical guest during the premiere of “SNL’s” 46th season.
“We need to protect our Black men and stand by our Black men because at the end of the day, we’re tired of seeing hashtags about Black men.”
It speaks volumes that a 25-year-old rapper would feel the need to stop and preach to Black folks in the middle of her televised performance. But Breonna Taylor was on her mind. Taylor remains on the minds of a lot of Black people right now.
In this combative period of social unrest, some of the loudest voices condemning racial injustice have come from entertainers, athletes and other young celebrities who have realized the power of their voice.
And racially conscious leaders are paying attention. In August, rapper Cardi B interviewed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden about policing, health care and other topics in a Zoom event for Elle magazine.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry conducted an Instagram live video with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. It included a discussion was about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans.
They are not unlike the celebrities who spoke out during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone and baseball great Jackie Robinson were among those who risked their careers to stand up for justice.
Some paid a high price for it, but they could not remain silent.
Long before protesting police brutality became popular, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and it cost him his career in the National Football League.
Now others — some whom we least expected — have joined the growing chorus of influential celebrities raising their voices to speak out for a generation of young Black people that has largely been ignored.
After Eric Garner was killed by police officers in New York in 2014, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James took to the basketball court wearing a T-shirt that said, “I Can’t Breathe.”
When Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced last month that the officers who killed Taylor would not be charged, James went on Twitter to express his dismay.
“I’ve been lost for words today!” he tweeted. “I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad!”
Megan Thee Stallion made her debut as a politically conscious voice on “SNL.” And by the end of the show, the woman known primarily for her raunchy, erotic lyrics had successfully made the transition from a rapper to a social activist.
If you are a baby boomer, you likely have never heard of Megan Thee Stallion. I first learned who she was a few months ago when she and Cardi B released “WAP,” a sexually explicit song that made me nearly fall out of my chair when I first heard it.
She has had her fair share of publicity recently, both good and bad. In July, she made news when a male rapper allegedly shot her in both feet. This month, her skyrocketing fame landed her on the cover of Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people.
Her decision to take on social injustice while appearing on “SNL” proves that she does not take the Time designation lightly. She had something important to say, and whether viewers were interested or not, they heard it.
Dressed in a zebra print leotard that looked as though she had been poured into it, the rapper pranced in front of the camera twerking and repeating the lyrics:
“I’m a savage. Classy, bougie, ratchet. Sassy, moody, nasty. Acting stupid, what’s happening?”
Then suddenly, midway through, the music stopped. The sound of gunshots rang out, the screen went dark and images of blood ran from giant bullet holes in the background as Malcolm X’s voice took over.
“The most disrespected, unprotected, neglected person in America is the Black woman. Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? The color of your skin? The shape of your nose?
“Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”
The audio was from one of Malcolm X’s most powerful speeches, made in Harlem in 1962.
The voice of modern-day activist Tamika Mallory followed. She had shockingly harsh words for Cameron, the African American prosecutor who has acknowledged that he never made a case to the grand jury to indict the officers who burst into Taylor’s apartment and shot her to death.
“Daniel Cameron is no different than the sellout negroes that sold our people into slavery,” said the 40-year-old African American woman who was a leading organizer of the 2017 Women’s March.
Megan Thee Stallion included her own commentary, adding “by savages” at the end.
During an appearance on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday, Cameron, a Republican and protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, tried to blow it off.
“The fact that someone would get on national television and make disparaging comments about me because I’m simply trying to do my job is just disgusting,” he said.
He went on to repeat his argument for not pursuing charges against the officers. But here’s one thing I know about many Black people. We don’t like being accused of having an “Uncle Tom” mentality. Regardless of what Cameron might say, it’s humiliating and uncomfortable being labeled a sellout on “SNL.”
Megan Thee Stallion exposed him to a whole generation of young African Americans, who will decide for themselves whether he is worthy of their respect. Regardless, you can be sure that Megan Thee Stallion isn’t done.
She has unleashed her powerful voice and nothing is more dangerous than a hardcore rapper with a social agenda and a microphone. Don’t be surprised if Cameron’s name turns up in her next hot-selling song.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
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