On January 20, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho and select members of The Rockettes will be on hand to welcome the new Tweeter-in-Chief. This isn’t exactly an A-list roster of talent compared with President Obama’s two inauguration ceremonies. Four years ago, the queen herself, Beyoncé, ushered President Obama into his second term with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Queen B wouldn’t be caught dead near this swearing in ceremony. Neither would the majority of today’s most relevant music stars, hence the reason Trump’s transition team has reached back to the glory days of the year 2000 to fill the “Make America Great Again Celebration” roster. For roughly 24 hours, the legendary Jennifer Holliday filled one of those slots. But after her largely LGBTQ fan base raked her over the coals via social media, she backed out.
The singer initially defended her decision to perform at the event. She wanted to use her voice as a symbol of unity. She clarified she was in no way endorsing President Trump. However, her fans weren’t interested in a voice of unity. To them, simply showing up at the ceremony was an endorsement of Trump. Her tune changed swiftly. On Tuesday’s episode of The View, the Dreamgirls star said she received death threats and a heaping helping of backlash.
It seemed “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” was now her personal anthem regarding Trump’s big day. After publicly announcing her decision to step aside, she penned a letter to her gay fans. She acknowledged how her decision hurt them, and she ultimately chose to skip the inauguration to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
In some ways, it was refreshing to see Holliday’s change of heart. There was an uproar from the LGBTQ community and she listened. Our voices made a difference. As we look ahead and the Trump administration and GOP-controlled Congress threaten to halt or even roll back the progress made by President Obama, it was hurtful to watch one of the most beloved stars in our community seemingly support the nation’s direction.
Surely, all of us have seen a drag queen slay a serious lip sync of her signature Dreamgirls hit. “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” is the ultimate emotive, sister girl soul song. It’s roughly five minutes of soulful Broadway bliss that we’ve all attempted to tackle during a drunken karaoke session or even standing alone with a brush in front of our bedroom mirrors. To think the singer behind this LGBTQ standard could harbor resentment for her fans was unfathomable. Needless to say, we’re all happy she saw the error in her ways and reversed her decision.
It makes me wish others in the black community would do the same thing. Holliday almost made a decision that showed complete disregard for LGBTQ people. It was only after we cried foul that she changed her mind. But so many black people make these kinds of decisions daily without even the slightest concern for our well-being.
Every time a celebrated gospel singer posts a Facebook Live video about the perverted homosexual spirit or a blog targeting black men blames the “homosexual agenda” for the destruction of the black man or Black Lives Matter supporters refuse to acknowledge DeRay McKesson’s pivotal role in the movement, we are minimized and disenfranchised.
It’s difficult to be black and gay in America because our community’s views and beliefs are so heavily rooted in strict interpretations of the Bible. There’s a fear of understanding and accepting us. There’s a refusal to know us as people. In our community, we are often viewed as a sexuality—not as human beings. So, when a major celebrity like Holliday decides to perform at the inauguration of a President-elect whose Congress and key cabinet picks seek to limit or remove our rights, it’s upsetting. Because her choice seems to justify the discrimination that we face within our community.
Jennifer Holliday changed her mind, but so many black folks haven’t. We need more understanding and acknowledgment from the rest of the community. If we don’t get it, how can we all (black people and LGBTQ people) move forward?