A Year In
The air is stale as the taste in my mouth. Warm-tone autumn leaves haven’t had the chance to grow, let alone cascade to the pavement in waves--this environment struggles to breed life. Accompanied by a chilly breeze ushering in autumn, this limbo-esque state is indicative of the approaching first anniversary of the United States’ 2016 presidential election. Many of us are at a loss for what to do as a governmental administration that consistently goes against our interests, safety, and rights is at work.
Despite claims from the Trump administration and its allies, all people, including celebrities, have the right to voice their concerns regarding Trump’s first year in office; many famous people are people who have come from humble community backgrounds, the likes of which are now being threatened by the presidential administration. In fact, those “out-of-touch Hollywood elites” as many conservative voices call famous people who speak out against Trump, are using their public societal pedestal to speak for millions of other Americans whose voices would speak to similar issues, but simply are not heard as loudly or clearly.
Musicians, in particular, have been integral in standing up for rights the Trump administration has already infringed upon during its first year in power. Music is a healing art. We chant its lyrics in time with our marches, create other art based in its power, and more. There are many musicians, popular and lesser-known alike, that have not only spoken out on their disgust with anti-immigrant, anti-people of color, anti-women, and other negative policies attempted by Donald Trump, but have taken action against him.
In moments where individuals feel as if the weight of a crumbling world is on their shoulders, it can be healthy to turn to the fighting, proud, or otherwise powerful words of artists who have expressed solidarity with their struggles. These can be artists and entertainers of all sorts, and they often choose their own ways to show support. of others who have expressed solidarity with our struggles.
John Legend may be best known for his soulful love songs and smooth voice, but the contemporary R&B icon has been politically active throughout Trump’s ascent to the presidency. Legend tweets constantly in regard to the president’s harmful comments and ideologies. He acts on his words through music, having previously written and performed for the film Selma on the song “Glory” with Common. Some particularly powerful lyrics from the Oscar and Grammy-winning song include, “Justice for all just ain’t specific enough,” and, “Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle.” Legend has also donated to a plethora of organizations fighting many of Trump’s questionable policies, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Connie Lim, also known as MILCK, went viral after performing her song “Quiet” alongside over twenty other women at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C, one day after Trump’s presidential inauguration. “Quiet” became somewhat of a theme song for subsequent women’s marches. According to past interviews with Lim, the song itself started as a way to express herself in coming to terms with past abuse she faced. She made note that she was ready to release the song with the election of Donald Trump as president. She was overwhelmed by the election results and believed in the song she had created in the past as a tool for the present and future. The piece has been strong example of togetherness for those who have felt threatened by the president’s misogynistic, abusive language and actions.
In another move for solidarity, we see the band Wavves establishing that their performance spaces are intended for love, open-mindedness, and sanctuary. As part of creating that space, they have specifically noted that they do not want supporters of Donald Trump coming to their shows. According to the band, the values of the president and those who support him conflict with the love and compassion Wavves aims for. The band has been accused of “banning” Trump supporters from their concerts, but lead singer Nathan Williams has noted is not the case. The group has not “banned” Trump supporters, mostly due to the fact that they don’t have a means to enforce such a policy at their shows, but they maintain that they want their show spaces to remain safe places. And in the eyes of Williams and his band, a safe environment is not one in which Trump’s values are present.
There are artists of all genres, levels of popularity, and identities who have been clear about their disdain for Donald Trump, especially now that he is the President of the United States. The political inclination of artists is not a new phenomenon; for decades, we have listened to American radios play songs asserting artists’ values. From Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Green Day’s “Holiday”, some of our culture’s most powerful music is that which addresses polarizing politics of the day. Today is no exception, with our divisive political climate leaving little room for stagnation of progress. To create positive change, we, like Legend, MILCK, and Wavves, must be persistent in our resistance.
Animal by Wavves
Don’t Pass Trump the Blunt by Smoke DZA
Million Dollar Loan by Death Cab for Cutie
Radio Radio by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
We’re All Mexican by Emilio Estefan (feat. Gloria Estefan, Thalia, Shakira, Wyclef, Pitbull, and Wisin)
People Have the Power by Patti Smith
Glory by Common & John Legend
Manifesto by Victor Jara
Zombie by The Cranberries
Black and Blue by Louis Armstrong
Quiet by MILCK
Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Misérables
Illustration by: Taylor Roberts