Refusing to Perform for T...pportunity

January 4, 2017

Donald Trump has been impossible to escape in the past year, and his inauguration is proving as newsworthy as his campaign. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration there have been reports pointing to a number of celebrities that have refused to perform for the president-elect during the ceremony. There are many reasons to decline—from sexual assault to bigoted comments made by Trump before and during the election. Performing for someone who has bragged about grabbing women without their consent, and who has called Mexican immigrants rapists would seem like a no-brainer for many, and of course celebrities and performers have the right to express their dissatisfaction with the incoming president however they please. But while choosing not to support the President with a performance is understandable, refusing to perform is a missed opportunity for meaningful protest.

2016 provided a number of performances that garnered attention for more than the performance alone. Beyonce’s performance during the SuperBowl half-time was inescapable on social media, and this is not simply because of Beyonce’s fame but also because of the theme of her song ‘Formation’. From costume to lyrics, her performance invoked the spirit of the Black Panthers with an emphasis on black pride and picked up on the explosive political climate surrounding the police killings of unarmed African Americans. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick also made headlines over the summer for sitting, and then kneeling during the National Anthem, rather than stand with hand on heart honoring the anthem of an oppressive state. In their own way, performers and athletes on the national stage have held their symbolic Olympic-medal-winning fists up throughout this whirlwind of a year.
On a relatively smaller scale, sit-ins, die-ins, and other forms of protest sprung up at the hands of college students and community activists across the nation. This spirit of protest was no doubt spurred on by the Black Lives Matter Movement and its leaders who championed community organizing and protests meant to disrupt. As it becomes less and less likely that A-List celebrities will perform during Trump’s inauguration, it is perhaps fitting that those with a smaller following will be able to make the most impact, a point driven home by X Factor’s Rebecca Ferguson who agreed to perform at the inauguration under the condition that she would be able to sing ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday. Ahead of the announcement that Alabama’s oldest HBCU, Talledega College, will be performing, here’s to hoping that they make a scene.