NBC appears to silence Janelle Monáe during Black Lives Matter speech

  • Singer speaks about police brutality during Today Show performance
  • NBC tells Guardian speech was not intentionally cut off

The singer Janelle Monáe appeared to be silenced during an appearance on NBC’s Today show on Friday morning, shortly after saying in a speech in support of the Black Lives Matter movement: “We will not be silenced.”

Performing with a number of labelmates, Monáe sang three songs outside NBC headquarters in Manhattan, including the hits Tightrope and Yoga.

Last week in Philadelphia, Monáe led a march in support of Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged last year after a number of deaths of unarmed African American men and women either at the hands of police officers or while in police custody.

She has also recently released a protest song, Hell You Talmbout, which features chants of the names of many of those who have died in such fashion. The names chanted include those of Eric Garner, Walter Scott, John Crawford, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown, with a repeated request to “Say his name” or “Say her name”.

The song also mentions Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in 2012, and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old whose brutal murder by white racists in Mississippi in 1955 inspired a protest song by Bob Dylan.

On the Today show, Monáe closed her performance with a short speech.

“Yes, Lord,” she said. “God bless America. God bless all who’ve lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today. We will not be silenced.”

A Today show anchor then began speaking over her, saying: “We’ll have much more from Janelle Monáe … coming up.”

The incident prompted an angry response on social media. However, on Monday an NBC spokesperson told the Guardian: “Janelle Monáe and Wondaland performed three songs on the Today show Friday: Yoga, Tightrope and Classic Man.

“The show went to a hard commercial break at the end of the song, Tightrope, which ran a couple of minutes over time.

“The performance was not intentionally cut off – the show is programmed for that hard commercial break at the same time every day.”

  • This article was amended on Monday 17 August 2015, to incorporate a comment from an NBC spokesperson.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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