“Find some time to steal back your joy, to steal your happiness back, to take that back, because that is a sign of revolution.”

By Adrienne Farr
September 24, 2020
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Actress and Singer Janelle Monáe, currently starring in the mind-bending thriller Antebellum by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, spoke to :Blackprint Meredith about the movie, spiritual and emotional health, and racism in America.

“That's a tight rope. I have to balance out the amount of heaviness with some levity, some lightness, something that brings me joy,” says Monáe to PEOPLE Publicist Paula Ngon about guarding her mental health. “And I think that looks different depending on where I am because we're fighting COVID, fighting police brutality. We're fighting so many isms, and just trying to live a free, carefree and purposeful life.”

Mental and emotional health is of the utmost importance for the 8-time Grammy nominee, especially after filming such a heavy movie.  "[When I read the script] I was scared. I was like, 'This could actually happen.'"

Antebellum, currently streaming on all all major platforms, follows Monáe in dual roles—as a modern day PhD sociologist who authors bestsellers about the disenfranchisement of Black people in America and a Civil War era enslaved woman living in unspeakable conditions. Says Monáe, “This is a film that's centered around a Black woman, the Black American woman experience. Veronica Henley is the character I play. And she is an author. And she's well respected. She's also a mother. She's a wife. She's a best friend. She's very loved in her community. And she teaches about race relations and intersectionality. And so she finds herself in a horrifying reality where she has to confront the past, the present and the future before it's too late. The themes and what we're talking about in there, they're absolutely horrific. There's also joy though. It's complex, like life. There's joy. There's the celebration of what it means to be a Black woman who is liberating her community.”

Standing with Black women is where Monáe’s heart lies. “I stand with Black women. I do consider myself someone who lives outside the binary. But I'm always standing with Black women and women in general because they are part of the marginalized community. And that's where I want to lend my voice, and that's who I want to shine light on.”

Monáe continues, “And I think this is a good opportunity to highlight the work that our ancestors have done to lead the revolution and the movement, and highlight the work that Black women today are doing. Black women like Angela Davis, Black women like Angela Rye,  Black women like Brittany Packnett; all of the Black women who founded Black Lives Matter.”

With the current racial climate in America, Monáe has an awareness that a respite from the tension is necessary. “I have a friend who's an emotional life coach, so I'm not storing so much in my mind. [And] I think painting has been very therapeutic for me. I've just been trying to continue having conversations with my friends—finding an outlet, which is binging movies and TV shows for me, and just trying to keep my sanity together. It's been definitely a year.”

Monáe is also acutely aware that it is more important than ever to exercise your right to vote. “It's choosing between the lesser of two evils. It's like sometimes you just have to really understand the way that the current state of America is really just affecting people. It's about, I'm voting against racist policies, period. And I'm voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And I'm ready to hold them accountable. I'm ready to show up with a list of demands. I'm ready to work with some organizers who have really been doing the work, and say, Hey, if you want our vote, this is what we want. It's not like they're going to solve everything overnight and they're the answer, but we at least have to undo, unravel all these racist policies.”

For Monáe, the weight of being a Black person in America cannot negate the importance of taking care of oneself. “Your self-care is going to be very important. We're 70% water, right? So, make sure you're drinking your water in real life. You don't have to say, Oh, I just want to drink some water today. No, get specific.”

Never afraid to speak her mind, Monáe continues, making a passionate plea to Black people everywhere to guard their spiritual health. “How we talk to ourselves is so important. We cannot let them steal our joy. We cannot let those who don't understand, those who are just coming to the conversation or not, who are in denial about what has happened to us and where we are, we can't let them steal our joy. So find some time to steal back your joy, to steal your happiness back, to take that back, because that is a sign of revolution, in my opinion. That's a revolutionary act to choose to take care of yourself."

Monáe’s interview courtesy :BLACKPRINT Meredith

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