Janelle Monáe Encourages Black Lives Matter Allies to Keep Having 'Those Tough Conversations'

Janelle Monae at the Balmain show as part of the Paris Fashion Week
Pierre Suu/Getty Images

'If you want to show me that you're an ally, it's going to have to be rooted in acts of service,' she says.

Janelle Monáe is opening up about how we can all push the Black Lives Matter movement forward and enact real change. During a candid discussion for The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable with Zendaya, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Rose Byrne and Helena Bonham Carter, the Homecoming star said she is "not settling for lip service" from allies of the movement. 

"This is an interesting time and an important time for all of us to check our perspective," Monáe said. "For me and my people, for the Black community, this is not an exciting time. This isn't a time that we get to really reflect. We're dealing with a lot of trauma. We were dealing with COVID-19, which affects us disproportionately -- if America sneezes, the Black community gets pneumonia -- and now we're having to deal with the very color of our skin making us a target."

"For me, I'm trying to figure out how to channel my anger. That's my emotion," she added. "Black people make up the essential workers who are making sure that we have our packages and our food, and this is not a time for them to reflect in the ways that we, as artists, have the privilege to do. So, I'm checking my privilege and I'm also mourning with my people. One of the things that I learned about me is that I'm not settling for those who say that they're allies. I'm not settling for lip service. If you want to show me that you're an ally, it's going to have to be rooted in acts of service."

Monáe continued on, explaining that she's asking her white friends, and those who consider themselves supporters of the movement, to have "conversations around white supremacy" and "why your ancestors started chattel slavery" with the same energy that's gone into posting on social media and nationwide protests.

"Have those tough conversations of why we are even saying Black Lives Matter as though Black people are objects and not subjects to study until the end of time. Have those conversations around how you dismantle systemic racism," she advised. "That's where I am now. This is a moment for Black people to stand our ground and ask more of our systems. Because it can't just be, 'We're going to march with you and do a hashtag'; it has to be rooted in justice as well. Systemic change has to be made."

"The way that you're hiring folks, who is on your board, how many Black people do you have there, what kind of films are we greenlighting, what kind of depictions of police are we greenlighting," she added. "I'm team 'Defund the Police' -- that’s very clear for me -- and I want to put that money into our education and into our health care systems. I want to redistribute that money and put it into places that have oppressed us for far too long."

The other actresses featured in the roundtable also spoke up about what they've learned about themselves amid the fight for racial equality, along with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm continuing to learn," said Witherspoon. "I think being an awake, aware, conscious, empathetic, thoughtful human being, if you have even an ounce of any of that, it's pretty exhausting and morally trying. And it's been a time to really dig deep and examine what are you doing in your life and in your business and in your work and really look at those things with new eyes."

"Having the [space] to be alone and not be distracted has been almost divine timing in terms of the order of how everything has unfolded," added Aniston. "I think that's a blessing of this pandemic because there wasn't any chance for people to get distracted going back to work or going out to dinners or whatever. We were all pulled together, and it feels extremely unifying and oddly beautiful. And I've never read more in my life."

Hear more in the video below.