A couple of days ago, 20-year-old Iesha M. Daniels went viral for her tense interaction she shared with artist Kanye West during a presidential rally he was hosting in South Carolina.
Daniels, is a junior acting major/playwright minor at Howard University, returned to her hometown in South Carolina because of the pandemic. She learned about Kanye’s rally after a group of her friends sent her a text asking if she wanted to attend.
Daniels, a fan of Kanye’s music and curious about the plans he had as a potential presidential candidate, wanted to hear what he had to say.
But things went left. And Daniels realized that not only is West not up for the job of President of the United States, he has levels of healing he needs to do.
We had a chance to speak to Daniels about her experiences at the rally and her interaction with Kanye. See what she had to say below.
Before you asked your question, what were your general feelings or thoughts about what he was saying?
First of all, once again I am a listener of Kanye West’s music. My friends and I were excited. He came out, we were screaming. We were like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is like Kanye!’ We were pretty accepting of him because he said, ‘This is going to be a conversation. I want to open it up. I want to be a person for the people.’ And then he said the Harriet Tubman comment and that’s when I was like, ‘Ok…’ I go to an HBCU (Historically Black College/University). We’re taught to always make sure we are spreading the right information about Black people. That’s when I felt the need to raise my hand and go onto the stage and either correct him about it or ask another question.
And what was the question you asked?
I asked something about gun violence prevention. I asked him about what he wants to do about gun reform in America because we know it’s really bad. The statistics are disproportionate in terms of America when you compare it to the rest of the world.
I heard his response and I saw your facial expressions. What were you thinking as he was responding to your question?
During the whole thing because he called me up very early on but he kept putting off answering my question. He kept letting people go before me. And hearing his other answers, I knew he wasn’t giving direct answers. But when he was answering [my question], I really just thought he was a little bit full of himself. Based on the way he was speaking on the people in the crowd, I genuinely felt like he thought he was more important or he was better or his life had more value just because of the rhetoric he was using.
I don’t subscribe to the culture that America has right now where we hold celebrities on a higher platform and we worship them. I don’t subscribe to that ideology at all. I just feel like you have to be a kind person to other people. And your fame, your money and your status does not put you above anyone else.
So when he did answer my question, I was making those faces because I’m a dramatic person. I can’t hold back. What you see is what you get. So I was thinking, ‘Is this really happening right now?’
You said that he had a completely different reaction and response to a white girl that asked a challenging question of him. Why do you think that was? What do you make of all of that?
I know that white girl. We met afterwards, we talked afterwards. We exchanged numbers and Instagrams. I’ve been getting a lot of negative comments like, ‘You make everything about race.’ No I’m not. We talked and she was in the crowd with me screaming, ‘You didn’t do that to me.’ She was literally saying that. She was standing up for me too. She had a friend group too and they were all white girls and one Black girl and they were screaming at him with me too.
I was on stage, like I said, for a long time. And she was one of the people that he called to go before me. Because when he was talking about abortion, she was screaming over him and correcting him. She was saying, ‘That’s not true. My body, my choice.’ And then he was like, ‘Okay, she has a point. Let’s bring her up and talk.’
But after he didn’t answer my question, he went on a rant talking about how anyone can get rich if they buy land. And in my perspective, I wasn’t screaming profanities at Kanye West. I was literally screaming facts. I was like, ‘What about environmental racism? What about red-lining? What about neighborhoods funding schools?’ I was screaming out facts. I wasn’t saying anything rude or to defame his character.
I was just getting very worked up when he did that.
He also said some negative comments about Amber Rose at one point. He went on a rant about how she was a prostitute and God purged him or her and then he found Kim and his life is better.
And so for me, it’s like Kanye West perpetuates misogynoir which is the hatred of Black women. He’s antiBlack. And that moment was so clearly a manifestation of all of that. That’s what I made of that whole situation of him being very hypocritical, painting the white girl like an angel and then painting me as the angry “Sister Souljah” Black girl came her looking to ruin my rally. No sir, that is not what I was doing.
A lot of the conversation around Kanye right now is that he’s experiencing a manic episode. He is not well. This is an effect of his bipolar disorder. But I think it’s also very clear to hold space for the fact that two things can be true at once. You can be experiencing mania and also be antiBlack.
They’re not mutually exclusive. I remember someone was defending me in one of the comments and they said something that really stuck with me. They said, number 1: Kanye West has mental illnesses, period. Number 2: Kanye West is antiBlack and misogynistic. Number 3: Trying to blame his misogyny and his antiBlackness on his mental illness is crippling and bad for people who have mental illnesses and Number 4: He needs to heal himself first and foremost.
You can’t help other people if you haven’t healed yourself. And I really do pray and hope that he does get that healing. No one should have their manic episode this public. I feel bad. It was very hard to read those tweets because it’s clearly a man unraveling. But once he gets that help, he then needs to look within himself and realize why does he feel this way about Black women and how is he perpetuating a culture that we see in Hollywood with a lot of Black men. What they use to identify their status and their fame are light skinned women. Why is that a symbol of success? What is that telling the Black community? What are you telling your fans? What are you telling people?
That’s what I make of it. As someone who suffers from social anxiety. I have my own mental illnesses that I battle every day, I understand it and I really do wish the best for him but that’s not an excuse for how he treated me and how he treats Black women as a whole.
You were a fan of Kanye—so what do you attribute to having the courage to speak back to someone you admire, who has power and status in society. What made you feel comfortable doing that?
I have just always been a person, like I said, no one is more important than anyone else. I feel like our generation has a moral obligation to be better than the generation that came before us. We have to speak out against ignorance, no matter whose mouth it comes out of. Whether it’s in your high school, whether it’s in your middle school. Whether it’s in your college room or whether it is at a rally in front of one of the most famous people in the world, you have to speak out and you have to be morally right. That’s just how I’ve been raised. I grew up in South Carolina, I’ve experienced racism. I went to a super white conservative school, then I went to Africa for a few years. Then I went to an international school, now I go to an HBCU. So I feel like I really do have a wide perspective of the world and each and every single environment I’ve ever been in, I’ve been taught to stand up against ignorance, period.”