Fantasia caught quite a bit of flack over the weekend when she posted, via her Twitter account, a concert flyer that contained the phrase “All Lives Matter.”
I don’t have to tell most of you the problematic nature of that phrase. “All Lives Matter” is often used as the counter argument to Black Lives Matter. The phrase in and of itself is true. And we all know that. And if “All Lives Matter” were used as a way to call out and eradicate injustice for people across the world, it would have been something we could respect. Instead, All Lives Matter wasn’t “a thing” until Black Lives Matter was. Basically, it was a way to discredit and deflect attention from a very real fight we’re facing. Those of us on social media have had to address the sentiment from our Facebook friends. We’ve seen celebrities, ignorant and informed alike, toss the phrase around. Christina Milian was one who retracted the statement once she realized that ways in which it was being used. When Keke Palmer tweeted it, instead of backtracking, she doubled down and affirmed her statement.
It’s the latter, Palmer approach that Fantasia is taking. When people called her out, some very rudely, for the wording on the flyer, she and her husband Kendall created a Facebook Live video to speak to the naysayers.
“God laid it on my heart to do this. And although I was a little hesitant, whenever God tells me something, I have to do it. And it wasn’t just about music. I don’t know if people were coming out to hear my songs but what they were really going to hear was worship. Because I feel like in this day and time, and everything that’s going on, we need to seek out the God… There’s been a lot of things being said that bother me.”
Then she turned it over to her husband, Kendall Taylor, who said:
“It’s real easy to critique somebody sitting behind your desk, or behind your smartphone […] and you’re talking about a word between ‘all’ and ‘Black’… Black lives matter because all lives matter…When we were out here fighting for our civil rights, it took people like Kennedy. It took people sitting in position at the gate to help us push this agenda because we’re not the ones sitting at the gate of change, unfortunately. The people who are sitting in front of this gate, they need to be compelled, they need to be encouraged.”
And then Fantasia.
“I understand that our people are still in poverty and we’re not getting certain things that we deserve. I understand that, but the only way we’re going to get it is not through tearing up buildings. ‘Two thousand years ago, Jesus ended the debate on which lives matter. He died for all us. All of us. Martin Luther King stood for love and unity for all people. United we stand, divided we fall.’ Let’s all stand together. So Black lives matter, yes they do. All lives matter. Our grandson is biracial. My nieces and nephews are biracial, do their lives not matter?”
“That’s my problem with people. They missed the whole message. And they’re looking to find something that they can– ‘Uhh! found something. Let’s go and start some negativity.’ Our own people. It’s our own people that’s on the page bashing. But guess what, if God be for me, it’s more than the world against me.”
Anthony Hamilton, who was set to perform that day, for Fantasia’s concert released his own statement in a Twitter video. And made his perspective very clear.
Initially, when I planned on writing this article, I was just going to leave it open-ended. I was going to ask y’all whether or not Fantasia should have tweeted the flyer and whether or not she deserved the criticism. Honestly, because I really love Fantasia as a artist and honestly, after meeting and interviewing her, she strikes me as an amazing person. I follow her on social media so I keep an eye on what she’s been up to. And before all hell broke loose with this flyer, she and her husband were out protesting in Charlotte, over the death of Keith Lamont Scott.
If you read the posts from her time at the protests, you can see that she is actively thinking and working toward solutions and trying to get her fan base to do the same. She is committed to the community. And, while I can’t speak for her, I’m willing to bet that her desire to partner with the city of Charlotte for the event was the raise awareness and to the number of police killings that have plagued this country and bring healing to the people most deeply affected by it. Her concern over a Black life was her reference point for her use of the phrase All Lives Matter. Do I think she should have used it? Nah. Would it have been in her best interest to acknowledge that she knows how it’s been used in contradiction to the movement? Sure. Still, as a thinking and reasoning person, I understand that context is key. And sometimes, most times, it’s not enough to read words at simply face value. Yes, there are those who use the phrase “All Lives Matter,” to promote a different type of agenda, to distract and deflect. But I also know that if you were to ask the same folks calling for the cancellation of Fantasia’s career if they truly believe that was her intention, they would say no. But I understand that impact is greater than intention. Still, I believe if you were to ask those same people if the impact of Fantasia’s words made them truly feel like their Black lives didn’t matter to her, they would say no to that too. I understand there were likely those in the crowd who sought to educate her about the ways in which the phrase has been used to hurt. But more often, I saw people who wanted to take this opportunity to bash Fantasia, her intelligence, her career and her character. And I don’t know how that behavior, tearing down on social media, addresses the issue of police brutality and the injustice Black people face in this country.
“All Lives Matter” is a fundamental truth. And taken literally, not what it’s come to mean today on social media, is real and not in direct contrast to the phrase Black Lives Matter or the movement. It’s only become so problematic because people have used it in that way. But Fantasia was not doing that. And while there are some people who will likely take her words and use it as a rationalization for their own bigotry, the same was and continues to be true for the words Martin Luther King shared during his short life. MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is required learning for racists. But just because the words become weapons int the wrong mouths, it doesn’t make his words or these words any less true. I understand “All Lives Matter” is generally not the move, not the way to go. Not the best way to draw attention to our particular cause. And I’m not arguing that we abandon “Black Lives Matter” and embrace “All Lives Matter” as our new rallying cry. The history is too complicated to be effective at this point. It would only be a distraction. But I also think we have to make exceptions for people who we are using the phrase in a way to point to a universal truths and who we know don’t use those three words as a way to hurt us or our people.
You can watch Fantasia and her husband’s full comments in the videos below.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.”