A few days ago on CNN, Don Lemon called out a list of celebrities who hadn’t spoken out about the murder of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter. Among them was Tracee Ellis Ross. As a non-Black person, I don’t feel like I have a right to agree or disagree with Don’s take. What I can do as a non-Black person of colour who has benefitted from white-adjacency and proximity to power institutions is engage with members of my own community and address the other white and non-Black POC that my platform can reach. And we’ll get to more of that later – but for now, Tracee has actually offered her thoughts on the protests and the pain, grief, and trauma that Black people are experiencing right now.
She also posted about her own uncertainty – of course not about anti-Black racism, but about how to use her voice, how to best leverage her platform, and being responsible with her influence.
For Black artists like Tracee, the labour is so layered, especially right now. Tracee obviously wants to be in solidarity with the Black community and do what she can, with the resources she has, to help in the fight for justice. At the same time, she also, as a Black entertainer, is telling Black stories, is illuminating Black art, is repping Black culture. There is honour in that and pressure too, but also joy.
Right now, she’s promoting The High Note, now available On Demand, and she’s in the lead role, singing for the first time in her career. The film has come out during the pandemic, not the ideal time, not what anyone wanted. At the same time, it’s accessible to many if not most people and her job right now is also to promote her work, because the work of Black artists matters too.
As part of the promotion for The High Note, Tracee and Tyler the Creator are featured together in Interview. First of all, she looks amazing in the photos – and Tyler says as much, complimenting her style, and getting specific with the compliment in terms of how well-proportioned her fit is. What follows is a fun but thoughtful conversation about artistic freedom, and friendship, and how each of them think about individualising the creative process. Hilariously, Tyler going bike riding also comes up, and here are new shots of him on a bike ride with Frank Ocean as they were reportedly heading to join the protests in West Hollywood.