Janelle Monáe on ‘Antebellum’ role: ‘The world owes Black women so much’

Janelle Monáe stars in the highly-anticipated film 'Antebellum' and says Black women have been carrying the burden of dismantling systemic racism.

Loading the player...

It’s finally time for the highly-anticipated film, Antebellum, to hit streaming services and the project that stars Janelle Monáe is sure to cause a commotion. 

The first feature film written, produced, and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz forces viewers to reckon with modern day “progress” and this nation’s despicable past, blurring the line between the two. 

theGrio caught up with Monáe who stars as a successful author, wife and mother that finds herself trapped in a horrifying reality that forces her to confront the past, present, and future to save her own life. 

Janelle Monae thegrio.com
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Read More: Janelle Monae rants against sexism in music, religion and other institutions

“This is a film that now more than ever is for these times and it connects the dots between the past, the present and what can be the future. I think that making sure globally that the rest of the world understands what it’s like to be a Black woman carrying the burden of dismantling and deconstructing systemic racism and white supremacy every single day is important. And I think that this film reminds you that the past is not the past,” she says.

Monáe is keyed in to the fact that many of the issues our country is confronting today stem from crimes of the past. 

“A lot of what we’re experiencing is a result of what happened in the past. When you talk about police, when we talk about police brutality, or talk about racist policies; all of this started when chattel slavery began. And when you talk about police, the the earliest institution of police and policing were the slave patrols,” she continues.

Janelle Monae thegrio.com
(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

“A lot of people don’t know. This is important to know when we scream ‘defund the police’ and when we say ‘abolish the police,’ when I say that is because I know that during the Civil War, slave patrols were were started and formed to hunt down runaway enslaved people. They were formed to terrorize any Black person who wanted to start a revolt. It was not created to protect and serve the community. It was created to terrify and terrorize Black people.”

While the film is not without it’s problems, at its core it serves as a wake-up call to the many enduring legacies that continue to poison our culture and our country, no matter how evolved our society likes to pretend it is. 

“That’s why we cannot continue to have racist policies and racist systems that kill us— that literally are killing us. We can’t afford that.” 

Read More: See Janelle Monáe as Dorothy Pitman Hughes in ‘The Glorias’ trailer

Janelle Monae thegrio.com
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In Antebellum, Monáe’s character is forced to find her inner hero and save herself from a terrifying reality, but the multi-talented artists admits she’s not sure how she would have fared in real life. 

“I don’t know if I would have been able to survive during that period. I don’t know. You don’t know until you’re actually in that situation. Even though I was in a film and I had the clothes and I had my feet on a plantation in New Orleans, that’s not my lived experience. Those were our ancestors lived experiences. You don’t know how to survive until you’re put in survival mode,” she explains. 

“For me, I used to say, Black women were superheroes. I don’t say that. I don’t think it should be on us to clean up the mess of white supremacy. I think white people need to do that. I think that we’ve been screaming Black Lives Matter. We’ve been starting organizations like Black Lives Matter. We’ve been marching. We’ve been telling you about these micro aggressions. We’ve been telling you about the root of systemic racism and oppression is on you to fix it. We did not create these racist policies. So for me, I think the world owes Black women so much and at the very least, you owe us peace.”

Antebellum hits VOD on September 18. 

Loading the player...

Check out the full interview above. 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

Loading the player...