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A number of people are unhappy about Gladys Knight’s decision to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl next month. Among those upset is Najee Ali, Director of Project Islamic HOPE.

Ali wrote an open letter to Knight that read:

This is an open letter to Gladys Knight, the legendary singer who is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and seven-time Grammy Award-winner.

Sister Gladys, no one can dispute that as a a singer, songwriter, actress, businesswoman, and author, your career achievements are outstanding. I, along with many African Americans, grew up listening and loving your music. So I write this to you with extreme disappointment as you prepare to perform the National Anthem (“The Star Bangled Banner”) at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Sister Gladys, you issued a statement commenting on Colin Kaepernick and defending your position which reads in part:

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” she wrote. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.

“I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s Anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII.

Sister Gladys, the fact that you admit to being a long-time civil rights activist doesn’t make you exempt for being called out if you start cooning and selling your people out in your old age. Your life experiences in the movement should make you know better. NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown another long-time champion of civil rights was also held accountable by our people when he began meeting with Donald Trump and stating his support for the president whose policies have been a disaster for low income and middle class African-Americans. No one is above reproach or exemption because of being elderly and past contributions in the civil rights movements. We called for Brown to stop buck dancing and cooning for white people and now were calling for you to stop it,

As you know, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who sacrificed so much was eventually assassinated for standing up and fighting for our civil rights. King’s work is exemplified in Colin Kaepernick the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose refusal to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and decision to kneel instead — to protest police brutality has made him a modern-day King and drum major for justice. Kaepernick has now been blackballed by the NFL owners.

Kaepernick took a stand for black women, children, and men who were being killed unjustly by police nationwide with no convictions and for all people of color. Kap gave up his plate and I didn’t hear him ask you to give up your plate sister Gladys. Courage isn’t for everyone. I get that. This is about police brutality and the blackballing of a man because he kneeled to bring attention to the police murders of people of color. Kaepernick put millions on the line and sacrificed his career, so people of color could live in peace, without the threat of state sanctioned murder.  When the NFL or any corporation punishes a man for standing against police brutality then that means the league and that company or corporation is in favor and a supporter of police brutality!

So, we can’t give our talent, time or money to any business that doesn’t support black and brown lives and our issues. Sister Glady’s what black people need to understand is Kaepernick is in a position like what Rosa Parks faced and what helped give birth to the civil rights movement you stated you helped participate in.

The reality is this isn’t about you singing at the Super Bowl. It’s about you giving cover comfort and aid to the NFL who as a corporation have ignored all the  unjust police murders of black people, racial profiling, police abuse, and the violation of our civil rights that Kaepernick put into the national spotlight. This is about Anthony A.J.Weber, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and other unarmed black people who were gunned down by police (and a wanna-be cop). This is about Freddy Grey & corrupt police planting evidence on black people. This is about Oscar Grant & Fruitvale Station. This is about Laquan McDonald who was killed while unarmed by several white police officers in Chicago with only one cop being convicted and sentenced to a slap on the wrist with just six years in prison for killing him.

Sister Gladys you’re doing this for your ego and career. You singing the anthem won’t help unite our nation. Marvin Gaye, Mariah Carey, and several other legendary singers have all sung the anthem during their careers and unarmed black people continue to be murdered  like dogs in the street by trigger happy police. The original national anthem which wasn’t written for black folks in the first place speaks about hunting down and murdering our ancestors, plain and simple. Try actually going to Google and reading it in its entirety along with its racist third verse.

Kaepernick exposed the lies and hypocrisy of Americans who believe in free speech but only for white men and black people who prove that many of us are woke only in our opinions but not in our actions. That’s why it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Sister Gladys, do you love the NFL and its racist owners? Or do you love black people more? Kaepernick proved he loves his people. And is now being blackballed by the NFL. Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Tyisha Miller, Sean Bell and countless other brothers and sisters who were killed unjustly won’t watch the Super Bowl or anything else ever. So, I’m still with Kap.

Those that choose to continue to support the NFL boycott will be on the right side of history. Those that choose to support the NFL (Negros For Lease) have chosen to support the NFL plantation and clearly love a game more than they love their own people. Where would the Montgomery bus boycott have been if black people did this back then? They walked miles to work for over a year. Yet here we are today benefiting from their sacrifice but unwilling to stick together on such an issue for one night.

Understand, not a single team hired Kaepernick. They remain in solidarity in their decision.  I have no respect for anyone performing in the Super Bowl. Sistah Gladys, based on your civil rights laurels you boasted about, your betrayal of the movement and your own people are shocking. Just say you want the check and stop pretending you’re doing this for us.

Najee Ali

Director of Project Islamic HOPE

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