It’s very strange for someone who labels themselves as a “community activist” and “conscious spirit” to sing “Happy Birthday” to a monarch who plethora of wives and a love of luxury while his people 63 percent of his people subside off less than $1.25 per day.
It’s even stranger when you consider said person’s history, such as setting up their own charity in 2003 and being an acclaimed hip-hop and soul artist from Texas.
But that’s the situation with Erykah Badu and some are speaking out against what they perceive as someone “using their star power for inherently reprehensible reasons.”
As the Washington Post reports, Erykah Badu attended the birthday celebration of King Mswati III, the king of Swaziland and Africa’s last absolute monarch. At the birthday celebration, she sang “Happy Birthday” to Mswati and dedicated the song to the “sons of Kings.”
It’s a performance that has sparked outrage for some, such as Jeffrey Smith, an advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He wrote the Washington Post an email, stating that it was “highly unfortunate that someone of Erykah Badu's international stature would use her star power for inherently reprehensible reasons – namely, to provide legitimacy, and, in a sense, endorse a brutal dictator who both manages and directs every facet of Africa's last absolute monarchy.”
Since the start of his reign in 1986, Mswati has been known for his multiple wives (he married his 15th wife last year) and his love of luxury, in particular expensive cars. This contrasts dramatically with the lives of most in Swaziland, where 63 percent of people live off of less than $1.25 per day. Allegations of human rights abuses and torture are also widespread.
Erykah Badu responded to criticism in an interview with The Dallas Morning News:
“I want to address the people, not a group or a government agency,” she says. “The people know I was not endorsing the king or helping to further his political agenda. I have no agenda. I went into a situation not completely knowing the political climate of the kingdom. I can’t be held responsible for the situation in the kingdom because I signed up as an artist, not as a political activist. I don’t belong to anyone or to anything. Anything I do is because I am a human being, and I am for the people.”
She went on to claim that human rights groups were using her as a “tool” to further their own agenda and that anyone who knew her and knew what she stands for don’t “need any explanation” as to her actions.
The full account of Badu’s response in the interview and on Twitter can be seen here.
Image via Wikimedia Commons