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June 18, 2024

Kehlani stands with Palestinians in newest music video

Kehlani stands with Palestinians in newest music video

Kehlani isn’t hesitating to tell the world they stand with Palestinians.

The American singer’s music video for their new single “Next 2 U” depicts Kehlani, who uses she/they pronounces, and their background dancers performing with Palestinian flags while wearing suits that incorporate keffiyehs.

Even as celebrities and influencers have begun expressing more pro-Palestinian sentiment online, largely due to popular pressure from social media users, Kehlani’s music video is a rare instance of a mainstream artist expressing a clear pro-Palestinian stance through music.

The singer wrote in an Instagram post that they were “nervous” and “terrified” as an artist who wanted to be vocal, a feeling that was “paired with the crippling wonder of what music is appropriate to drop during the most historical tragedies of our generation.”

“I remembered my favorite revolutionary poets, singers, filmmakers. i remembered how much impact we have,” they wrote. “I thought about my favorite James Baldwin quotes about the role of an artist in society. i listened to this song enough to recognize a love song IS a protectors song IS revolution.”

The music video opens with a quote from Palestinian American poet Hala Alyan: “Keep your moon / We have our own / Keep your army / We have our name / Keep your flag / We have fruit and in / All the right colors.”

It’s followed by, “Long live the intifada.” Commonly chanted at pro-Palestinian protests around the country, rhetoric around “intifada” — an Arabic word that is often translated to “uprising” and historically refers to two instances of Palestinian rebellion against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank — remains highly controversial, with many fearing it’s an incitement to antisemitic violence and others insisting it’s simply a call for liberation.

“We tried to make a scroll honoring the names of thousands of deceased children. The list was so long that our fastest scroll at 3 minutes was illegible,” read a statement at the close of the video, which asks viewers to “take a moment to scroll” at their own pace through a link in the description.

A representative for Kehlani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though the video centers on Palestinians, the video description additionally encourages viewers to support organizations focusing on the humanitarian crises generated by ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Sudan.

The singer is also asking fans to donate through buying merch: All proceeds from the $65 “Next 2 U” T-shirt will go to Palestinian, Congolese and Sudanese families through Operation Olive Branch, according to the music video’s description, which noted that the shirt was made in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Kehlani has been consistent in their outspoken support of Palestinians since October.Atlantic Records

“Next 2 U” came less than a month after Macklemore released his viral pro-Palestinian song “Hind’s Hall,” named after the Columbia University building that student protesters occupied and renamed after Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl killed after making a desperate plea for help while trapped with her dead relatives in a car under Israeli fire.

Macklemore, who said all streaming proceeds from the song would be donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, slammed the music industry for being “complicit in their platform of silence.”

After a wave of support for Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, outward support for Palestinians has been muted in the music and entertainment industry aside from scattered expressions of concern over mounting humanitarian atrocities inflicted by Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

But in the wake of Israel’s military offensive in Rafah — a city Israel had once designated as a safe zone — and an airstrike last month that set a refugee camp aflame, growing disillusionment with celebrity silence boiled over into palpable outrage as more fans began putting pressure on their favorite artists to speak out in hopes that their influence can make an impact.

Kehlani has been consistent in their outspoken support of Palestinians since October, having posted frequently about the conflict online while expressing their support for a cease-fire. While marching at a pro-Palestinian rally in Los Angeles on Oct. 15, the singer was interviewed, saying they don’t “think it’s a complicated situation at all.”

“I want all my followers and my peers to stand on the right side of history,” they said at the rally. “I want them to make a decision that is larger than them. I want them to make an unselfish one. I want them to make an obvious one. And I just hope that they choose to do the right thing.”

Angela Yang

Angela Yang is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.

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