On Monday July 20, 2020, the 43-year-old Black rapper mogul and fashion designer Kanye Omari West, also known as Yeezy Ye, officially launched his campaign for the 2020 US presidential election. He started with an unusual rally, mostly attended by young people in Charleston, South Carolina. The next day, Kanye West confirmed the release of his next music album titled ‘Donda’ for July 24, 2020.
The controversies revolved around the abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman (see here AfroAmerica Network:Harriet Tubman On the Front of 20 Dollars Bill: Honoring An Extraordinary Woman ) and abortion. Running as the a candidate for his new party, "Birthday Party", Kanye West started with controversies that have rocked social media and media outlets and shows around the World.
During the rally, several of Kanye West statements and behaviors were eyebrows raising and left the world wondering whether Kanye West had another agenda, put up a publicity stunt or, as many said, was in the middle of a bipolar episode.
Intimate troubling statements about Abortion
At the rally in Charleston, Kanye West shed tears when mentioning that he was blessed to be alive, thanks to his mother who saved his life, when his father had wanted to abort him. He then went to say that he and his wife, the World renown influencer Kim Kardashian West had disagreed on having one of his own children aborted, saying: ""I almost killed my daughter... even if my wife were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into the world, even when I didn't want to."
Questioning the slavery abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman
One of the most controversial statements that pushed several members of the audience, especially Blacks, to leave the room, were the impromptu unorthodox monologue about Harriet Tubman, the 19th century abolitionist. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery but, aged 27, managed to escape a Maryland plantation in 1849. She then made some 13 missions back to the South to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends.
During the American the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as a scout and spy. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war and guided the raid at Combahee Ferry, liberating more than 700 slaves.
Hence, the audience was shocked when Kanye West said:
"Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people."
In fact, when rescuing other slaves on the network of routes and safe houses known as "underground railroad", Harriet Tubman risked her own life to lead people to freedom.
Kanye West's motives and music album and Mental Illness in Black Communities
Most wonder whey Kanye West speech and even the US Presidential campaign itself are genuine, a publicity stunt or a consequence of mental illness.
Those leaning towards publicity stunt point to the imminent release of a music album. On July 21 2020, a day after the Charleston rally, Kanye West confirmed, through tweets, the release of the album titled ‘Donda’ for July 24, 2020.
Kanye West's speech also brought back concerns about Kanye West's past battles against mental illness. In fact, those calling for Kanye West to be checked for mental illness point to the past interviews and public statements from Kanye West himself. In interviews in 2018, Kanye West declared that he became addicted to opioids following liposuction and had suicidal thoughts. In a 2019 interview with David Letterman, Kanye West stated that he has bipolar disorder.
The advocates for mental illness treatment also refer to tweets sent after the rally, and later deleted, in which Kanye West said that his wife Kim Kardashian "was trying to fly to Wyoming with a doctor to lock me up like on the movie Get Out because I cried about saving my daughters life yesterday,” and appealed directly to Kim Kardashian and her mother, Kris Jenner, to contact him at his ranch in Wyoming.
Mental illness is usually not given the attention required, especially in Black communities, due to several reasons. One major reason of the lack of treatment for mental illness is the high rate of poverty and, hence, the lack of or limited access to mental health care and treatment options. Other mentioned cases are related to dismissing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, which is, potentially, the case of Kanye West who, according to many, may be experiencing a bipolar episode but has rejected the treatment, based on his tweets.