Rebecca Ferguson, runner-up on the seventh season of the UK’s “X Factor,” says that she was asked to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration and that she plans to take him up on the offer, but there’s a catch.
The singer has requested to sing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a song that was adapted from Abel Meeropol’s poem and is considered a protest anthem because it focuses on the historical lynching of African-Americans in the south. Her request is especially symbolic given that Trump’s campaign left minorities feeling unsafe, that the U.S. has seen an uptick in hate crimes since the election, and that some of Trump’s cabinet appointees have been accused of racism and white nationalism.
In a statement on Twitter, Ferguson explained her decision, saying, “I’ve been asked and this is my answer. If you allow me to sing ‘strange fruit’ a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington.”
The lyrics to “Strange Fruit” are:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Ferguson’s request comes as Trump’s team is continuing to struggle booking performers for the inauguration. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockettes are officially on board, but members of each group have chosen not to perform, with some speaking out about their decisions.