Anohni is a transgender performer, who formerly performed with Antony and the Johnsons as Antony Hegarty. She has spoken openly about her own gender fluidity for years now, but this year’s Hopelessness is her first album under the name Anohni. Along with issues of gender and identity, Hopelessness is a political deep dive into climate change and human destruction of the planet, drone warfare, and plenty of other equally difficult, intensive topics.
Her live performances of songs off the album have been punctuated by compelling and starkly personal videos of women’s faces that point to trauma as a meeting point. Today, with the release of the “Obama” video, she’d like to point toward something else, the continuing plight of Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier who remains in captivity — currently in solitary confinement — for leaking classified information.
The lyrics for the song “Obama” take the president to task for his use of drone warfare, and specifically mention Manning, who leaked footage of drone execution: “Now the news is you are spying / Executing without trial / Betraying virtues / Scarring closed the sky / Punishing the whistle blowers / Those who tell the truth.”
In the description of the video on Youtube, Anohni has shared a statement pleading with Obama to release Manning from prison. First, the statement is prefaced with this description of Manning’s situation: “Condemned under Obama’s administration to 35 years for blowing the whistle on US war crimes, America’s number one political prisoner is a transgendered former soldier who sits in solitary confinement after leaking video footage of US drone execution of a Reuters journalist.”
Then, Anohni writes in first person about why she believes Obama should pardon Manning before he leaves office:
“OBAMA, I voted for you. I campaigned for you across Europe.
Like thousands of others, in the newspapers and on TV, I told European press that you were a feminist, a kind and reasonable man, a just and fair man, that you would restore our country’s dignity.
OBAMA, Please let Chelsea Manning out of prison.
Recognize her tremendous sacrifice, and her vulnerability.
With Trump incoming, if you leave Chelsea in prison,
she will never see the light of day, or worse.
If you leave Chelsea Manning in prison for whistle blowing
You send the final message to our nation
that the Obama administration brutally punished moral courage
in these unforgiving United States.
She has suffered Enough, President Obama.
She poses no threat.
Show us the heart of the Obama administration now.
The election is over.
There is no political advantage left in allowing Chelsea to perish in prison.
Have mercy on her, Obama,
friend of the trans community:
I implore you to Free Chelsea Manning.”
Watch the video above and find the full statement on Anohni’s Youtube page.