Pharrell Williams was slated to perform his song from the “Hidden Figures” soundtrack with gospel singer Kim Burrell on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Thursday. Instead, Williams and DeGeneres addressed the controversy that sparked when a video of Burrell making homophobic statements went viral.
Burrell, also a preacher at Houston’s Love & Liberty Fellowship Church, called homosexuality “perverted” and an embarrassment to the church in a two-minute-long video leaked earlier this week. In a tweet after the video circulated, DeGeneres made clear Burrell would not be performing on her show. Williams responded both on the show and with an Instagram post that “ ” star Janelle Monae also re-posted.
“There’s no space, there’s no room for any kind of prejudice in 2017 and moving on,” Williams told DeGeneres.
While Williams noted he loves Burrell just as he loves anyone, he said it was this kind of love and inclusion, not Burrell’s hate, that is necessary to keep our “big, gigantic, beautiful, colorful world” working.
“This universe is love and that’s the only way it will function,” Pharrell said. “And I get it that sometimes some of the divisive stuff works. We learned that lesson last year that sometimes divisiveness works. But you have to choose what side you’re on. I’m choosing empathy; I’m choosing inclusion; I’m choosing love for everybody, just trying to lift everyone. Even when I disagree with someone, I’m wishing them the best and hoping for the best because we can’t win the other way.”
Hundreds of people with the same sentiments as Williams made their feelings known with Change.org petitions, demanding DeGeneres keep Burrell from appearing on the show. In addition, Frank Ocean, whose new album features Burrell, got some flack himself from an unexpected figure: his mom.
Me: Son, can we crop Kim Burrells voice out of your song??
— katonya breaux (@katonya) January 1, 2017
Watch their response, which begins around the 2:10 mark, below.