In her acceptance speech for the NAACP 2020 President's Award, Rihanna called for unity while emphasizing the importance of standing up for people who you don't know.
"We can only fix this world together," she said. "We can't do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can't let the desensitivity seep in."
Rihanna also criticized the idea that separation exists between any of us, emphasizing the intersectional nature of seemingly distinct social issues. She critiqued the perception,"If it's your problem, then it's not mine. It's a women's problem. It's a Black people problem. It's a poor people problem," instead arguing that a problem for one race or group is a problem for everyone.
"How many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions?" she asked. "They wanna break bread with you, right? They like you? Well then, this is their problem too," the de facto world leader stated. "When we're marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jrs. and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up."
"My part is a very small part of the work that's being done in this world and the work that has yet to be done," she said, eternally humble and gracious. "Thank you to the NAACP for all of your efforts to ensure equality for our communities. Thank you for celebrating our tenacity. We have been denied opportunities since the beginning of time and still we prevail, so I'm honored. Imagine what we could do together," she concluded.
According to Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, Rihanna achieved the award because she "epitomizes the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight in our President's Award."
Rihanna is a musician (though word is still out on the next album) and a mogul, and every one of her appearances is a public service, but she's also an impressively accomplished activist and philanthropist. She created a global scholarship program with the Clara Lionel Foundation, advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, supported people with HIV+, helped create a benefit concert for Sandy Hook shooting victims, came for Donald Trump, funded the creation of an oncology and nuclear medicine center in her home country of Barbados, and has donated millions of dollars to various charities.
An award for Rihanna is an award for us all. As Jay Willis wrote in GQ, "If the imminent collapse of Western civilization has you grimly wondering when science will enable you to quietly abscond to whichever of those fantastically-named TRAPPIST-1 planets can be colonized first, allow us to present a powerful reason to stay: Harvard University revealed this week that Rihanna, who during her 29 years on earth has made you move your body in ways than you erroneously believed to be physiologically impossible, has been selected as its Humanitarian of the Year." Now that's something to raise a glass too.