Pretty Yende, one of the world's most famous operatic sopranos (who also happens to be black) had a horrifying encounter with customs officials in Paris as she was preparing to sing in La Sonnambula at Theatre Champs Elysees.
Pretty Yende had this to say about the encounter,
"The battles that I go through each and every second of my #prettyjourney would shock you. I bet you can’t spend a second walking in my shoes and the sacrifices made in order to show up anyways. I’m grateful nonetheless and I am most determined to share my Gift wholeheartedly to as many souls as possible and for as long as I live. I’m glad that I’ve been let free and I can sing my 4th performance tomorrow @theatre_champs_elysees. Big thanks to the #prettyarmy that fought me out of that ‘prison’ 🦅YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE🦅" -Pretty Yende
Some on social media and in the news began to question whether this was really an issue of racial discrimination or if somehow Yende had warranted this behavior. What is absolutely absurd is how this type of inhumane treatment would ever be warranted by anyone, regardless of circumstance. Pretty Yende defended herself and gave more insight as to the situation in a statement she made,
"Police brutality is real for someone who look like me. I’ve always read about it on the news and most of my brothers and sister end up being tortured and some fatal cases make headlines and dead bodies suddenly appear with made up stories . I am one of the very very luck ones to be alive to see the day today even with il-treatment and outrageous racial discrimination and psychological torture and very offensive racial comments in a country that I’ve given so much of my heart and virtue to and still determined to do so as a legal International citizen on the global stage community. I’m still shaken thinking that I am one in a million who managed to come out of that situation alive because of one phone call I thought of at the time as I was in shock and traumatized and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. They took all my belongings including my cellphone and told me to write down phone numbers of my close family and friends to call with a landline phone they had on the retention cell, they said they were going to take me to a ‘prison hotel’ in the meantime while they looked at me like I was a criminal offender. I said, my phone battery is dying, might you have a charger by any chance? The police officer said ‘ listen to me carefully, you will not have your phone... I said what...he continued, listen to me until I finish with a very harsh and condescending tone... I replied...” am I a prisoner?... he rudely said yes... and I decided to comply and just do what they say and not try to ‘defend’ my legal self and this in French soil, I was stripped and searched like a criminal offender and put on the retention cell on terminal 2B customs control Charles de Gaulle, Paris. It was cold in there, there was no light at the beginning, cold and grey and they left me there alone with the landline phone and a piece of paper they gave me to write down phone numbers of those I could call, most of them refused to address me in English, there were more than 10 police officers I could hear talking and laughing down the hallway..."
"I hardly/almost never share the outrageous and inhumane experiences I go through every second of my #prettyjourney but this time I couldn’t keep silence. Let’s be thankful I am alive to tell my story, and I wasn’t ‘brutally interrogated’ & physically tortured like many to even this day, families are still wondering what happened and with no answers. I love this country and together we have shared many beautiful experiences and it was unfortunate that this happened yesterday and I am very happy that I was assisted in this regard and the matter is being handled well #prettyarmy 💕🦅" -Pretty Yende
One has to contemplate, that if such brutal and inhumane treatment can happen to one of the most talented, beautiful, classy, and internationally well-known black singers, it can happen to any of us in the black and minority communities. Any racial injustice of this magnitude can not be simply overlooked, but we must hold those in leadership at the international level accountable.
To Pretty Yende-
We applaud your courage, bravery, and class as you handled this horrifying encounter, and we hope this event causes a change in how international travelers are cared for.
May God keep you in his perfect peace, a peace that passes all circumstances. Much love to you from the operatic community and our team here at Opera Culture. 💕