Six million American children attend schools with no art or music classes, she said Wednesday at the museum's inaugural Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon.
"Arts are a way to channel ... pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful, and every human being needs that, particularly our kids," she said. "And when they don't have that outlet, that's such a tremendous loss, not just for our kids but for our nation."
"Those are some of my favorite events at the
"Music helped me really deal with my emotions, when I could not articulate how frustrated I was," she said. "It gave me the opportunity to get it all out."
Her latest album, 2013's "The Electric Lady," rails against sexism, presenting women as subjects rather than objects.
The 28-year-old entertainer is active with the
"I hope we have more mentors," Monae said. "More mentors than superstars."
After accepting her microphone-shaped trophy, she brought out her band and performed a high-energy four-song set that included a cover of James Brown's "I Feel Good."
The first lady introduced the petite, pompadoured Monae, calling her a "fireplug" and a friend, and revealing that the singer danced on a table during her
"I love Janelle's message," Obama said. "I love that she is one of the young artists here that is making music that means something."
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