The Alabama grandmother behind the mysterious billboards that have popped up around Los Angeles and Nashville supporting disgraced country singer Morgan Wallen tells The Daily Wire she has a message about cancel culture and it’s very simple: “Everyone must band together to stop it.”
In April, six billboards appeared in high-traffic areas around Nashville ahead of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards showing an outline of Wallen’s face with this message: “His Fan’s Choice, Entertainer of the Year. Support that boy from ‘East Tennessee!” Another showed up in Los Angeles just before the Billboard Music Awards. The superstar had been banned from both ceremonies after he was caught on video calling a white friend the n-word while intoxicated.
Wallen immediately apologized, saying, “I’m embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.” But that wasn’t enough for his industry. His record label suspended his contract. Radio station ownership groups and streaming platforms removed his songs from their rotations. Clubs along Nashville’s Broadway barred performers from playing his songs. Finally, several major country music organizations marked Wallen as ineligible for awards and announced he would not be welcome to attend.
That was when Darleen Ingram and her friends in a Facebook fan group said, “Enough is enough,” and hatched a plan to send a message to the music industry: “It’s time for you to accept [Wallen’s] apology.”
“It came to me because a group of us on the fan pages started talking about how much of an overreaction it was,” she tells The Daily Wire. “Someone filmed him in his own yard and released the video to TMZ knowing it would destroy his life.”
Their plan to win attention appears to have worked, as the billboards have generated numerous headlines in major media outlets around the world, so there’s little chance country music executives haven’t heard about them.
Ingram says there’s no question that what Wallen said was wrong, but she believes the punishment has been disproportionate to the crime. “We realize there had to be repercussions, some sort of fall out,” she says. “But to keep on and on and take away everything he’s earned without taking the time to evaluate who he is or what he’s done to better himself, it’s not right.”
That’s why her group’s latest billboard buy — seven advertisements in heavily populated parts of Nashville just before the CMT awards — include a reference to the Bible verse, Mark 11:25: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
“That’s a verse I have referred to often in my life and it fits this situation,” the 54-year-old Ingram says.”We have to have a way to forgive someone when they apologize and let it be over so they can move. [Wallen] is not the only one in the music industry who has said or done something wrong. If we’re going to cancel one of them for saying an ugly thing, we need to cancel all of them who have ever said something inappropriate.”
Ingram says when she first had the idea, she envisioned buying one billboard. But so many people in her Facebook group responded to her call to action, in a few days she had enough to buy a package of six. “It felt like a big accomplishment,” she tells The Daily Wire. For the third round of billboards, the group was able to buy seven.
Explaining why fans like her feel so connected to Wallen, Ingram waxes poetic: “His music is like sugar rolling off the lips. If you listen to all of his songs, you’re going to find one that speaks to your soul. He has that country sound. He has that country lifestyle. He’s one of us. His music speaks to what the common people know about — tailgates, bonfires, and red dirt roads.”
As a resident of a small town, it’s a lifestyle Ingram also understands. And she says the values of unity, forgiveness, and grace she and her neighbors hold are worth fighting for. “We’re sick of cancel culture. We’re all human and make mistakes. So we said to ourselves, ‘We can’t let them keep doing this. Just relentlessly punishing people. As long as we keep sitting back doing nothing, nothing is going to change. We have to stand up and fight.’ This was our way of doing it.”
For those following the story of her billboard, Ingram wants them to know that cancel culture is bigger than politics. “We just wanted our voices to be heard and to let the industry know it’s not political, it’s about wanting the division in the country to stop. We want to be able to listen to who want to listen to and we want the music industry to play fair.”
The Daily Wire reached out to ViacomCBS, CMT’s parent company, for comment on Darleen Ingram’s message but did not receive a response.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.