The Smith family knows how to make everyone feel at home. From Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Jones’ Red Table Talk Facebook Watch series (inviting open and honest conversations) to Will Smith’s Airbnb partnership inviting people to stay at The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mansion, they’ve welcomed people in for years.
So it’s not surprising that Jaden Smith is also extending an invitation — but this time around, he’s meeting at another family’s dinner table (virtually) to discuss one topic that’s sure to get everyone on the edge of their seats: politics.
The 22-year-old artist and activist is partnering with Airbnb this week to host a limited-time Online Experience, where he and Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, a psychologist and the CEO and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, will coach one group on how to facilitate healthy political conversations with their families and friends during the holidays without creating division.
In an unprecedented year, loved ones are grappling with how to safely come together while ensuring they won’t spend hours arguing about what Jaden calls “the most important election for our generation,” as he tells Billboard.
“When people are looking for information, I just love to be able to tap into people that are in my network and say, ‘Hey, let’s talk to these people about this,’” Jaden says.
The rapper believes starting a conversation is the first step, which his family has demonstrated with their frank candor, famous guests and all-too-familiar cherry-red table. His mother, sister and grandmother have discussed topics ranging from gun violence and the legacy of Nipsey Hussle with Lauren London to mental health with Kid Cudi on the Facebook Watch series that premiered in 2018.
For a special Red Table Talk segment during Facebook Watch’s Vote-A-Thon 2020 on National Voter Registration Day last month, his 19-year-old sister Willow spoke on the importance of their generation feeling empowered to fulfill their civic duty.
“It’s obviously very important for everyone to talk to each other about what’s going on, because you’re getting a lot of situations where people feel uncomfortable or they don’t want to talk about everything happening in the world. But we do need to talk about it, and we need to be open and honest about what’s happening,” the “Boys and Girls” singer says, echoing his sister’s sentiments.
He continues: “I feel like a lot of times people don’t want to engage when they don’t know what to say or when they think they’re gonna sound stupid or when they don’t know about the topic. And I feel like it’s important to listen to people talk about it and learn more about it and go to sources… so that when it is time to engage, you feel like you know what you’re talking about.”
Starting Thursday at noon ET, groups of up to 10 friends and family members can try booking the one-time-only Airbnb Online Experience with Jaden and Dr. Goff. Only one group will be able to secure the private booking, which will take place Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Participation costs $100 per group (or $10 per person), with proceeds benefiting Vote.org, a nonprofit and nonpartisan voting registration and get-out-the-vote technology platform. And for anyone unable to get a seat at the table, Airbnb is extended a virtual one by livestreaming the experience on their YouTube channel.
Jaden hopes the participants and viewers’ main takeaway from the event is hearing Dr. Goff speak and satisfying their hunger for information concerning healthy conversations about what’s going on in the country and how to engage with it through activism. Especially for members of Gen Z, like Jaden, this election could mark “our first time or second time” exercising our democratic right to vote, he says.
And Jaden knows firsthand what it feels like when years go by between pivotal moments in his life and he witnesses events in the interim that shape his growth, like when he released CTV3: Cool Tape Vol. 3 on Aug. 28, 2020. The third Cool Tape installment follows The Cool Cafe: Cool Tape Vol. 1 in 2012 and The Cool Cafe: Cool Tape Vol. 2 in 2014.
“So much time had gone by, I had experienced so many different things that I had never experienced, like going on tour and performing in front of people… and just so many different emotions that I just felt like a lot of growth has happened with this project, a lot of change has happened,” he says of his latest album. “I’m just so excited about it, that we’re able to get it out to the world and let people hear it.”
He tells Billboard that he’s currently at work getting out the deluxe version of CTV3, which will include more featured artists on top of Justin Bieber‘s part on “Falling for You” and Raury on “Endless Summer.” While he can’t disclose who he’s adding to the LP’s expanded edition just yet, he salutes his comrades in the hip-hop community for using their voices to raise awareness about the election next Tuesday, Nov. 3, including Tyler, the Creator, who spoke candidly about his first time voting this year in a PSA video.
“Everyone feels as though they want to make a change. And I feel like for the past four years, everyone has had a moment where they’re like, ‘This is not OK, and this just can’t happen anymore,'” Jaden says. “I feel like we’re seeing all of that happen now. When people actually have the opportunity to express themselves, they will. And they are.”