On May 25, 2020, George Floyd's life was taken away from him in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for several minutes despite Floyd's repeated pleads and comments saying, "I can't breathe."
George Floyd's tragic, wrongful death has left the entire nation in an uproar due to the racist and unjust circumstances. George Floyd's death marks another black man that was taken away from his children at the hands of the justice system.
Floyd's homegoing service was held on Thursday in Minneapolis and aired on various news stations. I, wanting to pay my respects, tuned in and listened to a prayer delivered by Rev. Jesse Jackson before I had to change the channel.
Yesterday, June 4, 2020, was the first time in a long time that I wept.
Not just for the man who pleaded to the police officer who was "supposed" to protect him, but for his family, the nation, and future generations of Black men, women, and children.
Frankly, because it's very apparent we'll have many, many more years of fighting ahead before we are free. With every death we see broadcast on the news, we're reminded that we're still slaves to America; for, our needs, our voices, our lives don't matter.
Yet, like those before us, we will run this race until we've reached the finish line.
But, here's a list of songs to give you the strength and hope you'll need along the way.
1. "A Change Is Gonna Come" - Sam Cooke
This song was written by the famous singer-songwriter Sam Cooke in 1963 about the injustice Black Americans faced in America during the Civil Rights era. Cooke uses the song to speak about segregation, racism, and his belief that things will improve for the Black race. This powerful song is still a great testament to the hopes for our nation more than 50 years later. Just listening to his lyrics give me peace that we'll one day be victorious in our long pursuit for equality:
"There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will"
2. "Alright" - Kendrick Lamar
If you're feeling angry and frustrated with the injustices you're seeing broadcast in America, this is the song for you. Lamar's first verse is a perfect summary of the inequalities Black people have to face, but his last line is what makes this song a hope-filled bop:
"Alls my life I has to fight, n*gga
Alls my life I
Hard times like, yah!
Bad trips like, yah!
Nazareth, I'm fucked up
Homie, you fucked up
But if God got us then we gon' be alright"
3. "People Have The Power" - Patti Smith
The title of the song itself tells you everything you need to know. We have the power to change things - and we will.
"...I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the meek the graces shower
It' s decreed the people rule"
4. "Stand Tall" - Childish Gambino
This fine work of art by Childish Cambino (aka Donald Glover) speaks about the hardships of life and the encouragement his parents give him to keep hanging on:
"..There is more to you and me
There is more than they can see
I'm on your side
There is more out there
And somebody cares 'bout you
5. "The Times They Are A-Changin' " - Bob Dylan
This song by the folk legend Bob Dylan is all about how society needs to prepare for the major changes that are inevitably going to happen. This Irish/Scottish ballad-inspired tune speaks of progression and change in a stark, earthy way that only Dylan could manage:
"Come gather 'round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
And you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'"
6. "Be Free" - J. Cole
In response to the wrongful shooting of Michael Brown, J. Cole released "Be Free" in 2014. Cole's verses discuss the unlawful murders of Black men and how Black people just want justice and freedom in our nation. His confidence in standing up for his rights is what makes this such an awesome track if you need some reassurance that there's someone that cares:
"Can you tell me why every time I step outside
I see my n*ggas down
Ooh, I'm letting you know
That it ain't no gun they can make that could kill my soul
7. "Before The Deluge" - Jackson Browne
The verses of Jackson Browne's "Before The Deluge" don't really have a clear message. Thus, it's always open to interpretation. But, one thing that's clear is the hope and optimism in the chorus:
"Let the music keep our spirits high
Let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
When the light that's lost within us reaches the sky"
8. "We Shall Overcome" - Mahalia Jackson
"We Shall Overcome" has a ton of famous covers, but this one by the Gospel great Mahalia Jackson is my favorite. Her strong, soulful vocals are a testament of why she's labeled the "Queen of Gospel." Her delivery on this song definitely tells of good news to come if you just have faith. Just this verse alone speaks of us being victorious:
"We're on to victory, We're on to victory
We're on to victory someday
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe
We're on to victory someday"
9. "Pulse" - Melissa Eldridge
This song always makes me cry. It discusses how we all have pain and tragedies in life; but, no matter how different we may be, the blood that's running through our veins unites us and people will (hopefully) understand that someday:
"Once again I hang my head to cry
I can't find the reason why they died
We will find the answer
Blowing in the wind
That everybody's got a pulse"
10. "Can't Stop Me Now" - Lecrae
Lecrae really did it with his song when he raps about ditching the depression you feel in life to focus on being unstoppable:
"So tell depression it can fly away
Tell my doubts that they can die today
I'ma catch me a wave, sail away
Can't stop me now
Tell depression it can fly away
Tell my doubts that they can die today
I'ma catch me a wave, sail away
Can't stop me now"
11. "Redemption Song" - Bob Marley & The Wailers
This song isn't just a classic anthem for no reason! It's catchy, meaningful, and a major source of encouragement that we can free ourselves from our chains:
"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
'Cause none of them can stop the time"
12. "Glory" - John Legend ft. Common
This song by John Legend and Common was written for the movie "Selma" that chronicled MLK and his protesters' march from Selma to Montgomery. So, it's no surprise that this song describes important moments in African American history (such as Rosa Parks' bus boycott) that shows how resilient the Black race is:
"Hands to the Heavens, no man, no weapon
Formed against, yes glory is destined
Every day women and men become legends
Sins that go against our skin become blessings
The movement is a rhythm to us
Freedom is like religion to us
Justice is juxtapositionin' us "
If you need a reminder about how strong you can be in times of struggle and oppression, check this song out.
13. "Superpower" - Beyonce ft. Frank Ocean
The lives of the Black men and women that have been taken in our country leaves scars not only on our history, but also on the lives of the children, spouses, parents, etc. of the victims. They've forever lost their loved one(s). This song by Queen B and Frank Ocean is about love, unity, and never being able to be torn apart. Love defies even death. We can only get stronger from here:
"And just like you I can be scared
And just like you I hope I'm spared
But it's tough love
I know you feel it in the air
Even the babies know it's there: tough love (superpower)
The laws of the world tell us what goes sky
And what falls, it's a superpower (superpower)
The laws of the world never stopped us once
'Cause together we got plenty superpower"
14. "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud" - James Brown
Being a Black woman can be hard, but listening to this song always makes me feel like I can soar! It's hard to see members of your community attacked and killed simply because they're Black. Yet, when I think about all the things the leaders before me accomplished from being proud of who they are and standing up for themselves, it's hard not to have hope that my generation can finish the fight. James said it best, "I'm Black and I'm proud!"
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