Black Lives Matter: How the Music Industry Responds to Racial Injustice

 

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Black Lives Matter also known as BLM is the response to police brutality and systematic racism against black people in America. Through the use of technology, citizens have captured footage and watched as black people have been killed at the hands of police officers across America. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” first appeared on a Facebook post from activist Alicia Garza. In the post, Alicia wrote about her frustration on the death of Trayvon Martin and the love that she has for black people. The post went viral and gained the popularity of people using the #BlackLivesMatter tag to show solidarity. As more killings of black people occurred, the phrase went from a digital tag to a nationwide and worldwide movement. The Black Lives Matter movement wants justice for black people that were and are still affected by police brutality and systematic oppression in America. People from all walks of life have joined the movement through the use of their celebrity platforms, art, and platform.

Kendrick Lamar is one of the most prominent artists to create music that resonates with the BLM movement. His album, To Pimp a Butterfly, became an anthem for people to chant and show off in their solidarity. One clear use of this is from his song “Alright.” In the chorus, he repeats, “We Gon’ Be Alright.” That phrase started being called during protests throughout the country. He also performed the song at many events to show the visual impacts of the song. Hip hop and R&B queen Beyoncé, shook the music industry with her release of “Formation.” While performing the song at the Super bowl, Beyoncé brought out feelings that resonated with the frustrating times. When Beyoncé released “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar on the album, it presented a political statement that many people cling to.

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D’Angelo’s album, Black Messiah is another deep-rooted statement album that describes the experience of many black people in America. The lyrics were based on many years of suffering but still coming out strong afterward. The album brought intense emotions connected from systematic oppression and the black experience in America. Some artists have made references and created opportunities for a conversation to occur with songs like “I’m not a Racist” by Joyner Lucas and Macklemore’s “White Privilege II.” These songs examine intense emotions coupled with wonderfully-crafted beats. The socially conscious messaging in the songs confronts listeners not only on an emotional level but also on political stances.

Many musicians created art that celebrated black culture while talking about the affects of racism in America. MC Z-Ro released “No Justice No Peace”, a song that describes the frustrating standards that black people have to deal with. The Game’s “Don’t Shoot” pulled fourteen different artists together to create a song. Reflecting on life after the murder of Michael Brown, the artists found a way to express themselves in a cohesive way during a time of anger by bringing the listeners hope.

The music streaming platform Spotify has several playlists that are geared towards the BLM movement. Some songs added were meant to uplift listeners like “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun” by Rotary Connection, “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” by Nina Simone, and “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown. These songs emphasize the beauty and power of being black. “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke pulls at the heart of the black culture through the suffering and stress that people have endured. There are even songs that get your blood and body moving like “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy and “FTP” by YG.

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Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang started the #TheShowMustBePaused initiative in the music industry. Through recognizing collective power, the young women wanted to empower black communities that have been used as a form of gain and profit for the wealthy in America. The demonstration looks to show what could happen in the industry if it wasn’t powered and supported by black people. Others in the music industry participated in the national boycott referred to as “Black Out Tuesday.” Some labels and offices were closed and released content that showed their stance in support with black people in America. Labels and other types of businesses were closed or provided additional time for others to vent and share a message of solidarity.

High-ranking musicians have begun to use their platform as a means of expressing their feeling of discontent. Whether it’s someone that has consistently spoken about the injustice of minorities or someone that is “jumping on the band wagon,” Black Lives Matter has grown in the country to change the narrative of the black experience in America. The important concept to consider from the Black Lives Matter movement is that everyone has the ability to speak up or help someone else. Musicians have held a special place in culture as they have the platform and the ability to connect to a wide amount of people. Music is the way that so many navigate dealing with the world and their own personal emotions. Public demonstrations, dynamic music or visuals, and active community-based behavior are direct representations of people taking power into their own hands. Black Lives Matter isn’t a trend. It isn’t a hashtag or posed black square picture. It’s not yelling just to be seen. It’s the collective thought of those in solidarity along with people in the black community who are demanding a better quality of life.

Here is a resource you can use to stay informed about Black Lives Matter and to donate to the cause: www.blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

Written by: Carlton Rolle

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