October 24, 2020

Educating through Music: A Black Lives Matter Playlist

posted on: Thursday September 17, 2020

How Artists are Using Their Platforms to Fight for Justice

by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff

2020 has been a year of surprises and new experiences for everyone all over the world. With that said, one thing that has not changed is the need to fight for racial equality in America. 

Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in late May of 2020, millions of Americans have taken to the streets to protest against police brutality and the killing of Black people by police officers. 

Over the past few months specifically, Black artists have used their platforms to fight for racial equality. In the music industry, Anderson .Paak released an impactful protest song entitled “Lockdown,” which was released on Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the liberation of slaves on June 19, 1865. Based on his own experiences at protests this year, .Paak speaks his truth about police brutality and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. One lyric reads, “Sicker than the COVID,” alluding to the idea that America is facing two deadly viruses—COVID-19, which impacts Black Americans at  significantly higher rates than white Americans, and racism. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF SPOTIFY

In June, H.E.R. released a heart-wrenching song called “I Can’t Breathe,” a reference to the deaths of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and many other Black lives. When asked about the inspiration behind her song during the iHeartRadio Living Room Concert, she said, “I think music is powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing and that’s why I wrote this song, to make a mark in history. And I hope this song does that.” H.E.R.’s lyrics are genuine and inspiring, which can be seen when she sings, “Because we do not seek revenge. We seek justice.” 

Lil Baby also released a song called “The Bigger Picture,” which details his experience with police brutality, racism, and actively standing up for change. The song opens with news reports about the protests from this year and progresses into a fast rap about concentrating on the bigger picture. All proceeds from “The Bigger Picture” will go to The National Association of Black Journalists, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, The Bail Project, and Black Lives Matter. 

Additionally, Spotify compiled an official Black Lives Matter playlist that showcases anthems of the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few years including Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” which won the 2018 Grammy song of the year.  

Several prominent musicians have used their platforms to create change, but other sections of the artistic community have also used the Black Lives Matter movement as inspiration. After the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, large murals were created all over the country, including one on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower with the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” 

From George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas to Brooklyn, New York, and all over the world, artists have channeled the power of music to communicate their message. There is a  clear link between graffiti and activism, as murals give artists and common people alike a place to make their voices heard. 

In order to enact necessary social and institutional change in our country, we need to continue the conversations surrounding racism and oppression. Art from a plethora of genres serves as a creative reminder to keep fighting for what is right.  

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