(Photo Credit - Frank Maddocks)
I wanted to write an article for Black History Month here at Alt Revue! I try to cover a variety of artists throughout the year, but I note that I need to focus more attention on Black artists in particular.
I was reading an Instagram post from "Educators for Justice", and they emphasized the importance of noting Black History is now. That really hit home for me, and the song "This Land" by Gary Clark Jr. came into my head. It is a divine blend of past transgressions with current injustices. Let's look at the lyrics.
"This Land" - Gary Clark Jr.
"Uh, yeah Paranoid and pissed off Now that I got the money Fifty acres and a model A' Right in the middle of Trump country I told you, "There goes a neighborhood" Now Mister Williams ain't so funny I see you looking out your window Can't wait to call the police on me Well I know you think I'm up to somethin' I'm just eating, now we're still hungry And this is mine now, legit I ain't leavin' and you can't take it from me I remember when you used to tell me 'N***a run, n***a run Go back where you come from N***a run, n***a run Go back where you come from We don't want, we don't want your kind We think you's a dog born Fuck you, I'm America's son This is where I come from This land is mine This land is mine This land is mine This land is mine Up 'till the sun comes up No I can't start grindin' And I can't let 'em break me No I can't let 'em find me You can meet my friend the governor Only if you wanna try me Or you can meet my other friend the judge Just in case you think I'm lyin' And I know you think I'm up to somethin' I'm just eating out but still hungry And this is my analogy I ain't leaving here you can't take it from me I remember when you used to tell me 'N***a run, n***a run Go back where you come from N***a run, n***a run Go back where you come from We don't want, we don't want your kind We think you's a dog born Well fuck you, I'm America's son This is where I come from This land is mine This land is mine This land is mine This land is mine (This land is mine This land is mine This land is mine This land is)"
I was recently reading Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race, and she was discussing all the history behind the "n" word. That is the main reason White people cannot use this term. We do not get the pain that comes along with it. So, first, let's look at how Clark intertwines past with present. The past can be seen with the chorus line, he starts, "I remember when you used to tell me -". It is this line that shows that he is speaking of Black pain and how words were used against him. How White society pushed Black people aside noting, it wasn't their land because they had been brought here. How does this painful history meet present? He speaks to that pain and he rejects what it tries to say about Black rights. We see this clearly in, "Well fuck you, I'm America's Son. This is where I come from." He doesn't have to spell anything out for listeners to pick up on the past is NOT the past. Black families are still dealing with the pain of racism to this day, and they must speak to it and against it to move forward. Very powerful. Now, a note on the use of language in songs. Listen to a modern-day pop hit, and you are almost guaranteed to run into language of some kind. I'm not against profanity, but I think it has a powerful use IF it is used clearly, purposefully, and distinctly. For example, Clark's use of the "n" word. He is using the oppressor's language to clearly call it out. It only makes sense that he uses one of the most "harsh" swear words in English "fuck" to reject it. He wants there to be no question in the purpose of this song. So, next time you are writing, think about your word choice. Are you adding in language because it seems hip? Or, are you adding it in to really further your agenda, to really point out injustices occurring, to wake people up? Until next time.