by Queen Muse
As the middle sister of nine brothers with ages ranging from 18 to 40, nothing scares me more than the thought of one of them becoming a victim of policy brutality.
Watching case after case of young black males being gunned down by law enforcement officers, and seeing those cases end in injustice, made me even more afraid for their lives.
As a creative, I often turn to music when I have no other means to express or channel my frustrations, fears, and anguish. After a grand jury announced that despite having the entire encounter on video, and despite a medical examiner ruling the incident as a homicide, there would be no indictment for the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death, I found myself listening to Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam."
What struck me most was how much of what Simone expressed in her 1964 tune applied to everything I was witnessing and feeling 50 years later, in 2014.
Simone originally wrote the song, that later became a civil rights anthem, in response to the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi. She would go on to perform the song at Carnegie Hall and at the end of one of the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Simone's poignant, emotional lyrics, "Hound dogs on my trail, school children sitting in jail, black cat cross my path, I think every day's gonna be my last," saddened me but they also made me think.
I thought of the 6-year-old Georgia student that was handcuffed and arrested for "throwing a tantrum." I thought of the hundreds of protesters at the University of California, Berkeley campus that were beaten with batons by police officers while trying to exercise their right to protest. I thought of Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, and I thought of my nine brothers; young black men who at any point could find themselves the subject of a 'justice for' hashtag. I thought of how much has yet to change in our justice system, and how much work needs to be done to ensure equality for all.
In an effort to express the anguish of the modern day equivalent of Simone's interpretation of the pain of the civil rights struggle, I penned "Missouri Goddam." The tune pays tribute to the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others that have been senselessly murdered by police. It is my hope that people will look up these names, learn their stories, and join the fight to tell the world that #BlackLivesMatter.
Listen to the song and watch the video tribute below:
Queen Muse is a freelance writer whose passion for journalism is inspired by the interesting lives of everyday people. Her stories and commentaries have been featured in numerous publications, including For Harriet, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Business Journal, and on NBC10.com. Queen is a 2012 White House Internship alum and has a B.A. and an M.A. in Communications from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA.