Fight the Power: Protest Music to Honor George Floyd

(Press play to listen on Spotify.)

The violence done to people of color on a daily basis in the United States of America is horrific and unacceptable.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police is just one of the most recent expressions of the racist brutality that law enforcement exerts against black and brown bodies. Among George Floyd’s last words were “I can’t breathe,” the same words that Eric Garner repeated over and over when he was murdered by police in 2014.

Police in the U.S. have killed more than 1,000 people every year since 2013. In 2018, more people were killed by police than were killed in the 10 previous years in mass shootings. Statistically, controlling for population, a black American is three times as likely as a white person to be the victim of a police killing, and 1.4 times more likely than a white person to be unarmed when killed by police. All these deaths are part of a long legacy of oppression that this country has yet to properly reckon with. As Will Smith eloquently put it a few years back: “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

So it is no wonder that people are protesting all across the country right now.

You may feel conflicted about certain strategies that protestors are using, such as setting a police precinct on fire. But consider that Ruhel Islam, the owner of Gandhi Mahal—a nearby Minneapolis restaurant that also caught fire the same night as the police precinct—had this to say:

“Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served. Put those officers in jail.”

We all want to work towards peace. And while people are being killed in the streets by police nearly every day, there is no peace to be found. Ruhel Islam, like so many of the protestors, understands that human lives are of greater value than a building. The direct action of protestors in Minnesota and elsewhere is an act of realignment towards peace.

When you hear stories of “looting,” do your homework and learn about how often the looting is started by privileged white people, sometimes white supremacists from out of state.

When you hear of violence breaking out at a protest, be aware of the many times that police are the ones to instigate violence in an otherwise peaceful direct action.

When you hear that all cops are evil, remember that officers in cities across the country are joining the protests against police brutality. We need serious police reform, and these officers are standing with the movement in support of change.

A global pandemic is obviously not the best time to be gathering in the streets. But it should serve as a demonstration of just how drastic the situation has become that people are willing to risk their lives to be heard. If you plan to protest, research the health risks of doing so, plan accordingly to reduce risk, learn how to safely film police violence (18 MB PDF from Witness), and learn about digital safety best practices.

These protests have already resulted in real successes. The officer who asphyxiated George Floyd has been charged with third-degree murder. For the first time since he took office, Donald Trump’s tweets have been flagged for inciting violence and labeled with fact-checking on his misinformation. The global visibility of this movement is powerful, and the solidarity is real. And it needs to go even further. We need real justice before we can find peace.

To those in positions of privilege: Now is the time to witness, to listen, to take action. Donate to the fight against police brutality. Donate to bail funds of protestors being jailed for peaceful assembly.

For everyone: President Obama has some thoughts on how to use this moment to achieve real and lasting change. tl;dr: Keep protesting, and also VOTE and advocate for local and state policy changes to address systemic racism.

This playlist is to honor the memory of George Floyd. It’s an homage to these powerful musicians of color who are some of my heroes of protest music. I hope it can motivate, educate, and inspire as we work to make this country a safer place for us all.

Stay safe. Stay woke.

Love y’all.

Press play to listen on Spotify.

  1. Public Enemy – “Fight the Power” (1988)
  2. Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom” (2016)
  3. A Tribe Called Red – “The Virus” (2016)
  4. Ice Cube – “Arrest The President” (2018)
  5. Kendrick Lamar – “HiiiPower” (2011)
  6. Erykah Badu – “Soldier” (2008)
  7. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People…” (2016)
  8. Oddisee – “Like Really” (2017)
  9. Immortal Technique – “The 4th Branch” (2003)
  10. Killer Mike – “Reagan” (2012)
  11. Angela Davis – “On Becoming An Activist” (1999)
  12. Jamar Carr – “American Way” (2017)
  13. Paradox feat. Supastition, IAME, Dre Murray, & Imperial – “Race Card” (2015)
  14. ALVMNII – “We Ain’t Free” (2020)
  15. Mick Jenkins feat. BADBADNOTGOOD – “Drowning” (2016)
  16. Childish Gambino – “Redbone” (2016)
  17. Rihanna – “American Oxygen” (2015)
  18. Marcus Miller – “I Can’t Breathe” (2015)
  19. Daye Jack feat. Killer Mike – “Hands Up” (2015)
  20. Saul Williams – “The Noise Came From Here” (2016)
  21. Michael Kiwanuka “Black Man In A White World” (2016)
  22. Ms. Lauryn Hill – “Forgive Them Father” (1998)
  23. Joey Bada$$ – “Land of the Free” (2017)
  24. Common feat. Stevie Wonder – “Black America Again” (2016)
  25. The Game feat. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz – “Don’t Shoot” (2014)
  26. Usher feat. Nas & Bibi Bourelly – “Chains” (2015)
  27. Rebel Diaz feat. Dead Prez & Rakaa Iriscience – “Which Side Are You On?
  28. Common & John Legend – “Glory” (2014)