“This Is How I Feel: A Playlist By Young Black Listeners” by SURAYA MOHAMED
Days after George Floyd was killed by police, my 25-year-old son woke up on the verge of tears. “It is difficult to find the right words to express the degree of anger, helplessness and pain I feel towards the constant state-sanctioned terrorism toward black people in America,” he wrote. In response, he curated a mix — “Fighting the Anger” — to help him work through his feelings and shared it for anyone who needed the energy
After I listened, my spirit was nurtured, but I felt helpless and sad that I could not take away his pain. Mad that I cannot protect him from the potential dangers he and all people of color face on the street every day. Frustrated with systemic racism, implicit and unconscious racial biases so prevalent in our society — they are the norm. Tired of unending police brutality and unjust racial profiling, compounded by the dehumanization and hyper criminalization of African American men in particular. Exhausted by the structural white power systems designed to beat down and keep down people of color.
But my son’s mix reminded me that popular music is a powerful vehicle for personal expression and change, too. In “Mortal Man,” Kendrick Lamar says, “In my opinion / Only hope that we kinda have left is music and vibrations / Lot a people don’t understand how important it is.”
Music has always been a vital part of protest and social justice. We reached out to our community of young Black listeners because they understand the importance of music, especially during difficult days. We asked: Is there one song that’s helping you address your feelings right now? We collected responses from Instagram, but also through family, friends, musicians and organizations like Girls Write Nashville.