In Philadelphia, musical artists Janelle Monáe and Jidenna led a rally and march on North Broad Street on August 12. The demonstrations were in support of the movement for black lives, and they were intended to complement the release of a new Black Lives Matter-inspired protest anthem.
The anthem is called “Hell You Talmbout.” Musically, it centers on a drum line. Monáe, Jidenna, George 2.0, Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, and St. Beauty chant the names of black Americans who have been killed by police.
For example, Monáe shouts, “Sandra Bland. Say her name! Sandra Bland! Say her name! Sandra Bland! Won’t you say her name!”
Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Aiyana Jones, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mariam Carey, and others from Emmett Till to Amadou Diallo, deaths which precede the Black Lives Matter movement, are shouted.
The structure of the song is such that one can imagine it lasting much longer than six minutes. It could go on for however long it takes to acknowledge all the black bodies lost as a result of police violence. New names could be included as more deaths inevitably occur as a result of systemic racism.
On the other hand, it is not a dirge at all. The anthem is an empowering tune for communities all over the United States, who do not want those killed to remain invisible or unacknowledged. The roster has well-known and lesser-known cases, but each case is equally remembered in this anthem.
In fact, an instrumental version was posted. Grassroots groups could easily incorporate this into their actions, incorporate whichever names they wanted, and use the song to inspire and mobilize their community.
Here it is being performed at the Philadelphia rally:
Kicking off a tour in at her concert in Philadelphia, Monae and Wondaland performed the song. Monae said, “We have been devastated by the police brutality. We have been devastated by the abuse of power” of these police officers.” She said Wondaland is for the people, and “when we say something, we’re going to say something.”
Monáe and Wondaland also put out a statement calling the song a “vessel,” which “carries the unbearable anguish of millions.”
“We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters,” the statement declares. “We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue.”
The artists involved aim to use this anthem as a weapon, and shout the question, “Won’t you say her name?” over and over again until it gets the answer which those who died at the hands of police deserve.
Listen to the protest anthem, “Hell You Talmbout.”