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Protest Song of the Week: ‘The Revolution Has Come’

Drawing from the uprising after Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Jay-Marie Hill, and his band, The Holy Ghost, produced a protest album called, “The Revolution Has Come.”

The album of soul and gospel music was released by Farfetched, an independent music and art group in St. Louis, Missouri, which is not far from Ferguson where protests in response to Brown’s death took place.

Shadowproof’s “Protest Song of the Week” is the title track. It is an uplifting and radical gospel song and carries on the tradition of freedom songs popularized by the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The chorus is the following:

What a time to be alive
What a time to be alive
The revolution has come
What a time to be alive
What a time to be alive
When we stand up, we’ve already won

There is only one verse. As Sekou sings, “People all over the world are standing up.” They are saying “we ain’t gonna take it no more.” They “speak truth to power.” Because of that, a change is gonna come. “This we know for sure.”

The lines are standard declarations one can find in past freedom songs, and they fit into the empowering nature of the song.

The song opens with organ and piano. Nearly two minutes into the track it crescendoes. Background vocals amplify the chorus Sekou sings. Drums and guitar add to the sound as it builds even more and then gradually slows down to a rather peaceful piano and organ outro.

Sekou, who anyone will recognize if they spent any time at the Ferguson protests in 2014, and Hill created a song to celebrate the victory of disempowered, marginalized, and oppressed people rising up to claim dignity in their lives.

As Sekou explained to an audience at St. Mary’s, “When poor kids in unimportant parts of the world stand up to the empire and refuse to bow down, we’ve won.”

“When you think about the level of militarization by police force against protesters, you don’t pull out tanks and tear gas when you’re winning. You pull them out because you want to crush it.”

Typically, Sekou noted, oppressed people functioning at the “behest of empire” do what they are told to do, they act like everything is alright, and they keep their heads down. But when people stand up and act, they’ve won.

Faced with material conditions that are extremely bad, people who are able to look at them and refuse to live under those conditions anymore are claiming a victory the powers that be do not want to see achieved. While the struggle is not over, it is important, according to Sekou and Hill, to act as if one has won.

The strength in the movement for black lives is believing that each act of resistance is another victory against a system. It builds up a once-demoralized individual into a person who believes in their ability to create change.

At its core, “The Revolution Has Come” is a protest chant put to gospel music. However, by putting the chant to music, the message transcends political demonstrations. The message reaches people on a whole other level and impacts their consciousness in both subtle and unambiguous ways.

Listen to “The Revolution Has Come” by Rev. Sekou & The Holy Ghost.

Find the whole album and support their work here. And if you want more insight into the song itself, listen to Sekou and Hill talk about it as they perform the tune at St. Mary’s:


Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? Submit a song to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."