A poignant, deeply moving recognition of enduring grief and racial injustice, Paris-based, London-born artist ALA.NI has shared ‘Lament for Emmett Till’ to help mark the 65th anniversary of the 14 year old African-American boy’s death. Her pensive vocals and gentle instrumentation allow listeners to revisit the tragedy of Till’s story, and to question why racial injustice still has such a frighteningly profound presence in modern society.
Taking its title and lyrics from a 1955 poem of the same name by the radical activist, journalist and organiser of the first Notting Hill Carnival, Claudia Jones, ‘Lament for Emmett Till’ explores the brutal kidnapping and lynching of the 14 year old after he was wrongfully accused of sexually harassing Carolyn Bryant, a white female clerk, at a Mississippi grocery store.
When his murderers were acquitted of the crime – despite confessing their guilt in a paid magazine interview only months later – Till’s mother decided to have an open casket funeral so others could see the horrifying violence he’d endured, which lead to him becoming a posthumous symbol of The Civil Rights Movement.
The FBI have since reopened the case and are seeking to make lynching a federal crime, but a Republican senator is controversially blocking the bill and Carolyn Bryant herself admitted in a 2007 interview that she had lied about the events that led to Till’s murder. There has still been no formal apology, no compensation, and no conviction for Till’s murder.
ALA.NI’s single acknowledges this injustice, and is supported by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, which she is an official ambassador of. The foundation is currently asking the public to sign a petition demanding justice for Till and, specifically, that the FBI release the findings of their recent re-investigation into his murder as a matter of urgency. ALA.NI’s track is accompanied by a monochrome video that shows pictures and press clippings from the time of Till’s murder, and will prompt listeners to sign the petition (which you can do here).
“We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history, where we must act now and fast, before all is too late. This is our last chance to fight for rightful equalities before the fascists take over,” ALA.NI explains. “I’m reaching out to the people to seek justice for Emmett Till. Knowing the power of music, I hope it can be used as an effective tool to bring the much needed awareness to this long-overdue murder case. Justice for Emmett Till will set a president for the systematic reform that must take place, that we can no longer afford to ignore and wait patiently for.”
Watch the video for ‘Lament for Emmett Till’ below.
Photo Credit: Alice Dellal