A Gift in the Wake of George Floyd’s Murder
You are going to thank me for this gift, so in advance I say, “You’re welcome.”
It may take a minute to get to the gift part, but stay with me.
I can still remember the long, dark wood stereo console that sat in the upstairs formal living room of my childhood home. It took up the entire length of the large window that looked out onto the front yard. As a kid I thought this stereo was especially cool because it had a turntable, 8-Track Player, and AM-FM radio. The best parts were the built in disco lights that flanked each side of the console.
Like many others, I’ve had a very emotionally difficult week because of the murder of George Floyd. Mr. George Floyd murdered in broad daylight, on the streets of Minneapolis at the hands of four police officers and a system that repeatedly let’s me know in words and deeds that Black lives aren’t valued.
A father, brother, and son he was–and his Black life was– cavalierly snuffed out and shown no compassion, only vitriolic hatred, while many a camera phones captured he inhumane, violent murder in real time, and broadcasted it for all to see.
Black people are told loudly, and in no uncertain terms, that Black lives don’t matter. I haven’t watched the video, but I read articles, heard audio and saw still pictures of the knee on the neck of Mr. George Floyd who had his wrists handcuffed behind his back as he laid dying on the ground and crying out for his deceased mother. The images and audio from that fateful day are heartbreaking.
My feelings have spanned the continuum; from profound sadness to rage, and everything in between. I’ve also been prone to spontaneous bursts of tears. I sit with the feelings, I don’t judge them. In an effort not to dwell in the sunken place for too long, I focused on engaging in activities that bring me peace and joy. Of course I got outside in nature, cause that what I do. I also got lost in finding and listening to good music.
This is the part where you will thank me.
The cool stereo console described earlier played so much good music throughout my childhood including Al Green, Prince, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye to name a few. I recently put Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Going On” album as my Facebook cover photo in light of recent events. I wasn’t even a year old when that album was released, but I heard it a lot growing up and it remains one of my favorite albums to this day.
Marvin tapped into the souls of folks, and the political climate of the time. Police violence in the United States had him asking what is going on, and that question remains relevant today.
Did you know that 36 years after Marvin Gaye’s death that an album of mostly unreleased gems hit streaming platforms in 2019? The album is entitled “You’re the Man,” and it showcases Marvin’s velvety smooth and strong voice, with lyrical content of the songs written in 1972 sounding as if they were written much more recently.
Marvin Gaye can deliver a message in a song like few others. His music makes me think, snap my fingers, and continue to ask the question, what the hell is going on America!
The title track is especially relevant today given it’s an election year. Its lyrics include “We don’t want to hear no more lies about how you planned a compromise”. We want our dollar value increased and employment to rise. The nation’s taxation is causin’ all this inflation.”
Marvin seems to be talking about leaders not holding up their end of the bargain and not keeping promises made on the campaign trail. Yes, Marvin, yes! “The World is Rated X,” a risque song title indeed, but don’t stop there. The song raises our political consciousness and is another favorite of mine.
Check this chorus: “What about crime? Rated X. What about the killing, fighting, stealing everywhere? They let the children see life destroyed…” There was much wrong in our society back when this song was first written and recorded, and unfortunately, many societal ills remain today.
The other artist in heavy rotation this week has been Mr. Bill Withers, whom we recently lost at the age of 81. He is an awesome storyteller both in song and in his telling of stories about the songs. If you’ve not listened to him Live at Carnegie Hall, recorded in 1972, you should. Do whatever you can to lift your spirit, calm your nerves, and do that which gives you hope and the energy to fight for a future that is equitable and just for all.