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Communities and Protest Songs

Music brings people together. If people like the same song, then they’ll dance together and have a good time and get to know each other and most likely become friends. That just shows how powerful music can be. One song can create a relationship, and I helped make one song.

I’m on the album Covered by Robert Glasper. My name is listed in the liner notes of ‘‘I’m Dying of Thirst.’’ Mr. Rob asked me and other Black boys who were friends of his son Riley to say names of people who were killed by the police. I liked doing this because it felt good to honor them. I was six years old when I said Amadou Diallo’s and Sean Bell’s names along with two other victims. And then Riley starts talking about how being Black is beautiful. The songs on the album made me feel strong and proud to be Black.

Everybody on the song is part of my community. Even people who listen to the song could be part of my community. People in Flint, Michigan, could be listening to the song. People in Australia could be listening to the song. I don’t even know what they look like. I’ve never met them, but I bet if I told them that I am one of the kids on the song, we could be friends.

Protests usually have songs to encourage people to keep marching and keep their heads up. I was in my first protest march when I was five. I was so proud to be in a march to set all African Americans free. There were White people, Asians, and Latinxs, and of course African Americans, but we were all part of the same community marching and chanting for the same thing together as one.

I felt sad when we said the names of Black people who were killed and scared when they said, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” But I felt proud that everybody was marching for freedom. The drums made me and a lot of other people feel bigger and stronger.

When the protest march was over, I got sad. I wanted to keep marching, so I asked if we were going to do it again. My mom said yes. Then I asked if we made a difference. She said, “I hope so.”

I think that everybody there, all those thousands of people, marching as one, made a big difference. When we got home, the protest was on TV. When my mom was watching the news, she said, “That protest got us one step closer to freedom.”

Music can create a community. With music and singing, and everybody as one community, we can all make a difference and get us one step closer to freedom.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2020

Ralph Richardson III (he/him), Grade 5, Brooklyn Friends School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Posted in: Friends Face a Pandemic/Thin Spaces, Student Voices Project 2020

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One thought on “Communities and Protest Songs

  1. City & State
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Ralph Richardson III is my great‐nephew. He’s an incredible young man with a profound thought pattern.
    Ralph is compassionate and has a deep connection to other human beings, which he’s so eloquently expressed in his written words. Music is a wonderful way for us to be one. Keep listening, playing, singing, writing and marching Ralph. The world is a better place with you in it.
    Love ❤️ you,
    Aunt Michelle

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