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Janelle Monáe’s Protest Song Is A Heart-Rending Roll Call Of Injustices

For all the black men and women who’ve been killed by police, won’t you say their names?

Janelle Monáe’s Protest Song Is A Heart-Rending Roll Call Of Injustices
[Photo: Flickr user Mark Sebastian]

Soul and R&B singer Janelle Monáe released a simple yet unquestionably powerful track that will force you to remember some of the black men and women who have been murdered.

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“Hell You Talmbout” features a roster of talent on her Wondaland Records label shouting the names on 18 victims of police brutality and misguided vigilantes. It’s a protest song for this generation that pulls from racially charged tragedies from both past and present, underscoring the very real problem that police officers continue to use excessive, and often deadly, force with black men and women.

“This song is a vessel,” Monáe says in an Instagram post. “It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue.”

Walter Scott

North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott on April 4, 2015, following a traffic stop for a busted back window brake light.

Jerame Reid

Bridgeton, New Jersey, police officers shot and killed Jerame Reid on December 30, 2014, after Reid was pulled over for running a stop sign.

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Phillip White

Responding to a call on March 31, 2015, of a man screaming down the street, Vineland, New Jersey, police officers handcuffed, beat, and released a K-9 unit on Phillip White, who later died in police custody.

Eric Garner

On suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, Eric Garner was put in a chokehold by Staten Island, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, which eventually killed Garner even after he screamed “I can’t breathe” 11 times.

Trayvon Martin

Unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012.

Sean Bell

On November 25, 2006, plainclothes and undercover New York City police officers fired 50 shots at Sean Bell and two of his friends, killing Bell on the night before his wedding.

Freddie Gray

While in police custody on April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

Aiyana Jones

Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was shot and killed on May 16, 2010 during a raid by Detroit police officers in search of a murder suspect.

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Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland was found hanged to death in her jail cell in Waller County, Texas on July 13, 2015, after being arrested during a routine traffic stop three days earlier.

Kimani Gray

Sixteen-year-old Kimani Gray was shot to death by two NYPD officers on March 9, 2013, after police say he pointed a gun at them.

John Crawford

Responding to a call on August 5, 2014 that falsely claimed John Crawford was waving a gun at people at a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart (it was a BB gun), police shot and killed Crawford.

Michael Brown

Unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, following an altercation.

Miriam Carey

Following an incident at a White House security checkpoint where she allegedly tried to ram her way through, Miriam Carey was chased by Secret Service officers and shot to death in her car with her 13-month-old daughter in the backseat.

Sharonda Singleton

Sharonda Singleton was one of the nine victims killed in a Charleston, South Carolina, church on June 17, 2015, by white suspect Dylann Roof, who was allegedly attempting to incite a race riot.

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Emmett Till

After supposedly flirting with a white woman, 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten, had his eye gouged out, was shot in the head, and thrown in the Tallahatchie River on August 28, 1955.

Tommy Yancy

Following a routine traffic stop on May 11, 2014, five Imperial County, California police officers beat Tommy Yancy to death.

Jordan Baker

Off-duty police officer Juventino Castro shot and killed Jordan Baker on January 16, 2014, following an alleged altercation behind a strip mall in Houston, Texas.

Amadou Diallo

On February 4, 1999, NYPD officers shot Amadou Diallo 41 times outside his Bronx apartment building on the suspicion he was reaching for a gun. It was his wallet.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.

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