Janelle Monae Leads Protests For #BlackLivesMatter Movement, Releases Powerful New Song

Janelle Monae and her fellow Wondaland band mates, including Jidenna, marched in protest against police brutality on August 12 in Philadelphia. In a preview of the song “Hell You Talmbout,” the Guardian reports that Monae addressed the protesters with passion.

“They say a question lives forever, until it gets the answer it deserves. Won’t you say their names? Can we say their names right now? Can we speak their names, as long as we have breath in our bodies?”

The group released a powerful remake of Monae’s bonus track “Hell You Talmbout” off her 2013 album The Electric Lady. The full Wondaland roster is present on the song: Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, George 2.0, St. Beauty, Jidenna, and Monae. The foundation of “Hell You Talmbout” is built on a drumline progression and between choruses of “hell you talmbout,” and accompanied by that strong marching beat, the artists urge us to “Say his/her name!” The names of Blacks throughout history who have been victims of police brutality and racism are chanted. You can listen to “Hell You Talmbout” on Wondaland Records Soundcloud.

The list of names chanted in the “Hell You Talmbout” song includes Walter Scott, Jerame Reid, Phillip White, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland, Kimani Gray, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Miriam Carey, Sharonda Singleton, Emmett Till, Tommy Yancy, Jordan Baker, and Amadou Diallo.

The inclusion of Emmett Till proves just how long the struggle has been going on. Till was only 14-years-old when he was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for talking to a white woman. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the white men who took the young boy’s life, were both acquitted and later admitted to the crime knowing that due to “double jeopardy” they could not be tried again. Till’s funeral was an open casket one, a move his mother made to show just how mutilated her child was. Outrage over his murder actually helped spark the Civil Rights Movement.

The #SayHerName hashtag is an offspring of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It was a means to amplify the struggles of black women who have been killed or sexually harassed by the police in the U.S. The death of Sandra Bland in Texas last month while she was in police custody helped the movement to gain more visibility. Blacklivesmatter.com was established in an effort to raise awareness of the systematic erasure of black lives in the United States and “demand the intentional dismantling of structural racism.”

The Wondaland artists seem to be using their tour as a platform for the social justice movement as they also held another protest in New York city. The group called to action their supporters and gathered at a police station in Times Square once more.

With their protests and “Hell You Talmbout,” Monae and the Wondaland crew join other artists who have spoken out in public or on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement. Common and John Legend’s song “Glory” won best Original Song at this years Oscars, and at her Grammy performance, Beyonce’s dancers referenced the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture associated with Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.

The collective Wondaland EP, The Eephus, is set to be released today. They have free invite-only shows scheduled throughout the month of August, which end in Atlanta on August 31.

[Photo Courtesy of Noam Galai/Getty Images]