Whether students need a song for a short clip of a collage of different social justice events, a documentary, a song to listen while on the way to a protest, or some songs to play during a protest; here are some of my favorite picks to let out your inner social justice warrior.
“This Is America” by Childish Gambino
This song goes on the top of the list, both because of the song itself and the music video. When this song came out, it was a controversial topic on social media for a few days because of the message it portrayed, and the subliminal messages throughout the video. Gambino managed to show the reality of America in one music video. He brought up gun violence, police brutality, and systemic racism. Along with that, he brought up how society is distracted easily by materialistic components. He implies this in the second verse:
“I’m so fitted / I’m on Gucci / I’m so pretty / I’m gon’ get it / Watch me move”
He implies that people in society get distracted with their looks and other peoples looks and do not pay attention to real world problems. There are many important historical and symbolic references in the background of his video, and people don’t notice them because the focal point is Gambino dancing in the middle. This is an artistic choice, purposefully distracting his audience to prove that the bigger picture goes right past people’s minds without them realizing.
“Where Is the Love?” by Black Eyed Peas
Many students were probably too young to remember “Where is the Love?”, released in 2003, let alone understand the message behind it. This song is still as relevant today as it was in the early 2000s. When I listen to this song, I get a very strong nostalgic feeling, especially in the beginning of the song:
“What’s wrong with the world mama? People acting like they ain’t got no mamas.”
It makes the song feel like it’s from the perspective of a young person. Social media these days believes that Generation Z will be the generation that will succeed in the changes that have been demanded over time and the Black Eyed Peas ruled the musical industry in the early 2000s. The fact that students probably heard and played this song on repeat when they were in elementary school adds to their social justice warrior minds.
One of the most important parts of this song is how they talk about how the media misrepresents a lot of the ideas that we fight for:
“Wrong information always shown by the media / Negative images is the main criteria / Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria / Kids wanna act like what they see in”
The recent Black Lives Matter protests are negatively portrayed on the news. Instead of showing peaceful protests, news platforms decide to share the aftermath of when others come and disrupt the peace. The most popular photos that got around on the media from the protests were of people in front of fires and smashed buildings, instead of showing the peaceful marches and beautiful artwork surrounding the participating cities. This tells the younger generations and people like their parents that what we fight for is wrong, instead of showing them to stand up for what they believe in.
“Immigrants” by K’naan, Snow the Product, Residente & Riz Ahmed
What I love about “Immigrants” is the different ethnicities, races, and cultures represented by the various artists who created the song. Each artist has their own verse and their own way of expressing what it feels like to be an immigrant in the United States. The music video takes place on a subway, but as the camera rolls through it shows the different roles that immigrants take on to keep America running. One line that echoes throughout the video is by Snow Tha Product; her verse is rapped both in Spanish and in English and ends with this line:
“We’re America’s ghost writers, the credits only borrowed”
This is such an important metaphor that should be used more commonly. A ghost writer is somebody who is hired to write a piece of text while giving the credit to another person. The United States is undoubtedly run by immigrants, yet they have been described as “lazy” or “stealing jobs,” without giving them the credit they deserve for doing the jobs that nobody else wants to take.
— Ashley Meza
Ashley Meza was born and raised in Portland and is a senior studying journalism. She is currently the student life section editor and hosts the Index Podcast. She holds the DACA Coordinator position at the Student Multicultural Center and enjoys making short films in her free time.