1. Music

15 protest songs in response to race-related violence

Over the last year, musicians across all genres have penned protest songs in response to race-related violence in cities like Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore and New York. Here are 10 rock, folk and pop songs that tackle racial unrest in modern America, and five hip-hop songs that do the same.

Will Hoge

Still a Southern Man

In this snarling rocker, Hoge wrestles with the role the Confederate flag played in his upbringing, and admits that it took traveling the world for him to realize that "the line really ain't that thin between heritage and hate."

Sample lyric

I wanted it to be the symbol of a boy who wasn't scared to make a stand

But now I know it's just a hammer driving nails in a coffin of a long-dead land. ... I don't want your stars and bars and your blood on my damn hands.

Peter Mulvey

Take Down Your Flag

The power of Mulvey's plaintive folk song, written in the hours after Charleston, comes from the words Mulvey didn't sing. He dedicated a verse to victim Susie Jackson and asked other songwriters to pen their own verses commemorating Charleston's other eight victims. Artists like Ani DiFranco, Melissa Ferrick and Anais Mitchell complied; African-American singer Vance Gilbert even penned one for accused shooter Dylann Roof.

From Ferrick's verse

Taiwon Desanders was 26 years old

When he stood up to hatred and said you don't have to do this

While his mother Felicia pretended to be dead on the floor

Was hearing her son's voice for the last time

So would you take down your flag to half staff?

Delta Rae

All Good People

Though it was released immediately after Charleston, Delta Rae had already written and recorded this song in response to the deaths of young black men like Eric Garner.

Come on and raise your voice above the raging seas

We can't hold our breath forever when our brothers cannot breathe.

Pussy Riot

I Can't Breathe

The Russian punk dissidents dedicated their first English-language song to Eric Garner. It features punk icon Richard Hell reciting Garner's dying words, including "I can't breathe," as he was arrested by New York police.

He's become his death

The spark of the riots

That's the way he's blessed

To stay alive.

Rhiannon Giddens

Cry No More

Giddens, the biracial singer of roots band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, leads a choir in this fiery a cappella gospel song about Charleston. The one-shot video, filmed in a Greensboro, N.C., church, is hauntingly powerful.

They stole our solace, and then they stole our peace

With countless acts of malice and hatred without cease

A foul and dirty river runs through this sacred land

With every act of terror they tell us where we stand.

Kevin Devine

Talking Freddie Gray Blues

Inspired by attending Black Lives Matter protests in New York, the indie rocker penned this empathetic track that acknowledges his own white privilege and the fact that he comes from a family of police officers.

I can't know what it's like

To be afraid all my life

Looking over my shoulder

Behind each officer, a coroner ... I'm afforded the luxury

Of shaking my head

I shut the screen, go to bed

I can turn off what you never can.



The Purple One name-checks Michael Brown and Freddie Gray in this bouncy plea for peace. The day after he dropped it, he headlined a Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore, telling the crowd, "The system is broken. It's going to take the young people to fix it this time."

Are we gonna see another bloody day?

We're tired of the crying and people dying

Let's take all the guns away.

Blood Orange

Do You See My Skin Through the Flames?

Black British producer Dev Hynes, who has worked with artists like Carly Rae Jepsen and Kylie Minogue, released this 11-minute free-jazz response to Charleston under his moniker Blood Orange.

I have nothing left to give when you don't notice what is wrong

Charleston left me broken down, but it's just another day to you.

Steven Curtis Chapman


Christian music superstar Steven Curtis Chapman came at Charleston from a religious angle, inspired by Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

They were gathered in Charleston

'Cause they believed in a kingdom coming

And while they're grieving for Charleston

We won't forget the love they were showing

When the thief came to steal and to kill and destroy

'Cause that love will not be silenced.

Ezra Furman

Ferguson's Burning

The eclectic Chicago singer-songwriter goes full Dylan on this raging bit of acoustic punk poetry, crowing fiercely about the unjust death of Michael Brown.

Michael Brown died in the Ferguson streets

Officer Wilson got weeks of paid leave

The message was clear, broadcast over the nation

Kill a young black man, win a vacation.

Kendrick Lamar

The Blacker the Berry

A Compton, Calif., native who grew up around gangs, Lamar addresses racial profiling with a vengeance, but also with characteristic self-awareness, questioning his own role in the epidemic of black violence in America.

I'm the biggest hypocrite of 2015 ... Why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street

When gangbanging make me kill a n---- blacker than me?

J. Cole

Be Free

The North Carolina rapper, who marched in Ferguson, released this pained, austere single that samples testimony from Dorian Johnson, an eyewitness to Michael Brown's death.

Can you tell me why

Every time I step outside I see my n------ die

I'm letting you know

That there ain't no gun they make that can kill my soul.


New National Anthem

At one point, Lady Gaga was supposed to sing the hook of this track raging against the entirety of the American justice system. In the end, the role fell to another white pop singer, Skylar Grey.

Tell me why 9 ounces of crack will get you more time than a rape right now?

Tell me why them crazy white boys can tote a gun but I can't right now? ... I ain't never ran in no public place with no pistol shooting no innocent people

I ain't never ran in no school, killing no kids.

The Game

Don't Shoot

The Game recruited an all-star lineup (2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Diddy, Wale, DJ Khaled) for this song about Ferguson, dedicated to Michael Brown.

Each of the dozen artists on the track has something to say

I'm a resident of a nation that don't want me. (Curren$y)

I got my hands up; what else am I supposed to do? (TGT)

Shot down with his hands up, that's what occurred

man, that sound absurd

matter of fact, to me that sound like murder. (Wale)

A$ap Ferg

Talk It

A$ap Ferg half-spits, half-mumbles about unjust law enforcement practices over a dreamy, evocative beat from producer Clams Casino.

Mike Brown, shot down in Missouri

They keep us in misery

And get a desk job when the coroner leave

They don't even take their badge, a racist act.