On the eve of what would have been Emmett Till’s 79th birthday, the Paris-based, London-born artist ALA.NI is sharing the new song “Lament for Emmett Till.” A sparse, achingly-beautiful track, it recites a 1955 poem of the same name by the radical activist, journalist and organizer Claudia Jones. This campaign is supported by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, of which ALA.NI is an official ambassador of. The foundation is currently asking the public sign a petition demanding justice for Till and, specifically, that the FBI release the findings of their recent reinvestigation into his murder as a matter of urgency. All proceeds from the “Lament for Emmett Hill” will be donated to the foundation, you can stream the single and video HERE, and sign/share the petition HERE.
“We find ourselves at a pivotal point in world history, where we must act now and fast, before all is too late. This is our last chance to fight for rightful equalities before the fascists take over,” ALA.NI writes: “I’m reaching out to the people to seek justice for Emmett Till. Knowing the power of music, I hope it can be used as an effective tool to bring the much needed awareness to this long-overdue murder case. Justice for Emmett Till will set a president for the systematic reform that must take place, that we can no longer afford to ignore and wait patiently for.”
“Six years ago, I was studying the works and activism of Ms. Claudia Jones and came across a poem that she had written for Emmett Till in December 1955. This poetry moved me to write a song,” ALA.NI recalls of the new single’s origins: “I then went to the studio to record a demo version of the ‘Lament for Emmett Till’ and I could only sing it once. It was too painful to sing again. The version released is the first take, the one and only recording. The studio tape was lost. Six years later, I have no choice but to sing it, shout it, scream it.” The track arrives as part of a lineage of songs inspired by and dedicated to Till through the years, by artists ranging from Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris to Janelle Monae and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
On August 28th 1955, at the age of just 14, Emmett Louis Till was kidnapped, brutally beaten and murdered after being wrongfully accused of making sexual advances towards a white female clerk, Carolyn Bryant, at a Mississippi grocery store. His murderers were acquitted, only to then confess in a paid magazine interview months later knowing they couldn’t be retried. After his mother bravely decided to have an open-casket funeral, Till posthumously became a symbol of the Civil Rights movement. With his mutilated, unrecognizable body laying bare the brutal reality of the Jim Crow era for all to see, over 100,000 people came to visit the casket and pay their respects to Till as his body lay there for five days.
Inspiring huge demonstrations and condemnations from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks (who once remarked: “I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus]”), Till’s death is widely cited as playing an instrumental part in galvanising what would become the decades-long struggle for African-Americans to live a life free of racial discrimination and state-sanctioned violence. A struggle that is still being fought tooth and nail today. More info on Till’s story can be found on the ETLF website HERE.
Although the FBI may have reopened the case and ‘The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act’ (which seeks to make lynching a federal crime) is currently making its way through the US judiciary system, justice for Till still remains far out of reach, not least because Republican Senator Rand Paul is controversially blocking the bill, and Carolyn Bryant herself admitted in a 2007 interview that she had lied about the events that led to Till’s murder.
“The FBI are due to release the findings from their reinvestigation of the murder case any time soon and, what with Carolyn Bryant still being alive, we think there is no better time than now for her to stand guilty as charged for her lies told and her role in the capture, beating, lynching and murder of Emmett Till. The ‘Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act’ can not be properly addressed with a correct, conscious outcome in congress if the name of the person after which the act is called has not been served any justice. Nothing. No apology. No compensation. It is a mockery.”
Tomorrow ALA.NI will play the “Music For Emmett” virtual tribute to the life and legacy of Emmett Till hosted by the ETLF, free registration and more info HERE. A second Adrian Younge-produced version of ALA.NI’s “Lament For Emmett Till” will be released August 28th on Amazon Music via their Amazon Originals program, memorializing the 65th anniversary of Till’s death.