Essentials: “Letter To The Free” – Common

Recently I watched the Netflix documentary 13th and I highly recommend it. It focuses on the role that race plays in the US criminal justice system and it’s name is a reference to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution that abolished slavery. I had to watch it in 5 different sections because it was so viscerally sad and incredibly upsetting- there were many tears and lots of anger. Even my interaction with the documentary, the emotions that it elicited, are privileged. As a white person I will never fully understand what POC have gone through in the US and elsewhere, but art like this (and like Common’s “Land of the Free”) is so important for exactly this reason. It forces people to listen and to confront their privileges.

This song played at the end of the documentary and I looked it up because it’s poignancy struck me. It turns out Common dropped the studio version of this track, “Letter to the Free” on the 17th, off of an album he’s been working on called Black America Again, that will be available on November 4th.

Give this song a serious listen. It’s straightforward; he minces no words telling us exactly what the problems are and reminding us that it has been this way in the United States for hundreds of years. He raps about the current election and Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter protests, and the prison system. The reality is that the system of oppression may have changed, but it has simply adapted- “the new Jim Crow; stop, search, and arrest our souls”.

 

Pre-order Black America Again on iTunes.