1963, Birmingham Alabama.
Four young girls lost their lives when the Ku Klux Klan targeted the cities 16th Street Baptist Church.
This callous act was a tragic reflection of a society in which ignorance manifested itself into violence and ‘otherness’ was tolerably disgraced, devalued and segregated.
It is often easy to overlook these black and white images, the footage and news prints, as outdated and a product of their time. But in light of recent weeks their parallels with the present continue to reveal the sinister truth. Despite our newsfeeds and social media stories slowly but surely returning to new-normal narratives the issues surrounding institutionalised racism in the US have not subsided.
Since the murder of George Floyd not a month ago there have been countless cases of police brutality involving severe bodily harm to members of the BIPOC community, several of these resulting in deaths in police custody or shortly thereafter. This also does not take into account the series of racially fuelled hate crimes that have been committed since the death of George Floyd, including beatings, shootings as well as dismemberment and even lynchings.
And these have all happened in the last three weeks.
However this issue is not just a US issue: it is a global issue.
On the surface racism seems obvious to spot, from the cross Atlantic slave trade through to present day white supremacy groups. But more insidiously it is present in our language, our subconscious, our employment, our housing, our opportunities, our healthcare, our education and yes, our systems of law enforcement. The more conscious we become of our own privileges the more we can reflect on how to make a difference - even if its a small and personal one.
In part to follow through with good intentions Alina Bzhezhinska and her long standing collaborators Tony Kofi and Joel Prime have put together a haunting rendition of John Coltrane’s ‘Alabama’ with the goal of donating all proceeds to Black Lives Matter charities and organisations. The starting price is £3 but you can donate more if you have the means. Listen and buy the single on Bandcamp or through the Hip Harp Collective shop. https://alinahipharp.bandcamp.com/track/alabama-by-john-coltrane