Award-winning singer Alicia Keys quietly released her latest song on Youtube video and social media yesterday, referencing recent events in New York City and Ferguson, Mo.
According to Andrew Chow of the New York Times, her three-minute song pleads for strength and peaceful protest. Along with a 10-second portrait of Eric Garner, the YouTube video combines photos of civil rights protests from the past and present; also included were images in regards to "Free Palestine" and quotes from historical icons such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi.
"I wrote 'We Gotta Pray' a while ago, yet the lyrics have never meant more to me than during this time," Keys wrote on Twitter.
In the music video, she focuses on the themes of humanity, strength, unity, love, hope and the fact that we are all extraordinary people. Keys also keeps the theme of nonviolence prominent throughout the short clip, including images of protest leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Ghandi and King while adding some of their famous quotations.
"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind," Ghandi said in the video.
Keys has inserted a quote from King that could resonate with those protesting the grand jury decisions in New York City and Ferguson.
"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him," King said in the video.
At the end of the music video, after the picture of Garner fades, a rough sketch of the American flag is shown with the words abuse, hate, injustice and war crossed out. The words that remain behind are supposed to invoke emotional feelings such as love, joy, change, freedom, truth, peace, "we are here," education, harmony, education, equality and beauty; some of the words are repeated several times.
Keys added that she was moved to write the song in response to the deaths of Garner and Michael Brown, unarmed black men who both died at the hands of white police officers.
"We absolutely feel disregarded as human beings," Keys said in comments about America's justice system.
Helen Regan of Time Magazine noted that her ballad featured such lyrics as "Fire in the air, what the hell going on? Sirens everywhere, singing that street song," mixed with images of protesters in New York and Ferguson, tear gas and riot police.
Keys admitted to the New York Times that her song was a homemade production.
"I recorded the song in a room one night, all alone," she said.
Chow noted that her song "has a hymnal quality and features a single sparse piano accompaniment." The lyrics also included declarations of uplift and self-admiration, such as "We are extraordinary people / Living ordinary lives."
"The most important thing is that we look at each other and see these magnificent beings that can create the changes and movements we dream of," she said.
The grand jury's decision regarding Garner made Keys, a New York native, upset on many levels.
"There is that New York camaraderie, but it's bigger than that," Keys said. "There's injustice going on, and it seems so blatant."
Keys is not the only music artist speaking up about recent events in New York City and Ferguson. According to the New York Times, other musicians such as John Legend, J. Cole, Run the Jewels and Questlove have reacted both on social media and in person to the grand jury's decision.
Although she may be pregnant with her second child, Keys wants to join the protests in person.
"We will continue to be loud," she said. "I hope that this is our 21st-century civil rights movement. You shouldn't be surprised if you see me out there."