Jordan Edwards. Age 15. Shot dead in Dallas, Texas April 29, 2017 by an officer of the law. His is another name on an ever growing list of black people murdered without cause in the U.S.A…
Mamie’s Blues was written in the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. When I first sat down to write it it came out all wrong. The level of grief and rage I was feeling were not coming through the pen and onto the page. Nor was the delicate nature of conveying a respectful empathy, love and commentary towards something that I, as a white man, would never experience. A brutality that black people have experienced far too often, for far too long. I put it down for a minute.
That night, in the form of a video published by Time Magazine, the story of Emmett Till’s murder came across my desk. In Mississippi in 1955, fourteen year old Emmett died at the hands of hateful cowards.The courage his mother, Mamie, displayed in the wake of his death by choosing to have an open casket funeral hit me hard. There was almost nothing left of her son. He was so badly beaten that his remains were only identifiable by a ring on his finger that his father had given him. Mamie did this to make known the reality of what was happening to blacks in America.
Freelance photographer David Jackson documented the funeral while on assignment for Jet Magazine. When that issue hit the stands it sold out in record time. Jet’s circulation doubled as a result of the impact of the images of Emmett, Mamie and the Chicago community that came out to support the family.
After watching the video piece the song happened in less than half an hour. As a Dad, I felt deep anguish for another parent going through the most unspeakable thing. As an artist, I felt a compulsion to write it down, with the hope of understanding the incomprehensible. As a human being, it hurts my heart and soul to see us doing this to one another. The lyric references Mamie and Emmett directly, and as part of a lineage of racism and hatred that is still rampant today. As advanced as we like to fancy ourselves, there is still much work to do. This ugliness, that we are all capable of, is alive and well in the minds of men, not just in America, but everywhere. Racism is taught and nurtured by our ignorance and fear.
I hope my song in some way touches you. May it help educate us further and allow us to better understand one another and embrace our differences. May it shine a light on our courage in the face of that which keeps us from grace and love.
Thanks for reading.