7 black empowerment songs that are trending because of the 2020 protests

8 June 2020, 18:25

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By Sophie Thompson

With Black Lives Matter protests in full swing, we're looking back at some of our favourite black empowerment songs that uplift and champion the importance of the movement.

Music as we know it today was created, championed and made successful by black people, and what better time to make it known?

Black Lives Matter protests are taking place all over the world right now, and as supporters take to the streets, now seems like a good time to look at some black-made anthems that are about fighting for justice.

In light of the protests, several tracks by artists like Beyoncé, Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar are racing back up the charts as protesters and supporters of Black Lives Matter movement look for songs that reflect on racial injustice and the civil right movement. Below is a short list of some of those songs and the poweful inspirations behind their anthems.

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Get your Spotify at the ready...

Beyoncé's 'Freedom' and Childish Gambino's 'This is America' provided some of the biggest home truths in music of the decade.
Beyoncé's 'Freedom' and Childish Gambino's 'This is America' provided some of the biggest home truths in music of the decade. Picture: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for LACMA

Janelle Monáe - 'Americans'

Janelle Monáe - Americans

When Janelle Monáe speaks, we listen. And in 2018 she released Grammy-nominated album Dirty Computer, packed with songs exploring race and self-exploration, including closer, Americans.

The lyrics: “Until women can get equal pay for equal work / This is not my America / Until same gender loving people can be who they are / This is not my America / Until black people can come home from a police stop / Without being shot in the head / This is not my America" sum the current situation up perfectly.

Childish Gambino - 'This Is America'

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video)

One of the most critically and commercially successful songs of 2018, and now climbing up the charts again, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover's musical alias) released the anthem with a poignant message, 'This Is America'.

The incredible music video that accompanied song told the story of real life for many Black Americans, where every day people just sit back and watch the atrocities of anti-black racism, mass murder and police brutality. The song is the national anthem for Gen-Z activists, and naturally quickly became a TikTok sensation.

Beyoncé feat Kendrick Lamar - 'Freedom'

Beyoncé (feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Freedom

Released on the International Day of the Girl, Beyoncé's track 'Freedom' is the ultimate clap back at the systemic oppression black women have faced for as long as we remember, and the lyrics demanding freedom match the video that sees black women rallying together at a southern plantation.

On 'Freedom', Queen Bey did it again, constantly raising the bar for us all.

Kendrick Lamar - 'Alright'

Kendrick Lamar - Alright

Since recent protests began two weeks ago, Kendrick Lamar's civil rights anthem 'Alright' has seen a 787% increase in streams per week, totalling a whopping 1.162 million. That's a lot of people.

The song was inspired by Kendrick’s trip to South Africa in which he visited the jail cell of activist Nelson Mandela. While at the prison, he learned of the uplifting chants the slaves would sing to get them through their sentences, inspiring the key message of the song ‘We gon’ be alright’."Four hundred years ago, as slaves, we prayed and sung joyful songs to keep our heads level-headed with what was going on," Lamar said in a 2016 interview with GQ. "Four hundred years later, we still need that music to heal. And I think that 'Alright' is definitely one of those records that makes you feel good no matter what the times are."

Solange - 'Don't Touch My Hair'

Solange - Don't Touch My Hair ft. Sampha (Official Music Video)

Reclaiming her identity, Solange's 'Don't Touch My Hair' is a message for those struggling to accept cultural individuality while not conforming to white standards.

Hair is one thing that has always been policed for black women, and the song lays out the rules that black people just want to be left alone to be themselves.

Shea Diamond - 'Don't Shoot'

Shea Diamond - Don't Shoot (Official Video)

A call out to trans people, queer people and people of colour, black transgender artist Shea Diamond tells the story of her life on 'Don't Shoot' as a black member of the LGBTQ+ community.

In an interview with Paper she said, “I couldn't go on Facebook, I couldn't go on any social media without seeing somebody who looks like me being killed. So, I couldn't have anything else on my mind.”

Victoria Monet feat. Ariana Grande - 'Better Days'

Victoria Monet - Better Days ft. Ariana Grande (Audio)

Released off the back-to-back murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers, Victoria Monet and Ariana Grande share the message that we can't fight darkness with darkness, and the one thing that unites us all is music.

The lyric echoes the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement ("Baby, there's a war right outside our window / 
Don't you hear the people fighting for their lives?") and has quickly become a beacon of hope.

Despite never being officially released, the song was performed at Ariana's One Love concert in Manchester, and has since racked up an impressive 1.8 million listens on YouTube.

We can only pick one? Don't get us started...