(AllHipHop Features) Back in October of 2015, Usher Raymond used his celebrity status to bring awareness to the issue of racial injustice through an interactive music experience. The 8-time Grammy winner premiered the visuals for his song “Chains” featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly on the Tidal streaming platform.
The “Chains” video honored different victims of police violence such as Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and others. The “Don’t Look Away” application forced viewers to keep their eyes on the screen (and the faces of the deceased) in order to hear the entire song.
Earlier this year, Usher returned with a second “Chains” video. That Film The Future created clip presented an alternate version of the same powerful message about the need to build an effective social movement to combat inequality.
Usher ensured the conversation about police brutality continued by addressing Georgia State University students for 30 minutes on Tuesday. The R&B legend visited the institution in his adopted hometown of Atlanta for a Tidal sponsored event.
Check out some of Usher Raymond’s quotes from his Georgia State University appearance below.
On the “Chains” video:
This is just a drop in the bucket. It’s a major shift in the direction for my career, and I’m so thankful and happy that I had Tidal to support me in making sure I put this message out there.
In order to address the issue, we have to face the issue. So I took faces of victims of police brutality, and in order to hear the song when I first released it, you had to look into the eyes of the victims on your computer.
The idea was “don’t look away.” A lot of times we see something and then we take our eyes off of it to move on to the next thing. You can’t look away from this issue. To fix it, we have to face it.
On what young people can do to bring awareness to the issue of police brutality:
First, educate yourself about the reality. Don’t just get mad about it because other people are [mad]. Really understand where the issue starts. [Understand] what is the issue in America, this stereotype that African-American people may pose a threat.
Not every police officer is a bad one, but there are a ton of men and women who may be moving in fear for the fact that you could potentially take their life or a fear that you pose a threat to them. They have the ability to cause you harm, and for a situation that should very simply be addressed with communication, it being completely taken in a direction that could potentially cause you to lose your life.
For me, the most important part about it is educating yourself about what’s going on and the history of the issue. Education from the aspect of knowing on a state-to-state level what actions you can take to address this issue. What outlets do you have? You all have social media or social outlets where you talk about stuff all day. Are you using these social outlets to highlight the issue and focus on some of the things that are affecting all of us?
On interacting with police:
This officer has a weapon and the authority to use that weapon in the event that I pose a threat to him. The reality is you may not know what that officer is dealing with, so you have to proceed with some integrity.
A lot of these situations we're seeing - they’re wrong - but they were completely taken in another direction as a result of maybe a person not necessarily acquiescing to the authority. Not every officer should have that authority. We need to address the issue and break down what we can do to begin to change the opportunity for things to get out of control.
For my children, I hope that I’m raising them to understand that as a man of integrity and respect, you give respect in hopes to be able to receive it. To be angry or arrogant in the situation where an officer asked you to do something and you say, "F-ck you. I’m not doing that.” You’re putting yourself in danger.
On the importance of African-Americans knowing their history:
Part of the reason I even started this pursuit was because I really wanted to know my history. I wanted to know where I was from. If I’m an African in America, where did I come from? What tribe did I come from? What place did I come from? If I look at the legacy of who I am as a person, where does it start?
I look at other cultures of people from other areas in the world, and there is a preservation of who they are. Their family continues to keep their lineage, because that helps them recognize who they are and what they are entitled to in life. Unfortunately, a lot of that was taken from us, and we’re like nomads in America trying to find our identity.
And we also have to work upstream because there is not an even plane to start off on. We all had to go through something to get to something. But being able to have that history gives you a sense of entitlement, a sense of pride to know “I’m West African.” When you think of the culture of people from Haiti, Cuba, and the islands, I want the same for Africans in America.
On critics calling Beyoncé’s “Formation” anti-police:
To be perfectly honest, I think that ridicule comes with reality. If you say something that makes someone uncomfortable, they may try to find a way to discredit the purpose behind it. That wasn’t the point, and let’s not distort the issues and the reality of what has happened in our country.
There’s a system that obviously has been put in place to trap a lot of us. A lot of us who may not necessarily understand it fall victim to it. I don’t think that it was the most comfortable place for her or any artist who dealt with ridicule, but the reality is that's what comes with it.
Change feels uncomfortable. Especially if you grow accustomed to staying one way. I think it was courageous of her and others to be able to use their voice. There needs to be more of us. There needs to be more support for what we’re doing, so that we can begin to change that reality.