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Module 7: Blog Assignment

The culture resource that I have selected for our final assignment is Billie Holiday and her historic song called the “strange fruit”.

In March 1939, a 23-year-old Billie Holiday walked up to the mic at West 4th’s Cafe Society in New York City to sing her final song of the night. Per her request, the waiters stopped serving and the room went completely black, save for a spotlight on her face. And then she sang, softly in her raw and emotional voice: “Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. When Holiday finished, the spotlight turned off. When the lights came back on, the stage was empty. She was gone. And per her request, there was no encore. This was how Holiday performed “Strange Fruit,” which she would determinedly sing for the next 20 years until her untimely death at the age of 44.

Strange fruit is sung and popularized by Billie Holiday and she definitely turned it into an iconic work of art, but it was a Jewish communist teacher and civil rights activists from The Bronx, Abel Meeropol, who wrote it first as a poem and turned it into a song. His inspiration was the photo of two black men lynched in Indiana that he saw.

When Holiday heard the lyrics, she was deeply moved by them not only because she was a Black American but also because the song reminded her of her father, who died at 39 from a fatal lung disorder, after being turned away from a hospital because he was a Black man. Because of the painful memories it conjured, Holiday didn’t enjoy performing “Strange Fruit,” but knew she had to. “It reminds me of how Pop died,” she said of the song in her autobiography. “But I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it, but because 20 years after Pop died, the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”

This story is reimagined and an alternative to our current cultural, social, and political condition. As of today, black men and women still has to fight for equality. They are very prone to be wrongfully convicted and police brutality. We still have a long way when it comes to racial justice and equality in the world. Across all races and states in the USA, we estimate 30-800 deaths (95% uncertainty interval from police violence between 1980 and 2018; this represents 17 100 more deaths (16 600–17 600) than reported by the NVSS. Over this time period, the age-standardized mortality rate due to police violence was highest in non-Hispanic Black people (0·69 [95% UI 0·67–0·71] per 100 000), followed by Hispanic people of any race (0·35 [0·34–0·36]), non-Hispanic White people (0·20 [0·19–0·20]), and non-Hispanic people of other races (0·15 [0·14– 0·16]). This variation is further affected by the decedent’s sex and shows large discrepancies between states. Between 1980 and 2018, the NVSS did not report 55·5% (54·8–56·2) of all deaths attributable to police violence. When aggregating all races, the age-standardized mortality rate due to police violence was 0·25 (0·24–0·26) per 100 000 in the 1980s and 0·34 (0·34–0·35) per 100 000 in the 2010s, an increase of 38·4% (32·4–45·1) over the period of study.

The imagine alternative totally needs systemic change. School should teach history about racism, and how it is catastrophic, barbaric, and extremely inhuman. Educational institutions should keep teaching students the things that happened in the past. In that way, the future generation would have more empathy and would see everyone as their equal. Are there elements of this alternative that are reflected in current conditions or is it an entirely reimagined condition? There is a lot of elements of this alternative condition that still reflects on our current condition. Black people are still being wrongfully convicted and treated as second-class in so many area of the world and it has to change, NOW!

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