Meet Jessica Lá Rel, she’s a 23-year-old, Stanford University graduate from Chicago who just released the most powerful video of the year. Commemorating the anniversary of Eric Garner’s murder and the other wrongful deaths of Black people across the country over recent years, Lá Rel uses her song and video to provide an anthem for the contemporary movement for Black rights. She is a rising superstar with incredible potential, an artist who inspires, and someone that we should all be looking out for.
Her song “We Can’t Breathe,” which came as a result of Samuel L. Jackson’s #ICan’tBreathe challenge, rings a message of pain, sorrow, truth, and most of all the hope and love that persists among the hatred. Her lyrics provide testament to the various emotions that have taken over the Black community not only in recent years but throughout history of resilience, while also acknowledging our moments of weakness and our need to lean on one another. The chorus will stay with its audience far beyond their first listen as the words “We ain’t gonna stop ‘till people are free” speak to the heart and soul, giving them the fuel they need to keep on going.
If her song were not already powerful enough, the video is one that I am sure will make you smile and cry tears of both pain and joy. This masterpiece, directed by another up-and-coming star Tayo Amos, begins with an Assata Shakur quote that reads: “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” It continues by showcasing a stunning dancer, Madeline Hawes, who performs a dance of beautiful resistance. Amos then fills the video with the faces and bodies of Black women, Black men, Black couples and Black children while Lá Rel’s voice guides the incredible narrative that results in the funeral we can assume is taking place for the victims of hate crimes, police brutality, and discrimination at large. Both artists use their creation to contribute to the movement and aim to bring more people together to fight for justice.
The quality of the video would allow one to assume that this pair of artists had access to a wealth of funds, which is far from reality as they pulled off their outstanding product on a modest budget that pales in comparison to other videos that they are competing with. However, after seeing this product, I can only imagine what they would be able to do with the means and support they deserve. “We Can’t Breathe” is one of the six songs of Jessica Lá Rel’s debut EP titled “Four Freedoms,” available on Bandcamp, Amazon, Sound Cloud, ITunes, and Spotify. The most incredible part about this song and the video is that they are only the beginning of a bright and promising future for an artist and a filmmaker who care about our stories, who are here to showcase us, and who believe that everything they do contributes to the betterment and the uplifting of our community.