15 Best Protest Anthems
Dr. Sandi Curtis
Music has always been an integral part of our important life events. This is certainly true of protests throughout history, and more now than ever, granting momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. Music unites us, motivates us, and allows us to share our message. It powerfully amplifies our voice.
In honor of this history, I’d like to share my top 15 protest anthems to empower us in these challenging times and, hopefully, spawn real change and equality not just in America, but around the world.
1. “Freedom,” Beyoncé – We need freedom. We need freedom from anti-black racism. We need freedom from all discrimination. We need freedom now. And Beyoncé knows about freedom.
2. “Cry No More,” Rhiannon Giddens – Written for earlier lives lost in the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, this song is still so needed today to inspire us to speak up and stand up against injustice.
3. “Still I Rise,” Maya Angelou with Caged Bird Sings – Such a powerful combination of the words of Maya Angelou and music affirming the resilience of the human spirit.
4. “Glory,” John Legend – Selma is now. In the powerful lyrics, “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up/When it go down, we woman and man up/They say ‘Stay Down’ and we stand up.”
5. “Hell You Talmbout,” Janelle Monae & Wondaland (Eephus Tour Philadelphia 8-12-15). Say his name! Say her name!
6. “I Just Want to Live. Response to the killing of George Floyd,” Keedron Bryant – nothing more powerful than this young man’s song.
7. “Strange Fruit,” Billie Holliday – Before you listen to this, be prepared – it’s a dark and powerful reminder of the deep roots of anti-black racism. We’ve come far, but still have so far to go.
8. “A Change Gonna Come,” Lizzo – What an inspiring song about much needed change.
9. “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” Sweet Honey in the Rock – A classic so needed then, still needed today. We need to know our history to make a better future.
11. “I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R. – H.E.R says it all. “That kind of uncomfortable conversation is too hard for your trust fund pockets to swallow, to swallow the strange fruit hanging from my family tree because of your audacity to say all men are created equal in the eyes of God, but disparage a man based on the color of his skin. Do not say you do not see color. When you see us. See us. We can’t breathe.”
12. “Breathe,” India.Arie – Continue to breathe. Continue to act for change.
13. “Perfect Way to Die,” Alicia Keys – Haunting, compelling, and powerful. #sayhisname #sayhername #saytheirnames
14. “Black Parade,” Beyoncé –Beyoncé dropped this hot new protest song on Juneteenth. With lyrics giving a nod to the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Beyoncé elaborates on her website, “Being Black is your activism. Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.”
15. “March March,” The Chicks (formerly known as the Dixie Chicks) – in light of recent Black Lives Matters protests, the Dixie Chicks have announced their name change to The Chicks, to disassociate themselves from the racist history of the South (Dixie), and have just dropped a powerful new music video in support of change.