NYC goddam

The news came out yesterday that the officers charged in the shooting death of Sean Bell have been acquitted. Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was unarmed when he was killed by plain-clothed police officers who fired an unconscionable 50 shots into the car with Bell and his two friends, also unarmed.

The incident and the trial, complicated as they were, have highlighted that we as a society have long way to go yet in the fight against racism, and the fight for social justice.

Many have expressed outrage and sorrow at the news of the acquittal. Stacie/girlgriot of If you want kin, you must plant kin… has posted some moving words about her own responses to the news, including a poem by Langston Hughes.

In reading those words, I have been reminded of the song “Mississippi Goddam,” written by Nina Simone in 1964. It’s a powerful protest song. I’m sure that Nina would agree that progress in social justice is still “too slow.”

(This YouTube version is different than the recordings I know, but Nina’s voice is still powerful and moving.)

Here are the lyrics:

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can’t you see it, can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
I can’t stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama’s got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn’t been written for it yet

Hound dogs on my trail
Schoolchildren sitting in jail
Black cat crossed my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We’re all gonna get it in due time

I don’t belong here, I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer
Don’t tell me I tell you
Me and my people just about do
I’ve been there so I know
Keep on saying go slow

But that’s just the trouble – too slow
Washing the windows – too slow
Picking the cotton – too slow
You’re just plain rotten – too slow
Too damn lazy – too slow
Thinking’s crazy – too slow

Where am I going
What am I doing
I don’t know I don’t know
Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
‘Cause everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I bet you thought
I was kidding didn’t you

Picket lines school boycotts
They try to say it’s a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you anymore
You keep on saying go slow go slow

But that’s just the trouble – too slow
Desegregation – too slow
Mass participation – too slow
Unification – too slow
Do things gradually – too slow
Will bring more tragedy – too slow

Why don’t you see it why don’t you feel it
I don’t know I don’t know
You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality

And everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
That’s it

8 thoughts on “NYC goddam

  1. Thanks, Alejna. How flattering to be put on the page with Nina Simone! Protests of the verdicts continue, and I’m still looking for a response of my own that will make me feel less impotent.

  2. girlgriot-
    I had trouble finding my own words, so was glad to be able to borrow Nina’s.


    Thank you. And it is an amazing song, isn’t it?

    Me too. Me too.

    It is really staggering.

    I’m also still trying to get my head around it. (And thanks for the JP nod.)

    I’m glad you like it, too. Were you familiar with it?
    As for the 50 shots, I’m sure there is another side to the story. I know it was a complicated case, and that the officers involved thought that their own lives were in jeopardy. But I still can’t get over the brutality of the event.

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