While her social media feeds are frequently filled with fan appreciation and fun throwbacks to her ‘90s heyday, Janet Jackson’s Twitter has taken on much more gravitas in the past week. On Sunday, in a continuation of that shift, she made a stirring statement about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. And Jackson’s video is a multi-sensory experience, meant to be seen, heard and spoken.
Clocking in at only 24 seconds, the video is brief — but impactful. In the first second, the pledge interlude from Jackson’s iconic 1989 album Rhythm Nation appears onscreen: “We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, Bound together through our beliefs, We are like-minded individuals, Sharing a common vision, Pushing toward a world rid of color lines.” Those words soon fade to black, and others replace them: the names of Black victims of police brutality.
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The first three names on the list are George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Also listed are other names that sparked national dialogue, such as Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott. Tragically, the list is too long — much too long to fit within the frame of Jackson’s video. Jackson captioned the video with two hashtags: #SayTheirNames, and #BlackLivesMatter.
— Janet Jackson (@JanetJackson) June 7, 2020
Since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, Jackson has been encouraging her followers to remember those who’ve died in racially-motivated crimes. On June 5, what would have been the 27th birthday of Louisville’s Breonna Taylor, the singer encouraged fans to visit a website created in the late EMT’s honor and get involved.
For Sunday’s tribute, it’s fitting that Jackson chose an image and lyrics from Rhythm Nation for the video, given the album’s nature. At the time, label executives wanted the singer to turn out another album like 1987’s Control. However, Jackson insisted on an album that tackled social issues like racism head-on.
“I feel like the kids of today are gonna suffer tomorrow if we don’t all join hands and do something about it. Try to make some sort of dent. And the album is really saying it’s OK to have fun, don’t forget what’s going on around you,” Jackson told MTV at the time. “It’s there to inspire the people, hopefully. And hopefully it will make them wanna join hands and make some sort of dent.”
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