ENGLEWOOD — A South Side activist paired up with a New York musician and activist to create a social justice-themed album, THIS LOVE THING, amid uprisings over the killing of George Floyd this summer.
Rami Nashashibi, executive director of Chicago’s Inner-city Muslim Action Network, created the album with Drea d’Nur. Their work culminated in an album that’s a call to action and an act of defiance, the two said. THIS LOVE THING, which has nine songs, carries a message of police reform and is being released Friday.
The two didn’t know what to expect when they started their work this summer. They were already friends and part of a larger creative circle, but the album marked their first time working together on a large musical project.
“Rami would send me music and I would start singing,” said d’Nur, an activist in Buffalo, New York, for more than 20 years. “Usually, I hear a song and either I feel it or I don’t, but when I heard the melody I connected with it.”
That melody became the bridge for “Mama Please,” a soulful meditation on police violence. The song’s chorus echoes the final words of Floyd, a Black man whom police killed in Minneapolis this summer.
For d’Nur and Nashashibi, Floyd’s death was a painful reminder of the suffering their respective communities have endured for generations.
“His call to his mother resonated across the globe,” Nashashibi said. “There’s something universal about this plea to the mother. In many ways, it’s a plea for divine mercy.
“Even Syrian refugees amid the destruction of their lands, Palestinians, and kids in South Africa had George Floyd murals written in English and their local languages.”
When creating the video concept for “Mama Please,” both artists wanted to center children, who are too often “talked at or over,” said d’Nur, whose five children make an appearance in the video and sing on the track.
“Artistically, everything I do has the youth in mind. My art takes me away from my children a lot, so I bring them as often as I can into my creative world,” d’Nur said. “It’s important for them to know they have an important role in why I’m doing what I’m doing, and they also have something to contribute.”
The artists also wanted to amplify the story of Cariol Horne, a Buffalo police officer who said she was fired and had her pension revoked after intervening when an unarmed man was put in a chokehold in 2008.
Horne, who also appears in the video, has spent the past 14 years fighting lawsuits while attempting to recover her pension and pushing for a law that would require officers to intervene if they see another officer using unreasonable force. That law was passed in late September and awaits the local mayor’s signature.
“Black women have been rendered invisible in Western culture. People put a price tag on our bodies, but they don’t see us,” d’Nur said. “There’s Black women leading this movement, and we’re the ones banging down doors and trying to get laws passed. I’m not saying we’re the only ones doing it, but we’re doing it at alarming rates.”
THIS LOVE THING will feature performances from Mumu Fresh, Brother Ali and Trinity United Church of Christ’s Sanctuary Choir. It will be available for streaming Friday on Spotify, Soundcloud and all other streaming platforms.
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