Jamila Woods’ ‘Black Girl Soldier’ Hits The Right Lyrical Note On Race, Feminism & Identity

jamila-woods

Whether it’s Beyonce unapologetically performing at the Super Bowl, or broadcasting her visual masterpiece ‘Lemonade’ on our screens, women talking about the need to distinguish and give space for black feminism definitions within the movement, or in a more serious political aspect, the rise of #SayHerName within the greater Black Lives Matter movement, giving voice to the types of violence black women have faced at the hands of law enforcement.

You don’t need to identify as an African American woman to understand the need to be able to express yourself unapologetically, publicly, and without it being a battleground politically, socially, and economically. But if you look around America right now, there probably isn’t one person whose identity doesn’t automatically trigger some sort of division, hatred or tension, especially given our current political climate.

One artist who is breaking through the noise and choosing to speak her truth through her music is Jamila Woods. You may already be familiar with her previous work, collaborating with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the controversial ‘White Privilege II‘, and her appearance on Chance the Rapper’s ‘Blessings’ track. She has released the music video for her song ‘Blk Girl Soldier’ off her solo debut album ‘Heavn’.

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Her lyrics cover a range of topics from physical appearance to historical figures. The notion of a black girl soldier is about her identity being her armor against a world that seeks to manipulate, break down, and declare unfit for popular consumption in mass media messages.

In an interview with Complex Magazine, Jamila explains it is time for women like her define themselves on their own terms. Like Beyonce talking about hair and facial features, Jamila points to hair rollers and celebrates it as something beautiful, rather than just a tool to change her appearance to be more acceptable according to beauty standards.

“Hair beads and rollers are symbols of Black girlhood to me. I thought, what would it look like to arm ourselves with our own essence?. I wanted to celebrate the power and resilience of Black women but also highlight the importance of allowing space for more quiet, vulnerable moments where we can refuel ourselves and each other,” she told Complex.

The historical women mentioned (and who you can see in the video in pictures on the wall behind her such as Rosa Parks) collectively form the infantry of black females that she holds in high regard and wants other women to do the same.

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“The goal of the ‘Blk Girl Solider’ video is to lift up the Black women throughout history and today who inspire me and who are doing brilliant artistic and activist work. Knowing my history and what my people have survived before me has made me stronger,” she said.

Rosa was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Ella was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Audre was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Angela was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Sojourner was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Assata was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Rosa was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight
Ella was a freedom fighter
And she taught us how to fight

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The track starts with a sample of the “Duty to Fight” Assata Chant vocals by girls from the Assata’s Daughters collective which sets the tone for the message of the song, before Jamila’s soulful voice pierces the void with some equally powerful lyrics. There are references to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the government role in the racial tensions surrounding black men and women today, and even the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

See she’s telepathic
Call it Black girl magic
Yeah she scares the gov’ment
Déjà vu of Tubman

We go missing by the hundreds
Ain’t nobody checkin’ for us
Ain’t nobody checkin’ for us

The camera loves us
Oscar doesn’t
Ain’t nobody checkin for us
Ain’t nobody checkin for us

They want us in the kitchen
Kill our sons with lynchings
We get loud about it
Oh now we’re the bitches

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Jacqui Germain shares some insight into the following lyrics:

Look at what they did to my sisters
Last century, last week
They put her body in a jar and forgot her
They love how it repeats

“The “last century, last week,” line calls attention to the multi-generational trauma Black women have suffered, survived and still succumb to. It effectively places the song’s content and the song itself within the context of a much lengthier history; and putting footage from what appears to be Black women in the Black Panther Party in conversation with images from Chicago’s #SayHerName protests adds to the sentiment,” she writes.

“The ‘They put her body in a jar and forgot her’ line is a bit less straightforward, as the ‘jar’ could represent multiple things. The lyric might be referencing the simultaneous hypervisibility and hypersexuality that Black women are forced to navigate. It might be referencing the invisibility and isolation that many Black women face in everyday contexts,” she muses.

Take a look at the entire ‘Blk Girl Soldier’ video below:

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