Music stars led by Alicia Keys call for Biden commission on racial justice

Mary J Blige, Khalid and more call for establishment of proposed Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, as Stevie Wonder also proposes ‘truth commission’ on race

Music stars including Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige and TI have called for the establishment of a US government commission on racial justice within 100 days of the start of the Biden administration.

In 2016, Keys led a video entitled 23 Ways You Could Be Killed By Being Black in America, in which celebrities such as Beyoncé and Bono recited the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Black Americans including Sandra Bland and Philando Castile.

A new video entitled 17 Ways Black People Are Killed in America follows the same format, with musicians including Khalid, Summer Walker and Migos rappers Quavo and Offset describing the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more.

The video asks for the establishment of a commission first proposed in the US House of Representatives in June 2020 by northern California representative Barbara Lee, entitled the United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation. Lee’s proposal was that the commission would “properly acknowledge, memorialise, and be a catalyst for progress, including toward permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities”.

Keys and others call for the commission to be established within 100 days of Biden taking office on Wednesday, to bring about “restorative and reparative action in order to achieve racial justice”.

Keys campaigned with incoming vice-president Kamala Harris at a rally in Arizona in October, telling the crowd: “We’re the bosses of these candidates, which is a 100% true. We hire them! We are allowed to feel the joy in all the rights that have been fought for for so many years.”

Her video follows a similar exhortation by Stevie Wonder, who marked Martin Luther King Day on Monday (a holiday Wonder helped initiate in 1983) with a call for “a truth commission that forces this country to look at its lies,” regarding racial equality. “I’m calling on President Biden and Vice-president Harris to launch a formal government investigation to establish the truth of inequality in this country … without truth we cannot have accountability. Without accountability we cannot have forgiveness. Without forgiveness, we cannot heal.”

— Stevie Wonder (@StevieWonder) January 18, 2021

Addressing King, he said: “You would not believe the lack of progress; it makes me physically sick. I am sick that politicians try to find an easy solution to a 400-year problem.”

Wonder recently addressed racial inequality in a new song, Can’t Put It in the Hands of Fate, with lyrics including: “You say you’re sick and tired of us protesting / I say not had enough to make a change … You say you believe that ‘all lives matter’ / I say I don’t believe the fuck you do.”

Announcing the song in October, he called for “an atonement, not just for a couple of years, but at least three to five years – we cannot ignore and act like the things in this nation didn’t happen … We can’t erase them out of the history books. 1619, it happened. The slave trade did happen, Reconstruction did happen, 150 million black people did die, that did happen. The only way I think we can fix it is through our love and respect.”


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Alicia Keys, Apollo, Manchester

Apollo, Manchester

Dave Simpson

24, Jun, 2004 @1:49 AM

Article image
Alicia Keys | Pop review
Arena, London
Despite the lumpy dancing and empowering homilies – including images of Gandhi and Princess Diana – there's no disputing the talent and musicianship of Alicia Keys, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

26, May, 2010 @8:31 PM

Article image
Alicia Keys, Nottingham Arena

Nottingham Arena

Alexis Petridis

25, Oct, 2002 @10:45 AM

Article image
CD: Alicia Keys, The Diary of Alicia Keys

(J Records)

Alexis Petridis

28, Nov, 2003 @2:21 AM

Alicia Keys, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Caroline Sullivan

01, Mar, 2008 @12:07 AM

Article image
Pop review: Alicia Keys

Hanover Grand, London
Rating: ***

John Aizlewood

12, Jul, 2001 @11:00 PM

Article image
Alicia Keys: Here review – sobering and transcendent
A sprawling 18 tracks pit a raw-voiced Keys and her piano against a catalogue of intolerance and -isms – with astonishing results

Caroline Sullivan

10, Nov, 2016 @10:00 PM

Article image
Alicia Keys – review

A slick, high-energy show by a consummate performer who rarely lets the mask slip, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

20, May, 2013 @4:59 PM

Article image
Alicia scores keys to the music industry
Soul prodigy Alicia Keys emerged as queen of the US music industry last night when she won five Grammy awards, including the coveted song of the year and best new artist prizes.

Staff and agencies

28, Feb, 2002 @2:06 PM

Article image
Stars urge Alicia Keys to drop Israel gig

Roger Waters and Alice Walker pen open letters asking Keys to join cultural boycott of 'unjust and unbelievably evil' Israel

Sean Michaels

31, May, 2013 @12:19 PM