When I look at the state of the United States, it breaks my heart. It’s where I live and a place I have really fallen in love with.
The cities are wonderful but it’s the people who make them. I’ve been thinking a lot about what drew me to America, and to my home in New York specifically, and it’s probably best described through a quote I read from NY Times columnist Roger Cohen recently. He said that New York’s great secret was the “extreme degree of ambition that coexists in its streets.”I felt that every day. Run as fast as a New Yorker… or really, you just don’t belong there.
New York just isn’t New York without its New Yorkers. I saw that during the pandemic when its overcrowded sidewalks were completely cleared and void of any human life.
Somehow though, beneath the hum of a million air conditioning units and driver’s horns, there was something about the last few months that felt almost festive. Americans are so passionate and emotional and when they band together, they are a force to be reckoned with. The pandemic felt like that. “We’re all in this together,” NY’s governor Andrew Cuomo would remind us all at 5pm every night.
But now… it all feels different. The United States is not united at all. And it’s been hard to find the words to narrate this time.
And so I’ve looked to literature and film to inform me. Today, I stumbled across American singer Kiana Ledé’s beautiful cover of Pink’s “Dear Mr. President.” Originally written in 2006 as an open letter to serving President at the time George W. Bush, Pink has noted this track to be one of the most important songs she has ever written.
At the time, the lyrics were directed at the Bush administration’s stance on the war in Iraq, on its opposition to gay marriage and its perceived lack of empathy for America’s poor and middle-class citizens.
Today though, we realize those 14-year-old lyrics can relate to Donald Trump’s America. Ledé’s cover is so beautiful. She even switches up the lyrics in verse two to include a direct stab at Trump “sending our parents to different places and left them sitting in your cages.”
“Through all the crying and pleading, all the protesting and donating, I wanted to do something that always makes me feel lighter – singing,” said Ledé. “I came across the song ‘Dear Mr. President’ by Pink and realized so many of the lyrics are still relevant today. I hope this song drives people to vote because Trump is a symbol of racism and we are facing the impending doom of his re-election. In order for us to follow through, he needs to be replaced.”
All proceeds from the song are being donated to the NAACP Empowerment Programs that fight against issues like police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, voter suppression, racial biased education and much more.
Spend a couple of minutes sitting with the song today. Look closely for the people who are marching in these cities. Every single one of them – and the brave ambition to right a history of wrongs written all over their faces – is what makes America, America. It’s what makes it good.
And, if you’re like me, Ledé’s cover might land with you too – and then propel you to want to proactively help.