Abraham Alexander’s agony reached a crescendo July 7, 2016, when Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire on Dallas police officers at the end of a rally for black rights, killing five, injuring nine others and two civilians. The shooter was reportedly angry over police treatment of African-Americans. Alexander was so overwhelmed with sadness when this story broke, and he knew the only way to overcome it was through music. His latest song, “America,” which was appropriately released July 4, was his personal release.
“You know that feeling when you lose your breath from the pain you feel? I wanted to share exactly what I was feeling like and how I overcame that feeling,” Alexander says.
Seeing an increasingly polarized America, with racial unrest and an impending presidential election, Alexander wanted to yell stop. “It was A versus B, me against you, black versus white. It was me sitting in the middle of a tug-of-war trying to say ‘stop pulling, let’s have a conversation.’ There shouldn’t be this ‘me versus you.’”
Alexander remembers when his teachers asked him to sit in the back of the classroom as a little boy growing up in Athens, Greece, because he was black. He also remembers that time he knocked over a bag of chips in a local market. When he politely put them back, a stranger approached him and said there was no reason because nobody would ever buy a bag of chips a black boy touched. At the time he innocently did not understand the gravity of what was happening. As the cliché goes, “hindsight is 20/20.” He understands now.
This was in the 1990s just before Alexander’s parents decided to move to the U.S. so their children could experience the American dream. They moved, and while he no longer had to sit in the back of the classroom, he couldn’t help but notice something was amiss. It was everywhere.
Alexander turned 27 in July. His once easygoing, soulful music changed its tune in this new song. The outcome of the presidential election along with the still constant news broadcasts and headlines depicting division and racial strife have only added to his pain.
“Martin had a dream, but they didn't want to crown my Luther king. Malcolm was next, bullet to the chest cause he signs with an X. Rosa sit down so me and my brother can stand up,” he reads the lyrics to his single.
The song is impactful in both lyrics and sound. It takes on the tone of Bishop Brigg’s “River” or Beyoncé’s “Freedom.” Like those songs, you can feel the frustration and passion. While still his soulful-style music, “America” has much more verve. This is Mr. Alexander’s opus.
“America/Land of the Free/You tell me to run/But there's shackles on me/America/Home of the Brave/I love this land, but thank God I'm saved by grace,” goes the chorus.
He says rallies are simply people saying one thing — we matter, too. “All black people are trying to say is all lives matter. If you go to a cancer rally, they are just trying to say, ‘I matter,’” he says. “This song was to help people understand and empower those who are afraid or confused, and ultimately empower me to keep pushing and rely on God.”
Alexander exudes peace and tranquility in his visage even if he straddles this rope in the game of tug-of-war. He maintains hope that everything is OK as long as he has his faith in God. Welcome to Abraham Alexander’s America. It is messy but so much more. And love reigns.
| photo by Alex Lepe |