Courtesy Joy Postell
Courtesy Joy Postell

Baltimore-based neo-soul artist Joy Postell has some powerful words to share about systemic racism, police brutality and black empowerment in her newest music video, which premiered yesterday on Noisey.

Postell returned to her hometown of Baltimore in May 2015, weeks after the riots tore areas of the city apart and left physical and mental scars on many here. She wrote the soulful, very pointed acoustic song, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which spoke from the hearts of many black Americans who fear violent mistreatment from police based on past events.

Now, she has put out a creative new work that targets police brutality and and other racial issues. In ‘Consciousness,’ Postell raps around a central question: “What is this consciousness you speak of?” She delves into the traumatic history of American racial violence, including lynchings, as well as obsessions with crime and drug dealing in modern rap culture and how the criminal justice system targets African-Americans.

She pays homage in her lyrics to those who spoke out before her:

“I’m not a preacher, but I had to let it out/

in the name of those before me/

like Nina Simone and James Brown.”

Running with that, the videos moves with her portrayals of four iconic black women: Simone, civil rights activist Angela Davis, jazz singer Billie Holliday and Celie Johnson, the star character of The Color Purple.

Baltimore art buffs will notice the special setting for “Consciousness.” Postell and co-director Malaika Aminata filmed it inside the defunct, but historic Peale Museum building. Filming took place earlier this year after the museum re-opened its doors to exhibit “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars,” an artistic celebration of black history by Abigail DeVille.

Noisey gave us the premiere of Postell’s new song, which is part of her upcoming EP, “Diaspora.” They also gave us an insightful Q&A with Postell about what inspired her newest work. Read it here.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...