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Musicians’ Tributes to Trayvon Martin, Like the Verdict, Offer Little Satisfaction

George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin

On Saturday night, July 13, George Zimmerman was acquitted in last year’s shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American, in Sanford, Florida. Martin, who was wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of Skittles when he was killed, and police’s initial failure to arrest Zimmerman helped propel the case into the national discussion on race. Musicians rallied around Martin when his case first became a national issue, and they’re showing their support again following Zimmerman’s acquittal.

As the AP reports, Beyoncé called for a moment of silence in Martin’s honor during a show in Nashville, then sang the chorus of “I Will Always Love You.” Young Jeezy shared a busy, melancholy track called “It’s a Cold World,” rapping, “Now I’m prayin’ for his mother” (in a Facebook post, he emphasized he’s not trying to profit from the situation). Wyclef Jean shared a video for a song called “Justice (If You’re 17),” combining acoustic and electronic instruments as the Fugees singer proclaimed that Martin could’ve been “the next president” or “the next Steve Jobs.”

One tribute even turned violent, when soul singer Lester Chambers was attacked onstage after dedicating a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”  to Martin. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the 73-year-old was injured when a white woman shoved him, allegedly yelling “it’s all your fault” at him. He suffered a bruised rib muscle and nerve damage, while the woman was arrested on suspicion of battery. 

The Roots’ ?uestlove posted a photo of himself shortly after the verdict, writing, “Onstage right now……pissed.” Others weighing in via Twitter included Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Nicki Minaj, Russell Simmons, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, and Rihanna, while Andrew W.K. took to Facebook to say “GEORGE ZIMMERMAN = NOT PARTY.” Their words may do Martin more justice than the songs below, but perhaps a more fitting musical tribute will still be forthcoming.