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A New Music Collection Honors Trayvon Martin

Streaming service TIDAL puts a musical spotlight on the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement

Trayvon Martin would have turned 22 years old in February, had he not been shot fatally by George Zimmerman at the age of 17 in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Five years later, the country continues to grapple with the issue of the overlooked deaths of young black men and police violence, which, along with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MI, lies at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A visual EP called “17,” released jointly by TIDAL, the music streaming platform, and Sankofa.org, a social justice organization began by Harry Belafonte, pays tribute to the injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death, as well as those lives were cut short by police violence. Directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, the video is chaptered in four parts: “No Justice” (Ty Dolla $ign and Big TC); “The Answer” (Raphael Saadiq); “Hanging Tree” (Elijah Blake); and “Drama” (Mali Music).


The video follows a day in the life of the fictional 17-year-old Jacobi Nelson, who is killed tragically in a violent encounter with the police.It begins with idyllic scenes from Nelson's hot summer day at the pool and ends mournfully with his death. “The racial bias that continues to plague our country and collect our young men as casualties, should be unacceptable to every American,” said “17” co-director Gerard Bush. "Our ardent hope is that “17” will provide meaningful context and drive people toward self-examination of their own inherent, preconceived ideas––about race and culture.”

This is not TIDAL's first foray into social justice work. In 2015, they released “ Chains,” a production by Usher and Nas that forced you to look at the faces of the victims of police violence. Last year, the company announced that it was giving away $1.5 million to the Black Lives Matter movement. Sankofa previously produced another Bush/Renz production, a PSA about police violence called "Against the Wall," which starred Michael B. Jordan, Van Jones, Donald Glover and Michael K. Williams.

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