Schools, Bullying, Songs and Salvation


With the recent release of this video posted by a mom in Tennessee, featuring her son crying in the car over incessant bullying at school, many have asked the same question that 11-year-old Keaton Jones asked: why do they bully? 

A recent song entitled "Pray for Me" by rapper Brother Ali helps provides an answer: they bully because you're "different". They bully because they've been bullied or experienced trauma. And, yes, they bully because teachers let them. And parents don't know how to deal with it, despite their best intentions. 

In "Pray for Me," Brother Ali documents the pain he still feels today over the bullying he experienced as a child due to his albinism. 

Here, over a gospel-groovy hook and a jumpy beat full of slow steppin' vitality, Ali relives the pain he felt as a child along with an explanation of what the journey has been like for him as he's progressed through life. 

He is certainly reflective- and makes evaluations- yet always airs on the side of compassion. For example, Brother Ali was deeply depressed that his mother used to bring him to the salon to dye his hair in an attempt to make him look more "normal," or as Ali puts it: "Message that it sent: the real you ain't acceptable". 

Despite the pain that these trips to the salon caused him, Ali still doesn't take it out on his mom, understanding that "I knew what she meant/ what else could she expect to do?
That was just the lens/ that she viewed protection through," illustrating his capacity for radical compassion and understanding of good intentions, however misguided they may have been. 

In the last verse, Ali informs us of his salvation from the demons of his childhood. Unlike the teacher in the first verse who accidentally calls Ali "AIDS" like the kids who tormented him did- there were indeed responsible adults that made a difference: "grownups/ That roll up/ when they know it's time to hold us/ the elder queen showed so much homegrown love/ She said 'hair doesn't die but your soul does'". 

I've read before that the word "salvation" in Greek means, basically, a sense of wholeness. I'm glad it sounds like this man has got there. Or at least started down the path. Sometimes it all begins with writing it down. 

PS: You can listen to this amazing tune (there is no swearing, so it is safe for work) below. 



“Pray for Me” By Brother Ali

Somebody pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody please pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
What more could you say to me?
(Bless his, bless his heart)

The first day of third grade
Topic of discussion at the kick ball game
Is who's the new student why he look that way?
A eight-year-old expert determined I've got AIDS
A vote must've been taken, it became my name
I mean literally AIDS is my name okay
It made its way around the school and eventually
I heard a teacher try to catch herself as she yelled it to me
I tried to be invisible honestly
Wishing that the ground would just open up, swallow me
What kind of crime did I commit for this mockery?
Guess I must've lost some kind of cosmic lottery
How am I processing this at a baby's age?
It felt like I had a gut full of razor blades
I fantasized someone else would come take my place
Cause they taught me to hate my face

Somebody please pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody please pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
What more could you say to me?
(Bless his, bless his heart)

Imagine how my mama felt
Obviously she wants to offer me some type of help
Pretty white lady never probably dealt
With this particular type of hell
If she dyed my hair blonde maybe I can blend
Get a better response maybe even a friend
She took me to the salon, put chemicals in my head
When they took the towel off, it was purple in the end
Lot of money spent just to get me presentable
Message that it sent, the real you ain't acceptable
I knew what she meant, what else could she expect to do?
That was just the lens that she viewed protection though
And so eventually I began to see that
What grows out of me is my dirty little secret
Had to go back every few weeks to keep it
I think that part depressed me the deepest

Somebody please pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody please pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
What more could you say to me?
(Bless his, bless his heart)

Thank God for the grown ups
That roll up when they know it's time to hold us
The elder queen showed so much homegrown love
She said "hair doesn't die but your soul does"
She said "Elvis wore his hair in a pompadour
So he could try to look like Muddy Waters more"
But he would fry his crown so that he could lay it down
Like a white boy they called it a conk before
Until James Brown came kicked down the door
Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud my boy
That the meaning behind the afros and all
Get free being what it is that you know you are
She said "Beauty Is the splendor of truth
You will never cut loose 'til you're suitable to you
And your living is the proof just let it do what it do
Now watch them follow suit and try to catch up to you"

Somebody musta prayed for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody pray for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
Somebody musta prayed for me
(Bless his, bless his heart)
What more could you say to me?
(Bless his, bless his heart)




Popular Posts

"Torch Songs" and "Cast Iron Ballads": Deep Cuts from the Planet Waves Era

Review: Bob Dylan at the Oakdale Theatre

Peace, Bullets, Schools, Chaos, Life, and The Drive by Truckers

Along for the Ride with Tell Tale Signs

Jeff Lynne's on the Phone

If Street Legal was the Question, Bob Hopped on the Slow Train for the Answer

"Tangled Up In Blue": What's the Best Version?

This Train is Bound For Glory: Blood on the Tracks

Lost in a Dream: Bob Dylan, 1967-1974

1968: The Songs that Went the Other Way