Gun violence in the U.S. -- particularly the kind that involves disproportionate numbers of black men killed by police officers -- has been a near-constant topic of discussion in 2016. And despite one's best intentions, it's easy to feel tired, defeated and overwhelmed when nearly every day brings with it another trending name -- another hashtag who just yesterday was someone's father, husband, brother, son.
But for people like Xavier Dphrepaulezz, better known as the Oakland musician Fantastic Negrito, taking a break from the conversation simply isn't an option. When it's personal, when it affects your family and community -- Dphrepaulezz lost a brother, a cousin and a close friend to gun violence, each before they turned 18 -- you don't have the privilege of just checking out for a while.
That's one heartbreaking truth I took away from "In the Pines (Oakland)," a powerful new short film the musician released Sept. 28 (it premiered on Noisey here). Directed by LA filmmaker Rashidi Natara Harper, the nine-minute film is set to Fantastic Negrito's plaintive cover of "In the Pines," a traditional Appalachian folk song that dates back to the 1870s but was popularized in the 1940s by Louisiana folk-blues virtuoso Leadbelly.
The track appears on The Last Days of Oakland, the righteous, deservedly buzzed-about LP Fantastic Negrito released in June. Dphrepaulezz says the song's lyrics made it a natural choice to accompany the film, which he intended as an offering to the countless black women who've endured the pain of burying a child.
"This is dedicated to women who bury their children due to gun violence," wrote Dphrepaulezz in a statement accompanying the video, "and all mothers throughout the world that hold the fabric of society together."