On the same 2012 day Alynda Lee Segarra, the singer-songwriter behind Hurray for the Riff Raff, celebrated her 25th birthday, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Inspired by a recent visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Segarra released a video for “Everybody Knows (for Trayvon Martin)” on her next birthday, paying tribute to the slain teenager. The stripped-down folk ballad asks, “Trayvon can you hear me now?/I want to help you but I don’t know how,” and was re-released by Segarra’s label as part of an IndieGogo campaign to raise money for the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which aids families affected by violence, and the Third Wave Fund, which supports youth-led gay and feminist causes.
Then the August killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, spurred Segarra to get the charity movement going as soon as possible. “The shooting of Michael Brown had everything to do with [it],” she tells Rolling Stone Country. “There has been a what seems to be an unending list of young black men who are getting gunned down for ‘looking suspicious.’ There’s an immense amount of people who are fed up with this. We want things to change. Black lives matter, black youth have bright futures and have great potential. I wanted to show my respect to the families of these victims and to voice how disturbed I am with our current situation.”
A portion of the funds raised by the New Orleans-based artist’s IndieGogo campaign will go towards the creation of a video for her song “The Body Electric,” off her breakout 2014 album Small Town Heroes. That track came from Segarra’s feeling of despair with the world’s violence, especially towards women, with a refrain of “Tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand/Gonna do for a world that’s so sick and sad?”
“I wanted to let out some of my rage and speak about my desire for the world to change,” she says. “I had been reading the news a lot, about young girls in American high schools getting gang-raped by their school mates, about a medical student in New Delhi India who was killed and gang-raped on a public bus. I felt so distraught by the state of our world. Then, I go out to a bar and watch a honky tonk band and they’re singing a murder ballad song they wrote, about shooting a woman down cause she did wrong. I couldn’t laugh anymore; I was too emotionally connected. I wanted to write a song a woman could sing along to and feel empowered by. It was a feminist statement, but as time goes on I learn more about the song than I knew. It’s become about the culture of violence we live in, that accepts the deaths of people of color, queer people and women as commonplace. We are not disposable — we are living our lives as targets and we are tired of that.”
With the campaign still going, Segarra teamed up with a number of collaborators to create an animated lyric video (watch above) for the song that tells the story of Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman who was convicted of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot to get her abusive husband to stop attacking her, just 10 days after she gave birth to her third child. He was unhurt in the altercation. Despite using the Stand Your Ground defense, the one that exonerated Zimmerman in Martin’s death, a jury took 12 minutes to find her guilty, then sentenced her to 20 years under the state’s arcane guidelines. She remains under house arrest, wearing an ankle bracelet that costs her $1100 a month and will be re-tried in December, facing the possibility of 60 years in jail.
The IndieGogo campaign, which will also help set up the Body Electric Fund to help aid more causes, ends November 1st. For every $10 pledged, donors will get a copy of “Everybody Knows,” while a $2,500 donation will get you a personalized song from Segarra. Meantime, she can’t reveal the details of the video just yet, but here’s what she promises: “We have a great team on this project. Joshua Shoemaker is directing it and he has a powerful vision. We’ll be bringing in a local New Orleans music legend, and trying to make something beautiful that will stay with you. I hope to get my fans excited about these organizations and give back to those who are helping change history!”