The Washington Post

Wyclef Jean’s Trayvon Martin song: ‘Justice (If You’re 17)’

A hoodie-clad Wyclef Jean sings about Trayvon Martin’s killing in a new music video called “Justice (If You’re 17).”

“If you’re 17 with a hoodie on watch out for the neighborhood watcher / If you at the right neighborhood at the wrong time neighborhood watcher / this might be your last call to your girlfriend,” the lyrics of the song say.

View Photo Gallery: The fatal shooting of an unarmed black 17-year-old by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., has led to a federal investigation, numerous protests and a national spotlight.

The music video shows a hoodie-clad smiling teen walking down the street and chatting with a female friend — the same actions Martin supposedly took on the day of his death. It dramatizes the alleged narrative of that day, fading to black just after the Martin figure is attacked by another hoodie-clad assailant, ending with the sound of a single gunshot.

Wyclef isn’t the first to write a Trayvon Martin tribute song, but he’s the biggest musician to come forth with one so far. Most of the artistic tributes to Martin have involved his hoodie, an article of clothing that Style writer Katherine Boyle addressed in a recent article after comments from Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera.

“Even the word ‘hoodie’ has echoes of racial overtones, differentiated only by prepositions and suffixes. In the hood. From the hood. Hoodlum, derived from ‘hudelum,’ found in a 19th-century German dialect, meaning ruffian,” wrote Boyle. “By concealing the wearer’s identity, a hood can seem sinister: Hooded white men killed black men long before Martin died.”

Members of the group Geto Boys performed “Hoodiez,” and Godswill performed “Justice! The Trayvon Martin Song.” Another song, “Trayvon,” by trumpeter Christian Scott, was not written for Martin specifically (it was recorded before his death, by a musician who had never heard of him, according to the Wall Street Journal), but its themes have come to fit the national narrative of Trayvon Martin’s death.

See Wyclef’s video below:

View Photo Gallery: Trayvon Martin’s death has sparked widespread interest (and debate) about the perceptions surrounding hoodies and those who wear them. It’s also become a protest symbol worn by those rallying in support of the unarmed teenager who was shot in a gated Florida community last month. But the hoodie has had a long history, starting with its use by monks in the Middle Ages. In modern times, the hoodie has been used as a uniform, incorporated into high-end fashion and maintained an important presence in athletics and hip-hop culture. And a wide range of celebrities have been known to wear them.
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.


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