Emmett Till's family reacts to Lil Wayne lyric

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm •  Published: February 14, 2013
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Till's body was recovered and returned to Chicago where his mother, Mamie Till, insisted on having an open casket at his funeral. The pictures of his battered body helped push civil rights into the cultural conversation in the U.S. Bob Dylan even wrote a song about it: "The Death of Emmett Till."

Gordon-Taylor, founding director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, said Lil Wayne's lyric was devastating to her family. Simeon Wright, Till's cousin who shared a bed with his relative the night he was taken by the killers, heard the lyric for the first time Wednesday night.

"And he said the Ku Klux Klan would be very proud of Lil Wayne," Gordon-Taylor said. "And as tough a man as he is, I could see the hurt and the anger in his eyes. It just demonstrates to our family just how lost are our youth."

Both Gordon-Taylor and Jackson believe the 30-year-old rapper could help with that problem if he chose. Jackson has met Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Carter, before and said, "I respect his art."

Jackson says the issue of a negative portrayal of the black community comes up from time to time, citing The Rolling Stones' "Some Girls," for instance: "We just felt they could make their point without grossly insulting people."

Music also has the power to uplift, he noted. Harry Belafonte opened eyes to conditions in Africa and the Caribbean, for instance. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" helped Americans see the war in Vietnam in a new light. And Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" helped clear the way for a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"We want artists who have considerable power to use their power to uplift and redirect," Jackson said. "It's not a matter of free speech, it's also speech that matters. ... These artists have culturally transforming power. Either they hurt or they help."

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