The name Emmett Till holds a lot of emotion mixed with tremendous hurt for a whole generation of people, and continues to do so. In 1955 Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy from Chicago who went down south to visit relatives in (Jim Crow racist) Mississippi. While there an allegation was made that he had been seen flirting with a white woman. A definite no-no for a black male of any age. He paid the ultimate price for this by being tortured in a most horrific fashion and then murdered. So brutal were Emmett Till's injuries that his mother decided to have an open casket funeral so the whole world could see the results of bigotry and hatred. The images, which went worldwide, kick-started The Civil Rights Movement and only a few months later Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.
Till's family have penned an open letter to the rapper expressing their pain and sorrow at his actions, and even though his record company, Epic Records have apologised on his behalf, I cannot help thinking the damage has been done. Many music fans regularly cite Lil Wayne as the number one rapper in America and his popularity shows no sign of waning, even with this terrible insult to the slain Emmett Till hanging over him.
This whole affair brought to mind the heartbreaking and very moving documentary I saw in New York back in 2005 called 'The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis Till', made by a very talented African American film maker called Keith Beauchamp. In this film we learn the complete tragic story of what happened to a young man who did not deserve to die at such a young age. Just another case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being black in Mississippi in 1955 could mean a death sentence, just for looking at a white woman. His mother gives her thoughts and you cannot help but be moved by strength and courage througout this whole ordeal. Beauchamp was at the screening I attended and gave a question and answer session following the film. The audience, both men and women, were visably moved and although at times very harrowing, 'The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis Till' needs to be seen by everybody to remind us all of the struggles people have endured to enable us to have the rights we know possess. Also, if enough folks were knowledgable enough about the people who paid such a huge price for these rights, rappers like Lil Wayne may think twice before defaming such precious souls just to make a rhyme.
'The Untold Story Of Emmett Till' can be seen right here.