On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African-American man, was shot while jogging in Georgia, U.S.A. by three white residents. I watched the news about the incident and the aftermath in horror. The “stand your ground” laws were cited as the defence for this fatal shooting: Arbery case exemplifies abuse of ‘stand your ground,’ but the damage is broad and systemic (nbcnews.com)

Many states have enacted so-called “stand your ground” laws that remove any duty to retreat before using force in self-defence. Arbery’s killing, and the delayed investigation and arrests reignited debates about racial inequality and systemic racism.

Despite a pandemic, 2020 has demonstrated the harsh truths of racially motivated violence and police brutality which have been internationally acknowledged and has made the world reflect on the injustices that exist in systems and institutions. I felt my way through 2020 along with the rest of the world, witnessing atrocities such as the death of George Floyd. Reading the stories and watching the protests, I spent hours reflecting on how humans view humans, and how that is enacted in our lived realities.

The title and message of the song is my artistic attempt at reclaiming “Stand Your Ground” for racial justice rather than an excuse for discrimination.

Am I your token POC?
Take a pat on the back
But you don’t see me
Just another stat

Performative acts,
prestigious praise
in newfound ways

Diversity is not a metric,
statistic, or bottom line
It is a just way of being
So open up your eyes

You do what you want
I don’t get a say
Would I have a voice
If you had your way

Nations divided,
Prejudice abounds
A battle for our lives
Who will stand their ground?

We teach genocide as history
The present is much the same
Take our current story
How we play this human game

A stop at a corner store,
Out for another run,
Never know when out the door
If you’ll see the setting sun

I’m a human being
With goals and ambitions
But what is that to you
And all your ammunition

Dictators, pandemics,
Institutions, wars,
There is no equalizer
We all survive through hope.


Should we stay silent?
Or should we grab a bull horn?
Should we stand on our soap box?
Or lobby governments and thrones?

Time to face our biases
Time to face our fears
Time to raise our voices
Institutions get in gear

A human is a human,
It’s time to end the silence,
Don’t fade into darkness
Stand up and fight for justice

A year after this incident, I am heartened by the recent announcement from the Governor of Georgia towards reforming the citizen’s arrest laws in the state: Georgia Governor Announces Bill To Reform Racist Citizen’s Arrest Law | NewsOne

Almost two years later, the world breathed a sigh of relief and joy at a guilty verdict in the Arbery case: Ahmaud Arbery’s killers sentenced to life in prison for 25-year-old Black man’s murder – CNN

I look forward with new hope, new visions, new learnings, new understandings, new beginnings even amidst the challenges we are still enduring.


Lyrics by: Mary Abdel-Malek Neil
Music by: Mary Abdel-Malek Neil and Jeff Cowell
Produced by:  Jeff Cowell and Mary Abdel-Malek Neil
Performed by: Mary Abdel-Malek Neil (vocals), Jeff Cowell (sound engineer), Abbas Janmohamed (tabla)

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