Sounds for Justice
On the stage in the small upstairs bar of Catch 22, right in the centre of Hoxton, Pat Coker (Mother of Paul Coker)shakes with rage. “We will go on fighting! Until the day we die, we’ll go on fighting, or until the day we get justice for our children”
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Pat Coker gave her speech at the September 2006 launch of ‘The Sounds of Injustice’, a CD inspired by the 2001 film ‘Injustice.” The film, the CD and the gig all tell the same story: the struggle for justice by the families of those who have died in police custody. Music and politics do not always mix well, so any benefit gig or CD should be approached with caution, steeped as they sometimes are in false promises and careerist posers. Is this any different?
Princess Emmanuelle said “I went to see the film a few years ago and it effected me so much” she explains after her performance at Catch22 “It’s a simple thing in theory that they’re fighting for: justice. “It shows up the corruption in the police.” I asked her how she thinks her music will help. “We’re young, which plays an important factor. We can spread the message to people who wouldn’t otherwise hear it. They’ll listen to R&B, hip-hop, dance or whatever and hear it.”
The message is that well over a thousand people have died in police custody since records began in 1969; however, no member of the force has been successfully prosecuted. It is a shocking fact and one which has inspired the formation of the United Families and Friends Campaign in 1997, the 2001 film, as well as countless marches, vigils and meetings.
Now it has inspired this collection of 16 tracks. The music bristles with political barbs, and gets through styles from roots reggae, to soul, to hip hop, to jazz. “There’s a mix of different styles of music, you know, every one’s got a message” says the compiler of the CD and director of Injustice, Ken Fero, “whether it’s about the media, about the police, about racism, about corruption, they’re all very different, not just because of style, but because of content. But they’ve all got one thing in common: all these people did the music because they want to support the families.”
The CD is worth the money if just for the Tribunes version of Strange Fruit (featuring Judy Green and Poetic Justice). And the performances at the launch by Princess Emmanuel, Ebele and Warehouse, show the depth of artistic talent throughout. But however powerful the music and however well meaning the artists, it all means nothing if there is no political impact.
“Is it enough? It’s not even anywhere near enough.” Says Brenda Weinberg who helped found the United Families and Friends Campaign in 1997 after her brother, Brian Douglas, died at the hands of the police. “The reality of it is that it’s a brilliant CD, just as the film Injustice is a brilliant film: it’s done so much to raise the profile of deaths in custody.
“But to say it’s going to turn things around: hell no, of course it’s not. But I’m glad it’s out there, it’s something that’s tangible. At least somebody or a group of people are doing something, and that’s what counts and that’s all we can hang onto at the moment.”
About a year ago Pat Coker also lost her son, Paul, while he was in police custody. Today at Catch22 she carries on her campaign for justice that she has pursued since. “It’s still raw now.” She tells me after she comes off stage “I’ve said it to so many people, but I feel betrayed by the system.” Perhaps the real value of the Sounds of Injustice is in what it means to her. “It feels like a step forward. I know all these people who made the CD, in their hearts, are fighting for those who are dead. They are spokespeople for those who died at the hands of the state.” She nods her head “it feels like a step forward.”
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