INDIANAPOLIS — Like any true artist, Zion Simpson puts his pain into his music.
“First it was Ahmaud Arbery, then it was Breonna Taylor and then it happened again with George Floyd,” said Simpson, “At that point, I was just angry. This can’t be where we live. This can’t be the country that we live in.”
Inspired by the unrest and headlines of police brutality, Simpson channeled his thoughts into “Independence Day”. After seeking help from his former Pike High School teacher, Al Smith, the two collaborated on a video concept for the song.
“When I heard the music, I was blown away,” said Smith. “Everything that he was feeling about the song, I had been feeling for years.”
“I wanted to handle it with care because number one, this is a sensitive subject,” he added, “and I wanted to make sure that I did justice by the people that have been attacked and impacted by this social unrest.”
Directed by Smith, the film tells a story of Simpson, who is pulled over in a traffic stop that turns deadly. He disappears from the driver’s seat and onto a memorial, joining the animations of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd.
The film is expected to gain momentum around Juneteenth.
On a holiday meant to celebrate freedom from slavery, Simpson and Smith say the song is a reminder of not only how far America has come, but how much is still left to go.
“A lot of people lose sight of the fact that this stuff happens every day,” said Simpson, “This does happen. It needs to stop happening, and it’s going to take a lot more than just one year and a bunch of hashtags to change that.”
Along with the song, Simpson and Smith hope to keep the conversation going. Attached in the video’s description on YouTube is a downloadable discussion guide. Smith says the goal is for community groups, businesses and other organizations to watch the video and have a dialogue, with the guided questions, after.
“Our mission is for us to stimulate action, like what’s next, how can you be involved in rectifying the situation?” asked Smith.
“Yes, it’s a very, very uncomfortable conversation, but it definitely needs to happen amongst just about every demographic,” he added.
“Independence Day” is available to view on YouTube.