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Flint's Tunde Olaniran addresses race and violence in latest album

Juan Beltran


Tunde Olaniran’s music has been reviewed and featured across the nation on NPR, the New York Times and Pitchfork Magazine. People are paying attention to his music coming out of Flint.


He’s not only a singer and songwriter, he’s a producer, designs his own costumes, and choreographs his own shows (accompanied by backup dancers). By day, Olaniran is an outreach manager for Planned Parenthood. This past year, he’s spent his free time creating a new album.


The album, Transgressor, is being released Friday. It touches on themes of body image, love, identity and starving artists, but themes that appear in many songs on the album are race relations and violence.


Police violence towards black men has made headlines in recent months. Olaniran says he feels like he’s constantly having to go through cycles of grief and loss after he hears that kind of news.


“Over the past year I feel like we’ve had to have so many moments of grieving, especially as a black person living in this country,” Olaniran says.


The last verse of the Olaniran’s song “Everyone’s Missing” was written after a New York City jury in December decided not to indict a white police officer for using a choke-hold on Eric Garner, a black man, who later died.


"Everyone's Missing" verse III:


Verse III

“Hands up still bang bang bang crowd control is non lethal But an LRAD’s the exact same thing miles to go until we the people they said earn respect like we used to had sharp suits and they spoke well MLK was respectable, still gunned in that motel i’m tired of vigils we been blowing the whistle straight homicide but then he gets acquittal”

In the chorus of the song, Olaniran sings the words, “Everyone’s missing, but I’m still here.” He says those lines were inspired by a writing workshop he led in Flint, which isone of the most violent cities in the nation.

“A theme that kept coming up [in the workshop], especially among the younger people, was loss. It was, ‘I will be in school and I don’t know if this person next to me will be dead in a month,’’’ Olaniran says. “That was very real. I’d worked with youth, I’d been to funerals of youth in my program.”

Olaniran can be seen performing his new album this weekend. His CD release show will be in Detroit on Saturday night.  

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