As protests against police brutality continue to fill streets across the country, the demands of justice for George Floyd are not quieting down. Boston’s Shea Rose has amplified her voice in the discussion, releasing a powerful video for her 2016 cover of Sinéad O’Connor’s “Black Boys On Mopeds,” the Irish singer’s 1990 response to police brutality in the United Kingdom.
“I first heard ‘Black Boys On Mopeds’ about 15 years ago while living in Kingston, Jamaica,” says the singer-songwriter, performing artist, and music curator. “I was deeply struck by the lyrics, and that was 15 years after Sinéad O’Connor wrote and released the song after the death of Colin Roach, a 21-year-old Black British man who died in police custody. She dedicated the song and the album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990) to his family.”
O’Connor released her song seven years after Roach’s 1983 shooting death at the hands of police, which was covered up and made to appear a suicide. While Roach is not directly referenced in the lyrics, a photo of his grieving parents standing in front of his image appears in the liner notes with the inscription: “God’s place is the world; but the world is not God’s place.” The track’s title is reportedly taken from an incident involving the 1989 death of another young Black man, Nicholas Bramble, who died in a road crash on his scooter after being chased by police, who thought he had stolen the vehicle. It was Bramble’s.
Rose’s new music video, released last week (May 27), depicts the musician solemnly singing directly into the camera, with a red silk scarf that at times chokes her around her neck. While O’Connor’s song reflects England’s turmoil in the ’80s, Shea says the sentiment is timeless and applies to the modern crisis gripping the United States, serving as a universal statement on our current social and political climate. As she sings the infamous lines “These are dangerous days / To say what you feel is to dig your own grave / Remember what I told you / If you were of the world they would love you,” she is certainly not wrong.