Jamila Woods’ “VRY BLK”: A Song for Twenty-First-Century Abolition


Kyle A. DeCoste (Columbia University)

In Chicagoan poet and vocalist Jamila Woods’ “VRY BLK,” from her freshman album HEAVN (2016), she riffs on the children’s song/game “Miss Lucy” to call attention to police murders of Black children. In a social context wherein Black children are adultified by the education, healthcare, and justice systems, how have Jamila Woods and her contemporaries used popular music aesthetics to imagine Black childhood as a space of freedom? This paper takes Woods’ “VRY BLK” as a starting point to explore the racialized history of childhood innocence in popular music to ultimately make an argument for twenty-first-century prison and police abolition.

Part of 26-06 Folksong, Agency, and Social Critique, Tuesday, October 19, 5:15 pm–6:45 pm