Andra Day's cover of this iconic 1930s protest song is exactly what 2017 needs.

The first time you hear the song "Strange Fruit,"  the air gets sucked out of the room.

The haunting, poignant protest anthem was written as poem by Abel Meeropol and made famous by Billie Holiday, who sang and recorded the song in 1939.

Meeropol employs the metaphor of a tree and its bitter fruit to symbolize the violence and terror of lynching, which claimed the lives of more than 4,000 black people between 1877 and 1950.


But the song manages to take your breath away largely because nearly 80 years after it was written, in the wake of police violence against black and brown people, it still feels as relevant as ever.

"Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."


All GIFs via Andra Day/YouTube.

Vocalist Andra Day masterfully covered the iconic song and recently released a stirring video.

Much like the subject matter and Meeropol's gripping lyrics, the imagery presented in Day's video is indelible. Not only is Day clad in flowers and broken shackles, but much of the video was shot on sites of known lynchings.

The victims' names and dates of death are shared at the conclusion of the powerful video.

This small but powerful tribute is more than most lynching victims have received because most lynching sites go unmarked, and there are no national monuments to the thousands who were tortured and murdered. (Though one is in the works.)

"Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh."


Day's video is part of Lynching in America, a digital storytelling project from the Equal Justice Initiative.

Inspired by their comprehensive report on lynching from 2015, EJI created an interactive experience to explore the legacy and effects of race-baed violence and terror. Visitors to the site can hear powerful stories from the descendants of lynching victims and those driven away from the South by racially motivated terror, the primary cause of the Great Migration in the early 20th century.

There are also interactive maps to see a state-by-state breakdown of these crimes and the impact they had on the demographics of the nation. Users will also find information about mass incarceration and excessive punishment — the evolution of race-based terror and injustice.

According to its website, "By creating a digital experience for a wide audience, EJI hopes to spark an honest conversation about our history of racial injustice that begins a process of truth and reconciliation."

A couple hug during a protest against police violence in Manhattan. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Until we confront America's bitter history, we will sing of "Strange Fruit."

Until equality truly exists, the hard work must continue. The tough conversations, the demonstrations, the calls for freedom will continue. And protest anthems like this will lead the way.

Because in the words of Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of EJI, "Slavery didn't end in 1865. It evolved."

"Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop."


Watch Day's stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" below and be sure to check out Lynching in America.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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