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.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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