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On 'Mama's Baby,' Orion Sun Grapples With Her Own Experience Of Police Brutality

In the track notes for "Mama's Baby," Philly-based singer/producer Orion Sun tells the story of being injured at the hands of police during a May 30 protest in her hometown. The artist admits that she didn't initially consider what had happened to her as police brutality, because she'd so often heard that term specifically used to describe police killings, when in fact "neither is acceptable" and both need to be acknowledged. The hardest part, however, came when she had to call her mother 800 miles away and tell her what she'd experienced.

Just 24, Orion Sun has joined the millions of young people who have enlisted themselves in the ongoing fight for racial equality in this country. She says that "Mama's Baby," written not long after that brutality incident, "sort of bled out of" her, as she fought through emotional and physical trauma in hopes of finding some peace once finished. That overwhelming sense of calm and acceptance is felt throughout, both in the arrangement and her uncomplicated lyrics. Assured and poised as an artist and young woman, Orion Sun allows herself to be completely vulnerable, asking an unfair world, at the very least, to "respect me." Even without its sublime accompanying video from animator August, the song paints a telling portrait of young Black girls everywhere who have had to endure, and dim their "candle light," for survival.

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Shannon J. Effinger
Shannon J. Effinger has been a freelance arts journalist for more than a decade. Her writing on all things jazz and music regularly appears in Pitchfork, Bandcamp, Jazziz, Jazzwise, and Downbeat. As of the fall of 2020, her arts coverage can also be found in The New York Times and The Washington Post; the latter features her Sunday arts cover story on Marshall Allen, the longtime leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra.