3. The third assignment I chose was composing a CD of 10 songs that I felt best fit the memoir. When I began to pick these songs, I knew that I wanted the CD to tell a similar story of triumphant and struggles, but through a collaboration of various songs. In the end, each song relates to a general topic of the story, starting from the broad idea of the days of black supremacist to Jefferson’s last day.
1. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy: establishes a basis for the book and how during the 1940’s, African Americans had to fight, in order to have their voices heard and to obtain equal rights. The setting of the story was mainly on a plantation and this song is another method of keeping the people’s spirits up and encouraging them to continue believing that one day they will obtain all of the rights and justices that they have been fighting for so many years for.
2. “Paper Planes” ‘by M.I.A.: transitions all of the remaining songs onto the main focus of the story. This song specifically deals with shooting and robbing places and or people in order to steal their money. Essentially, if Jefferson had not contemplated whether or not he should just take the money and run after everyone in the store was dead, he might have had a chance to escape. Instead, Jefferson thought about running off with the money in draw, just as two white men walked into the store. Also, the song has a swaying feel to it, one that makes a person feel as if he is just going along with the flow of the song because it can be mesmerizing. The tone and mesmerizing affect that the song has, especially in the beginning of the song, reminded me of Jefferson because he really did not know what was going on when he got into the car. He was in fact trying to go to a club, but he ended up just going with the flow of things and he found himself in the middle of a shooting.
3. “Lock up” by Akon: by this point in the story, Jefferson has been arrested and he found out his sentencing so he is awaiting his day of execution in jail. In the song, Akon says “.. steady tryin to find my motives, why do what I do…” and at that point, he contemplates the reasons as to why he committed the crime that landed him in jail, just as Jefferson did while he laid in his bed, staring at the ceiling. Jefferson wonders how he could have gotten himself into so much trouble at such as young age. He doesn’t know what kept him from continuing on with his original plans on going to the club, which would have kept him safe and out of trouble I also thought that although Jefferson is physically behind bars, everyone on the plantation feels trapped because they are not allowed to live freely. They live by the orders and commands of white people, who tell them when to work and when not to work. I feel as if the majority of the people living on the plantation are anticipating their day to be free.
4. “I’m Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado: at this point in the story, Jefferson is still in jail, but he has begun to receive visits from Grant and Miss Emma. Although the three of them don’t really speak about much, on the occasions when Grant had to visit Jefferson by himself, things seemed to go smoother. One meeting, Jefferson and Grant had been sitting in silence when Jefferson “…raised his head… and looked at the barred window. From the cell, all you could see were the yellow leaves on the sycamore tree and the pale-blue sky between the leaves.” (82) This was the first reference made to the sky and another was made about birds, however, this song relates to this section because Jefferson constantly looks outside of his cell window wanting to be out of the cell and free, just as birds are. He wants the freedom to experience life again.
5. “I Tried” by Bone Thugs n-harmony: this song is geared more toward Grant and his feelings toward living on the plantation any longer. His school teacher told him “… that most of …[them] would die violently, and those who did not would be brought down to the level of beasts.” (62) Ever since Grant was a young child, he was told that he would not amount to anything, as long as he lived on the plantation and that the only true chance of survival was by moving away from the plantation and finding work in other areas. The song in general discusses the idea of working hard to do the right things, but somehow, he still ends up right back where he started, the plantation. Jefferson contemplates whether he is just too “…afraid to take a chance out there” or if he really loves being on the plantation.
6. “How Far is Heaven” by the Los Lonely Boys: this song switches the focus back on Jefferson as he is still in jail and Grant continues to visit him. During one visit, Jefferson asked Grant if heaven existed and Grant didn’t give Jefferson a direct answer. Grant made it evident that he no longer believed in God and that he lost faith in God over the years. However, since Jefferson has been in jail for such a long time, he realizes that believing in God, such as the Los Lonely Boys say in their song, that they have gotten to a point in their lives where the only person that can really help them get out of a bad situation is God and they need to find it in themselves to believe in him again.
7. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammin Terrel: a song that focuses on Miss Emma and Jefferson’s relationship. I felt as if this song resembled the love Miss Emma has and will always have for Jefferson regardless of where he is or the type of trouble he has gotten himself into. She makes it apparent that nothing can keep her from coming to visit him, not even the fact that he refuses to speak with her during the majority of their visits. She continues to bring him food and treats because she believes that Grant will soon be able to get through to him before he is sentenced to death. Miss Emma has an amazing sense of determination and faith.
8. “Dear Mama” by Tupac ft. Anthony Hamilton: as the date of Jefferson’s execution approaches, he begins to interact more with Grant and he even decides to write his feels down in a journal so they can discuss them when Gant comes to visit. “Dear Mama” is geared toward Jefferson and Miss Emma’s relationship and although Miss Emma is not Jefferson’s mother, she has raised him for his entire life. I feel that Jefferson is now beginning to realize how much he appreciates and really loves Miss Emma for all of the things she has done for him, even when he has not always showed that he cared or even understood the caliber of the things she had to go through in order to even establish the visits to the jail.
9. “Apologize” by Timbaland: When I listen to this song it reminds me of the final walk Jefferson takes as he goes to the electrocution chair. The slow tempo of the song embodies someone walking to their final destination and essentially taking their last steps. Although he is now a man and understands that he can surpass the expectations that white people have placed upon him, reality is now setting in that he is actually going to die. He is not able to apologize for all of the hurt and pain he has caused Miss Emma and the others in his family. Also the fact that the song is not very long eludes to the idea that the execution was not a long and painful process.
10. “Waiting On the World to Change” by John Mayer: after Jefferson is executed, officer Paul Bonin drives out to see Grant to tell him the news of Jefferson’s death. I feel that “Waiting On the World to Change” is the best way to end the CD and the occurrences of the story because it seems as if a turning point has been made now that Jefferson is dead. The anticipation of his death is now over, and unfortunately he was killed over a crime he did not commit, but good things have arose from his death. For instance, at the very end of the story, when Paul comes over to Grant, Paul said “Allow me to be your friend, Grant Wiggins. I don’t ever want to forget him”(255) and they both shook hands. During the 1940s, it was rare to see a black man and a white man touch hands in a peaceful manner, however, the death of Jefferson has introduced a new sense of unity. Although Jefferson’s life has now ended, I felt as if a new beginning was born.