Opera star J’Nai Bridges performs a powerful tribute to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

28 May 2021, 16:58

By Rosie Pentreath

The US mezzo-soprano turns her unforgettable voice to the poignant aria, ‘They Still Want To Kill Us’, one year after the death of George Floyd.

Star opera singer J’Nai Bridges has performed a powerful aria to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, one year since the death of George Floyd.

The US mezzo-soprano performed Daniel Bernard Roumain’s evocative ‘They Still Want To Kill Us’ in a film premiered online on 26 May, marking poignantly the race struggle in America as epitomised by two events – the Tulsa Massacre and George Floyd’s death – which happened nearly 100 years apart.

She is accompanied by Bernard Roumain, known as DBR, on the violin and the piano.

The piece of music by DBR, heard in the short film above, is a commentary on society’s approach and struggle with issues of race, and America’s treatment of Black life over the past century and beyond.

Read more: An opera singer, an empty Hollywood Bowl and 3 minutes of beauty we all need.

The composer of the aria has given his work the subheading ‘the uncensored aria’ and described the events of 31 May 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a “a toxic mix of misinformation, bigotry, ignorance, and white rage” which “ignited a race war that left hundreds dead, a community destroyed, and a nation still struggling for its identity” in a Q&A at the end of the video premiere.

DBR discusses with ongoing incidences that continue to result in the deaths of Black people in the US, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and says: “Violence against those who are ‘other’ in America is deeply rooted in our history, and we have a choice – we can be silent, or we can move mountains and create new spaces for our communities.”

The video accompanying Bridges’ performance was directed by Yoram Savion, and commissioned in partnership with Sozo Media by the Apollo Theater and Opera Philadelphia, among other arts and culture institutions.

J’nai Bridges is an American mezzo-soprano who has performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Washington National Opera, and San Francisco Opera among other prestigious venues.

‘They Still Want To Kill Us’ and the artists’ Q&A is available to watch on YouTube until 31 July. Click here to find out more about the piece.