Local Current Blog

Dua Saleh on ‘body cast,’ their powerful new song about police brutality

Dua Saleh in The Current studio, 2019. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

This past Wednesday, June 3, Jill Riley talked with Dua Saleh on The Current’s Morning Show. Here’s their conversation, which touched on “body cast” – a new song with an urgent message that’s been amplified by the Recording Academy, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork.

Jill Riley: I have songwriter, poet, actor, Minneapolis community member, Dua Saleh, on the line. Dua, How are you? 

Dua Saleh: I’m good Jill, how about yourself?

We’re just taking it day by day. I know that you have a song and I want to talk about it but first, it has been over a week since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody. What was your reaction and what have you been involved in for the past week and a half?

My initial reaction to the murder of George Floyd was grief. I couldn’t stop crying and people kept re-posting the video and it was on autoplay on Twitter everywhere. I had to mute some people because they kept re-posting the video. I felt a tremendous amount of pain for George Floyd’s family and for community members that knew George Floyd. So many people knew him, he was such a kind soul and he gave so much back to the community. It was alarming, I couldn’t get my emotions together. I kept telling people to not to trigger people by re-posting the video because he was well known within the community.

But afterward, I guess I’ve been in a state of activation. I feel like I’m ready to do whatever needs to be done. So protesting at the front lines, I’m ready to call out Mayor Jacob Frey because last year he asked for a $8.2 million raise in funding for the Minneapolis Police Department. But people were still grieving the murder of Jamar Clark by the Minneapolis Police Department and many other people within our communities and even within our schools and even recently. The city recognizes this is happening and Minneapolis Public Schools completely divested from the Minneapolis Police Department so it’s something that all of us are recognizing and it’s something that even our public schools are bringing urgency to because they’re worried about the safety of our community members.

I just feel ready to do something. I’ve been working with Black Visions Collective specifically, who’ve been mobilizing around defunding the Minneapolis Police Department because they have not shown nor showcased any signs of being there for the community as they’ve been murdering us and as they’ve been brutalizing our children. We’re currently trying to push forward the efforts, both in protests and also policy work are what’s being done currently by our organizers.

But, even reflecting upon it, I don’t know. Right now my eyes are wide in bewilderment just thinking about all the happenings within the past week. The past few days. Even Governor Walz deploying military personnel unto our community members and people having guns, lethal weaponry, both guns with deadly ammunition and rubber bullets that are causing a lot of harm. They cause internal bleeding for some people. Tear gas that could potentially be deadly for people who have respiratory issues or who are out there as medics. I’m just, I don’t know, I’m just shocked at the state of happenings. I’m so worried for the people who are at the front lines, especially black youth who have been putting themselves out there right in front of police officers and National Guard that are shooting at them and that are macing them and that are harming them and I’m just shocked.

It’s one thing to sit and quietly reflect or to  just be surviving hour by hour, day by day. I don’t expect you to be able to say it all in a 30-second sound bite. This is important for people to hear. To hear the words coming from you. To hear the words from someone who is an activist, who is involved in the community. You mentioned Black Visions Collective, and I know that you have a new song and it’s about police brutality and the proceeds of this song are going to go to Black Visions Collective. Tell me about the song. When did you write it? When did you record it?

“Body cast” is a song that I wrote about a year ago in the studio with Psymun, who is a producer in Minneapolis. I was reflecting on past protests that were happening with Jamar Clark and Philando Castile in my hometown of St. Paul. I was highly triggered when I was writing this song, thinking about police violence and police brutality recently because of the happenings in Minneapolis and the Minneapolis protests. I’ve been working with Black Visions Collective and I thought the best way I could offer help as an artist would be to donate proceeds from a song about police brutality to fuel Black Visions Collective, who has been active within the community doing policy work to defund Minneapolis Police Department and also to redistribute funding to black youth who are at the front lines.

We released it really recently, a couple days after the protests broke out and now all proceeds are going to them. Initially it was just on Bandcamp but now it’s on all streaming services. Bandcamp is the best way to donate directly to Black Visions Collective because that’s the place that we can put 100% of the proceeds to them.

It wasn’t just two weeks ago that you recorded the song. When you mentioned the timeline of it, I think that people listening right now kind of forget that a song made a year ago is so relevant right now.

Yeah, I would like to say that I’m surprised or shocked but I’m not because the system has continually failed us. So “body cast” is a song that will pertain to and be relevant to our times as long as our cities and police departments are not held accountable for the murders that are going on within our communities.