By Layla Abdullah-Poulos
NbA Muslim Hip-hop artist Alia Sharrief dropped her new video “Pose for the Picture” on YouTube, addressing the disturbing trend of activism for the sake of optics in social justice.
A remix of Lil Uzi Vert’s song “XO Tour LIif3,” Sharrief infuses her usual social commentary and lyrical style to broach the question “Why you pose for the picture” while having little to no tangible vestment in subjugation struggles and remaining complacent about the deaths of those subject to it?
Questioning, “how often do we see somebody stand up; who’s representing what’s up; who’s not living under these cuffs” in the song’s opening verse, Sharieff muses about the modern void of substantive leadership in social justice, which has been replaced by facetious posers, who tout rhetoric as an accoutrement to their “woke” images.
Unfortunately, American Muslim culture is ripe with this type of surface-level leadership. People who, in Sharieff’s words “just yappin’, yappin’, yappin’” whilst they “make you feel weird about talking about the truth,” and whose primary objective is “trying to gain money off of Black.”
A hallmark of many of Sharrief’s videos is the use of color, which I interpret as a representation of the vibrancy of Black Muslim resistance. Historically, African American Muslims have utilized Islam as a form of liberation in addition to a deen (faith-based way of life). As a product of that tradition, Sharrief demonstrates her ability to use sound and visual to balance the gravity of subjugation with the hope and objectivity essential for continual social resistance.
In the “Pose for the Picture” video, Sharrief brilliantly infuses a deep, rich purple overlay on black funereal clothing as dual symbolism. While the black represents her mourning the loss of credible leadership, the artist’s inclusion of purple highlights the prevailing wisdom, dignity, independence and creativity in the enduring struggle of African Americans and Blacks in the United States and globally.
Once again, Alia Sharrief demonstrates her multifaceted talents and utilizes them as a voice for resistance and perseverance.