As much as Janelle Monaé and the Wondaland crew’s “Hell Y’all Talmbout” has become a powerful anthem for contemporary activism, it had some notable omissions—omissions that Vita Elizabeth Cleveland, a Cleveland-bred musician and activist, sought to address with her song “Hell Y’all Ain’t Talmbout.”
Cleveland, a black trans woman, created the song in response to Monaé’s omission of trans people of color who have been murdered. She further explained her intention in a statement accompanying the song:
This track is in response to the initial recording of “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monae. The track, albeit powerful, once again proved to the world that even within the minds and spirits of black people, our black trans siblings are left behind, even in death. This track is a call to those that have forgotten us, as well as a chance to lift of my fallen black trans symbols, who should have been lifted up in the first place.
The song, which repurposes the structure of Monaé’s, features verses about themes of omission alongside calls of “all of us or none of us,” echoing the energy of #BlackTransLivesMatter-driven protests like the one at last weekend’s Afropunk festival (J Mase III, who was one of the two who went on stage, is a part of the AwQward talent agency along with Cleveland) and Tuesday’s national day of action.
Listen to the powerful song below.