Over the weekend, Dev Hynes tweeted the lyrics to a new Blood Orange song called “Sandra’s Smile.” As you might’ve inferred from the title, the song, unveiled today, is in memory of Sandra Bland, a Black Lives Matter activist who controversially died in police custody over the summer. When word of her death got out, photos of her dead-eyed, emotionless mugshot quickly spread online. Rather than having her lasting image be one taken of Bland in jail, where she was later found hanged, her supporters on social media worked to circulate images of a happier, smiling Bland to remember her by.
Blood Orange’s song speaks to the significance of her smile as a symbol for black resilience, a respite from all the suffering. “Closed our eyes for a while,” he sings of mourning her loss, “but I still see Sandra’s smile.” The song later references Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and an interview she did with the Cut about why she’s not ready to forgive her son’s killer. “I mean, why should she forgive? D’we lose you if we don’t?” Blood Orange sings of the complexity of black grief in a time of injustice. It’s yet another powerful, painful addition to Hynes’s work on race that’s not to be missed.