Sun, 22 Sep, 2019

Strange Fruit

By Shrijak Shrestha

Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant south, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burning flesh. Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop. These are the words to the poem ‘strange fruit’.  It deals with the lynching of African Americans during the era of widespread racial oppression in USA. Lynching is the act of murder by hanging by a mob. It is a haunting poem that is simple yet effectively portrays the horrors of oppression. This poem was written by American writer Abel Meeropol as a protest against lynching and the systemic oppression of African Americans in USA. Although the act of lynching had declined, racism was still prevalent in USA.  He was inspired by the photographs of lynching by Lawrence Beitler. It gained widespread attention after Billie Holiday put it into a song in 1939. It was the first song that openly talked about the horrors of discrimination and oppression of Black people. Her powerful performances, driven by her own experiences of discrimination, evoked strong emotions in millions of people. In 1999, her first studio version of the song was named “song of the century” by Time magazine. Nina Simone, who recorded her own interpretation of the song, said, "That is about the ugliest song I have ever heard. Ugly in the sense that it is violent and tears at the guts of what white people have done to my people in this country.” This song is still relevant and reminds of all the injustice and discrimination still prevalent in the world. Even though most of us can’t relate to the song it still hits us with an overpowering feeling of unease and gloom.