Chapter 8: Beaumont – The Story of Rayshard Brooks

Beaumont was probably one of the harder songs for me to write, because what happened to Rayshard Brooks affected me on some strange level I didn’t even realize at the time. I decided to write about Ray as opposed to George Floyd, although the big man Floyd is referenced in the song, for reasons I outline below. With Beaumont I wanted to make something a little different: a socially conscious Hip Hop song that tries to analyze what actually went wrong that day. For those not familiar, you will be after you hear Beaumont. The whole episode was painfully frustrating, mostly because it was completely avoidable.

Justice may be blind, but we are not. (Cartoon by Tom Stiglich)

It was frustrating because the responding officers spent over 45 minutes on a routine DUI, that should not have taken more than 10. I’m not blaming the officers, not for what Rayshard did, no. I am simply wondering about protocol. I watched the video several times. It was clear that the second responding officer was, as we say on the streets, fuckin’ with the guy. Why did it matter what brand of tequila or vodka he had consumed? Whether it was top shelf or not? Why did it take so long to get to the breathalyzer? I’ve never been a cop, but I do have a master’s in international relations, conflict resolution and useless shit like that. Rayshard’s shooting, brought upon by his own folly make no mistake, should be studied in police academies and community centers all over the country as an example of what not to do. By both law enforcement, and citizens.

Humanity. Washington, DC.

The Floyd case was murder. Pure and simple. A hateful cop with anger and control issues. I don’t know if he was a racist or not, but he certainly didn’t treat Floyd like a human being. Perhaps it’s a cops vs. criminals thing. Perhaps the cops need more training. I don’t know. Only Derek Chauvin knows why he did what he did.

So yes, George Floyd was open and shut.

Dupont Circle, where a lot of the BLM protests took place. My walk home from work.

Brooks, on the other hand, had more layers. Tragic and heartbreaking layers that reveal the importance of community policing. And personal responsibility.

The other reason this song was hard to write, and I’ve not talked about this openly before, is because I could’ve been Rayshard Brooks so many times. Because once, I too had someone put their knee on my neck. That’s all I will say. There was always that point where I stopped. I lived to see another day, because my sense of self preservation prevailed. I pushed pride out of the way because I wanted to go home. Because the voice of a loved one made me realize: I want to live.

I wonder if Ray, once he realized that his arrest would violate his probation and land him back in prison, felt like he didn’t have anything to live for. His frustration boiling into anger and then desperation, after almost an hour of being messed with. He made the wrong call by grabbing the cop’s taser, and paid for it with his life. Should he have?

That day, I saw myself in Rayshard Brooks. And that’s why I wrote Beaumont.

June 15, 2020. Atlanta. A day later my own life, as I knew it, had ended. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Musically, this hip hop tune has a nice mellow arrangement, one that I enjoyed from a creative perspective. I specially wanted to move away from the commercial trap heavy hip hop on the radio, and do something a little more underground if you will. I love the guitars and the bass, as well as the percussion and the strings towards the end. It was an emotionally resonant and cathartic song for me to write. Especially going through my own heartbreak and loss of someone I loved, albeit for completely different reasons.

Street Sense is a newspaper sold by Washington’s homeless. “Street Sense, help the homeless”, is a cry many Washingtonians are familiar with. A lot of the articles are actually contributions by vendors themselves. As in this haunting little poem by Reggie Jones. I cried when I read it. But then went on to eat my $15 dollar bowl of designer Bibimbap. Typical liberal hypocrite.

Next: Chapter 9 – Activation