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MILCK / HUMANIZING THE FIGHT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE WITH “SOMEBODY’S BELOVED”

October 26, 2020

Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!

Singer and activist, MILCK, has made it her mission to heal the world through her music. The classically-trained musician and activist exploded onto the scene with her worldwide anthem “Quiet” in 2017, which went viral at the inaugural Women’s March. Not only did this speak volumes to the #MeToo movement, but it was named Billboard’s #1 protest song of the year.

Born to first generation parents, Connie Kimberly Lim created the moniker MILCK by flipping her last name and adding the initials of her first and middle name — a forever reminder of her Asian American roots. In a world where there’s constant controversy and societal issues, MILCK finds music to be a sanctuary for not only herself, but all those who hear it. With her smooth, sultry voice, she continues to use her platform to make a positive impact, inspiring future generations not to be silenced and instead, speak their truths.

Now, she returns with yet another powerful track titled “Somebody’s Beloved,” inspired by the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Recorded with British singer-songwriter Bipolar Sunshine, the song chronolices the detrimental aftermath of systemic racism in the United States. Produced in partnership with Tom Shadyac’s TN-based non-profit One Family Memphis and directed by Malik Martin, MILCK also shared an incredibly moving narrative video to accompany the song.

Through the creation of the Somebody’s Beloved Fund, MILCK is honoring and donating to seven local organizations working towards social and racial justice. For more information on each organization, visit https://www.somebodysbeloved.com/somebody%CA%BBs-beloved-fund.

Flaunt caught up with MILCK via Zoom. Read below as we discuss how quarantine has affected her, how “Somebody’s Beloved” came to be, self-care tips, and launching the somebodysbeloved.com website.

How have you been holding up with COVID-19? How has it affected you?

Before COVID, it was go go go, and then it was this really abrupt halt. I’m so used to going. I really spent more time with myself and asking questions like why do I do what I do? What are the things I’m missing when I’m moving so quickly? I started looking at my hunger to prove myself. It’s like riding a bicycle versus driving a car in a neighborhood. I’ve been going at this horsepower trying to get somewhere and don’t see the environment around me. It’s nice to be able to reset. How about you?

Well, I got my puppy Slim. Do you have a dog?

So sweet, I don’t. I was thinking about getting one but I know I’m going to start traveling again, so I’m going to resist the temptation.

What does a song like “Somebody’s Beloved” mean during this time?

I made “Somebody’s Beloved” when I was, like a lot of other people, pausing to really understand U.S. history and how much systemic racism still exists. I had middle school classes that taught me the 60’s happened. The whole impression was civil rights were achieved, yay! Of course I knew there were nuances, but getting exposed to that video footage and really understanding how much it happens threw me for a loop. I got really into reading and researching. I came across Tamika Palmer’s interview where she’s talking about her daughter Breonna Taylor and started crying. I started writing the lyrics for the first verse, thinking about how she is somebody’s daughter. Her friend said she was a great friend and she seemed ambitious, she had dreams for herself.

I started writing that and once the verses came out, I was actually nervous. I literally didn’t want to center my non-black voice. As a singer, I wasn’t sure how to show up. When I wrote the verses I put it away for a few days like “I don’t know.” Eventually I thought okay, I can either show up and maybe make some mistakes, or not show up and be safe, not be criticized. It brought up a lot of my own Asian shame. Not all Asian American do, but many of us feel the need to be excellent in everything we do. I was taught to be three times as good at everything.

When I don’t complete everything on my list, I feel incomplete.

I’m sure there’s a lot more on that list than an average human being. [laughs] I can relate to that as well, “damn I need to finish all of this stuff. I need to do this well.” That got brought up for my Asian American friends, this fear of being wrong or messing up. I really have to lean in because as a musician, I owe so much of my inspiration to black music. I brought this to my co-writer Bipolar Sunshine (Adio Marchant). He was really gracious and decided to finish the song with me. He’s a black man and has perspective. Unfortunately he lost his own beloved to causes of systematic racism but I didn’t know that prior to recording this song together.

We collaborated on a song before this and that didn’t come up. When I brought this song to him, he shared it with me. He helped me write that section: “blood on leaves falling like autumn. Her story’s been told a thousand times, why doesn’t everybody scream for anyone listening?” He had that “why doesn’t everybody scream?” He said from his perspective, autumn leaves are falling and Black people are dying. It feels like this unfortunate thing that’ll happen inevitably. We wanted to reference Billie Holiday and Nina Simone’s song “Strange Fruit.” Once we finished it, we were like “oh, this feels really special to us.” Let’s make sure we channel some resources and attention to local organizations doing the work. That’s the birth of the song, the idea of creating a social action campaign around the song.

You wrote this at the height of the Black Lives Matter, how were you feeling? 

When It was all happening, I was up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. I was watching online what’s going on. Eventually I drove back from the mountains in Colorado to LA. The energy was different. The organization, Build Power began hosting weekly protests at the Los Angeles DA and I started going there. The activism felt very apparent everywhere. I have a lot to learn. It’s humbling and important.

What did you want to encapsulate in the visual?

This whole process with this song has been about creating a starting point, then bringing it to people who have direct experience and perspective of living a black life. In collaborating, I learned a lot. I met this group of people who live in Memphis at a festival in Colorado. They work at this nonprofit called One Family Memphis. Some of those staff members are storytellers, so I sent them the song. We’ve been friends for months now. I said “hey, what do you think? Do y’all want to create a video with me?

As we started having conversations, my initial idea didn’t click with them at all. I was thinking let’s cut up actual documentary footage of the protest and make a collage but they wanted to make a narrative video. They wanted to tell a story that highlighted the joys and intimate moments of love and power between family members. Due to COVID, we decided to keep it very very small. We thought “what if we center on one mother and one daughter?” In the lyrics it’s “more than a number, more than a story.” Even looking at one family, one human being, the amount of emotions, power, and pain within one life being lost was enough for us to wrap our heads around. They taught me a lot and it was really powerful collaborating with them.Photo Credit: Eric Williams

How does this compare to a song like “Quiet”? Which meant a lot to the #MeToo movement. I love that you make music that’s so relevant and impactful.

Thank you. “Quiet” was a very personal song about my own journey and my own healing. This song still feels personal to me because I’ve come to a point where when I see Tamika Palmer lose her daughter, it hurts me directly. Some people say “oh, it’s cool you wrote a song about other people and it doesn’t impact you,” but it does impact me. I had to write “Quiet” in order to get to a place where I could be present enough to see other people’s pain. If I hadn’t handled my own pain, I’d be blinded by my own story. I still work on it daily. If I work on my own troubles, I can see what other people are feeling. That’s why Yoko Ono said “inner peace leads to outer peace,” and it’s so true. The more I find peace in myself, I’m more present and clear with what other people are going through, and I can show up better.

You spread a lot of positivity on instagram, what do you do for self-care? 

Right before this call, I went for a walk. Usually I like hiking. Sometimes I’m like “ah I have to drive,” and it stops me from going outside. Even a little thing where I can see the sky and maybe get some vitamin D is a big thing. One other thing is having alone time to write with no phone, just a journal and a pen. I can write really boring stuff: these are the things I need to do. I write a few pages of it. Have you heard of the Artist’s Way, this book by Julia Cameron? She always encourages people to write morning pages, where you write with your hand and no phone. Write three pages of dumb stuff out. That’s really helpful for me. Then dancing. Silly kitchen or living room dancing. Just dance it out.

What are your favorite songs to dance to?

I’m obsessed with Willow’s “Wait A Minute!” [laughs] Oh my gosh, the song is a jam. Recently, I discovered “Get Involved” by Rafael Saadiq. He’s great. I recently recorded in the studio working with him. 3 days later, I Shazam a song and it was his song. That’s a great song to jam out to.

What can we expect music-wise?

“Somebody’s Beloved” has helped bring me closer to my own production and my own process. I was joking, I don’t know where I want to live in the future or where I want to move to, but I do know I want to buy a piano. It’s so illogical: “I might need to move, let me buy a thousand pound instrument.” I want to get a piano in my place, mic it up and start making my next album. My next focus is exploring how to not betray myself, even if it’s hard and disappoints other people. It’s a lot about my journey with my family and my upbringing. It’ll be a whole emotional ride.

Anything else you’d like to let us know?

We’ve created the Somebody’s Beloved fund and built a website called SomebodysBeloved.com. We’ve chosen seven organizations that do a lot of the work on the frontlines and are centered around black experience and life. I’m really excited for people to check it out. We’ll have resources for people to read, watch, listen to. I want somebodysbeloved.com to be a place where people can get creative in their mind on how to get involved with this movement. I want it to be a resource that’s always there.

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