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Denver podcast parallels racial violence of Emmett Till and Elijah McClain

Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2023-09-19 19:02:17-04

DENVER — A local artist will air a live podcast performance looking back at the murder of Emmett Till and how his family's fight for justice is similar to that of Elijah McClain’s family.

“A Letter from Heaven to America from Emmett Till” will be performed at Dazzle Presents in Denver. It was written by Donnie Betts and will be performed by a 14-year-old. It explores the devastating lynching and how the hate is ever-present in modern-day, racially-motivated murders.

“One of the lines says, 'What do you want America? What do you want? We suckle your babies, you planted seeds in our women, we worked for you for years,'” said Betts, the director of Destination Freedom Black Radio Days. “I want no more hashtags, press conferences with mothers crying about their sons.”

Till was lynched August 28, 1955, accused of whistling at a white woman. His body was mutilated. An all-white jury found his killers not guilty. In 2017, a historian interviewed the woman at the center of the claims. She recanted her story.

Betts says there are parallels between what happened to Till and Elijah McClain.

“The fact that they were young, smallish in stature, they were snatched in the middle of the night, their lives were taken,” he said.

Betts says both the McClain and Till families gave him permission to do the podcast.

After the performance, there will be a 23-minute concert for Elijah McClain — a minute for every year he was alive.

The podcast will air live at Dazzle Presents in Denver Friday at 7 p.m. You can also find it on your favorite streaming app or KGNU radio.