Brotherblack rapping in front of wall with graffiti

Students get the rap on anti-racism

Shannon Williams aka hip-hop star, Brothablack, is an Aboriginal education officer at James Meehan High School. He wrote and performed the song for the video clip, What you say matters. The clip was produced as part of a suite of resources the commission developed to empower young people to say no to racism.

The video, filmed at the school, features students acting out racist and anti-racist vignettes performed to Williams/Brothablack’s lyrics and rap-beat music.

Teacher: OK, so now it’s time to get back your assignments from last week.

Teacher to 1st student: OK, so we’ve got 79.

Teacher to 2nd student: 67

Teacher to 3rd student (Kat): Kat, 55.

Teacher to 4th student (Jade): And Jade, 98, great work.

Student (Kat) speaking to Jade: Of course she’s the favourite. What are you, Asian? Is that why you’re so good at maths? Well, you’ve got black skin. What are you, a blackanese or something?


You get it – what is racism?
What do you do about it – Face the racism
How do you deal with racism? – Kick the racism
How do you deal with racism? – Kick the racism – Kick the racism

When people stand by doing nothing while it happens
Their actions we must examine
Nothings has changed in our communities
A lasting effect if we can think unity
The act of individuals to make a real movement
Create real change stand proud and prove it
You’re not better than me you’re equal to me
Not above you I’m always beside you

Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?
Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?

Excuse me your ignorance is showing
Please put it away it’s not the way we’re going
It’s quite ugly & I find it offensive
It’s not the way to go if you want to be respected
How would you feel if I said that to you?
Now nothing has changed and we haven’t moved through
To stand and connect cause we’re all the same man
My race does not define me – it is who I am

Back up ok what’s all the concern?
I’m next come on man please wait your turn
This is not about respect though your lack is a concern
There’s room for everybody so let’s get along first
Why is everything your saying so racist?
Do understand how I’m feeling it’s basic
Do you accept this part of the norm?
I didn’t think it’d be a problem for us anymore?

Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?
Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?

You’re the only one that’s bringing it up friend
Because you’re so bothered with my place of origin
Next time when you’re stepping out to play
Think about how others feel if you got something say?
Now you know what this is sounding like
The crap from your mouth nots sounding right
We can stand strong instead of going head on
There’s nothing wrong tackle it and move on

Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?
Still working to stop the problem today
The power’s with you so what you gonna say?

Stop with negativity, in your vicinity, stand up for unity
Not just for you and me
The things you’re doing now, with your life do count
Time to own this moment time to take account
Your individual actions influence the actions
When other people like promoting dysfunction
Now it’s time to be part of something else
Bigger than yourself, time to prove oneself, come on!

Racism – why does it exist?
We are the same – why does this exist
It’s time for change – What you say matters

About the video clip

National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, said the resources found on the What you say matters website were produced to educate young people about racism and to empower them to respond when they experienced or witnessed it.

“We hope the What you say matters clip and resources will be seen as a positive initiative aimed at preventing racism from happening in the first place and ensuring that, when it does, young people are better able to respond in a way that is safe for them and those around them,” Ms Mitchell said.

She said more than 2,000 young people aged between 13 and 17 were surveyed about their experiences with racism and asked what they wanted to know about it. The data was used to build the resource.

It was found almost nine out of 10 young people surveyed had experienced racism. Almost half had experienced it at school, and one-third on the internet.

Ms Mitchell said Shannon Williams partly wrote the lyrics in response to these findings and also drew on his own experiences of growing up in Sydney as an Aboriginal man.

The artist then workshopped the video vignettes with the James Meehan High School students. The scenes acted out were based on real life experiences and issues that were important to students.

Mr Williams said the clip was “confronting” but the young people featured in the scene where Aboriginal students were picked on because they didn’t look Aboriginal were “some of the bravest people I’ve met in the country.

“To talk about one of the hottest topics in the Aboriginal community in the country, which is falsifying the proof of your Aboriginality, all the students in that scene were Aboriginal so it was a really gutsy effort.”

He said he believed the resource would be invaluable for educators to use as a tool to strike up conversations with their students about racism, particularly during the transition to high school.

“This is something that is applicable to everybody, racism happens everywhere. I know a lot of educators … have struggles in finding ways to talk about racism. With tools like this it will ignite the conversation quite easily.”

James Meehan High’s deputy principal Peter Flew said the production raised anti-racism awareness among the students.

“Besides the video clip having an impact on the school, the students featured are real people who are going to carry the message on in the school. All the other students are going to see them as role models and that racist comments are not ok.”