Refugee Song

from by Use Your Voice

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about

This power ballad was written to educate the APA community and perhaps those outside the community about the United States' history of exclusion and oppression of APAs and other marginalized groups. The verses reference the Vietnamese refugees after the end of the war in 1975, the Chinese exclusion era in the 19th century, and Japanese internment during World War II. The song hopes to impart in its audience empathy for different marginalized groups, and criticizes the Trump administration for its exclusionary policies towards refugees, specifically those from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries. A line in the chorus, "and all the people standing there waving signs up in the air" is a nod to the countless protesters who took to airports immediately after Trump's Muslim ban to protest Islamophobia and general xenophobia. It is also a reference to student-led protests at the College of William & Mary. The bridge features an excerpt from Justice Hugo Black's decision for Korematsu v. United States, a 1944 Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of Japanese internment.

lyrics

If I could hop into a time machine to the spring of '75
With a camera in my arms, so afraid to be alive
I would show you all the scars, burning bodies, flaming cars
And all the graves of the "collateral" with troops standing afar.

I know I'm lucky to be here safe from all the blood and tears
Even though I still get suspicious glances now and then.
You know they let my family in when they knew they couldn't win
And the things they feared never saw the light of day.

So many people turned away without a cause, without a say.
It's so tragic 'cause they know that they're never coming home.
And all the people standing there waving signs up in the air
Make me believe that we'll make this right after all.

If we could hop into a time machine to 1882
I would show you all the gold mines and the railroads next to you
I would show you all the angry faces spitting in my eyes
asking why I don't wear a head tail. If we go there, we might die.

You know it's more than just a wall. It's this country after all.
Just the thought of it makes me get up in arms.
You know it's always been this way, just happened to blow up today.
Now all our hope's replaced by fear of being harmed.

So many people turned away without a cause, without a say.
It's so tragic 'cause they know that they're never coming home.
And all the people standing there waving signs up in the air
Make me believe that we'll make this right after all.

"He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily..."

If I could hop into a time machine to the spring of '45
Without a rifle in my arms, so afraid to be alive
I would show you Manzanar, Tule Lake and Granada
And all the citizens in camps. "Well, they must be traitors, all."

It's hard to feel like I'm a man when they never understand
That one life is just as precious as another.
If this really is the end, then it's our last chance to mend
All the hearts that have been turned against each other.

So many people turned away without a cause, without a say.
It's so tragic 'cause they know that they're never coming home.
And all the people standing there waving signs up in the air
Make me believe that we'll make this right after all.

credits

from Use Your Voice - EP, released April 28, 2017
Vocals: Matt Nguyen-Ngo
Guitars: John I. Kittle
Bass: Ethan Voytko
Drums: Matt Nguyen-Ngo
Programming: Matt Nguyen-Ngo
1940's vocals: Will Penix

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about

Use Your Voice Williamsburg, Virginia

Use Your Voice is the band that founder Matt Nguyen-Ngo put together to create his senior project EP for Asian Pacific Islander American Studies at the College of William & Mary. It is made up of members from his previous bands, Say Your Name and Wind for Wings.

Members:
Matt Nguyen-Ngo
John I. Kittle
Will Penix
Ethan Voytko
... more

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