Arlissa, 'The House We Live In': Protest Music In 2020 : We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020 This song, part of our 'We Insist' timeline of 2020's noteworthy protest music, was released Aug. 21.
NPR logo Arlissa's 'The House We Live In' Calls For Compassion Amidst Sorrow

Arlissa's 'The House We Live In' Calls For Compassion Amidst Sorrow


Many Americans first heard Arlissa's voice on the soundtrack to The Hate U Give, the 2018 film adaptation of Angie Thomas's novel about coming of age in the Black Lives Matter movement. Her ballad "We Won't Move" reflected that story's grounding in intergenerational connection as a source of Black strength. Her latest song was also written for that film, but set aside; Arlissa found new meaning in it as the violence of the past two years mounted, and protesters responded with an ever-greater sense of focus. An introspective ballad that suits the singer's thoughtful, melancholy approach, "The House We Live In" is the kind of call for compassion and hope made for vigils and late night weeping sessions — the occasion to light a field full of candles, or just one.

Co-written with Taura Stinson (who also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated "Mighty River," from Mudbound) and producer Blake Mills, "The House We Live In" considers the way racism becomes internalized, and calls for an end to the weaponizing of speech. "I'm calling off this war inside me," Arlissa sings over a restorative piano line. "The words that we speak out loud become the house we live in." The British-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter further realized the song's elegiac potential with the video that accompanied its August release, which shows the names of BIPOC victims of violence formed in ribbon laced through the iron fencing of the Silver Lake reservoir. (Arlissa is donating the proceeds from "The House We Live In"'s release to the BFTA Collective, which support BIPOC trans and non-binary femme artists and other creatives.) The tenderness and insistent strength in Arlissa's delivery is its gift: Life is fragile, it reminds us, and infinitely worth the struggle.