Keys wrote the song in 2019. She released it on Juneteenth (June 19), 2020, an African American celebration dating back to June 19, 1865 when slaves in Texas were told that they were free and that the Civil War had ended. The release came weeks after the police killing of George Floyd
, which sparked protests against police brutality around the world. Keys told Vogue
that the lyrics were inspired by the deaths of two other African Americans at the hands of the police:
18-year-old Mike Brown, who was fatally shot by white police officer Darren Wilson
in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in a Texas cell
on July 13, 2015, just days after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation.
"It was written a little while ago, but right now is the time to share it," Keys said. "I keep saying, 'I really hope there's a time we won't need to share it,' but it keeps remaining relevant. This is a musical expression of what we're seeing every day, this police brutality that is completely out of hand."