'We can't breathe:' Chapel Hill singer hopes song inspires action against racial injustice

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Thursday, June 11, 2020
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Katherine Larsen wrote her song 'We Can't Breathe' in the wake of Eric Garner's death six years ago, but Floyd's death at the hands of police inspired her to release the song.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Triangle singer-songwriter is trying to answer the outrage over the death of George Floyd with a song of compassion and unity. Katherine Larsen wrote her song 'We Can't Breathe' nearly six years ago, but Floyd's death at the hands of police inspired her to release it to the world.

"I'm originally from Minneapolis," said Larsen who now lives in Chapel Hill. She describes watching those excruciating eight minutes and 46 seconds of video where Floyd pleads "I can't breathe," with his neck under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, with a feeling of horror, grief and alarming familiarity.

"I googled (the Minneapolis intersection) the other day because I knew it was close. But I was born ten blocks from where George Floyd took his last breath. So talk about hitting home. I just had to do something," Larsen said.

What Larsen did was unearth her nearly six-year-old song. She's a professional musician who spends most of her time performing with cover bands on corporate gigs. But in 2014 when video of Eric Garner dying in a chokehold from an NYPD officer went viral, Larsen started writing.

"I just sat at my piano as I often do when I can't find the words. And I was just in tears. And the song just flew out," she said.

About the song's three world title, Larsen said, "When I originally wrote it, it felt like I was giving voice to the voiceless."

And now, six years later, as Floyd's case triggers and an international uprising against racial injustice and police brutality, Larsen felt moved to take her art off the back burner and release it for the world to hear.

"I was just so moved and horrified about what happened that I said, and great people in my life also pushed me and said, the world needs to hear this message," she described.

We asked her if she was hesitant as a white woman of being perceived as the wrong messenger

"I'm going into this eyes wide open," Larsen answered. "I've already heard some nasty comments and backlash. And I get it people are hurting. "But I think it's important as a white woman to use my voice and speak.

"Listen to the message of the song and if the message resonates with you, take some action. Share the video. Post in the comments what action you are taking."