R&B Phenom Amaal Shines Light on Family Separation

The singer spins familial loss at the hands of incarceration into heartfelt R&B.

Unprecedented government crackdowns on the U.S./Mexico border have had the dubious upshot of making incarceration, and its tragic familial consequences, a growing public concern. Still, that a new voice would take on the issue, as her crest toward fame is beginning, is ballsy to say the least. One who has shown such mettle is Somalia-born, Canada-raised singer Amaal. The Toronto-based breakout, who rose up in indie R&B before recently signing to Universal Music, is one of the untold numbers of family members affected by the carceral state, as her most recent release, “Later,” deftly illuminates. 

Amaal (Photo: Sean Brown)

Setting politics aside, the song (cowritten by Charlotte Lawrence collaborator Hayley Gene Penner) and video reenact Amaal’s lived experience—namely that of the bus ride she routinely took to visit her incarcerated loved one in jail. The commute, four hours each way, verged on unsustainable, until Amaal discovered the program FEAT, an Ontario-based transport service for children of incarcerated parents. 

“I used to get a rental every weekend to visit [the prison],” Amaal tells us. “It was exhausting and expensive, but thankfully I [then] learned of [FEAT]. It was extremely affordable and comfortable—a safe haven for all [us kids]. These visits meant everything to person doing time; in fact, it’s been statistically proven that inmates who receive family visits are the least likely to reoffend, and to integrate back into society [once they’ve served their time]. I made this video not only to share my story, but to honor the strength of all the incredible families I met [through] this amazing non-profit along the way.”

Watch the inspiring “Later” video below. 

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