Up and coming artist Diarra debuts her new empowering anthem "Set Free" with a music video directed by actress Meagan Good

By Alyssa Johnson
February 25, 2021 02:30 PM
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After breaking away from international pop group Now United, Diarra is making a big statement with the first single of her solo career, guided by the help of actress Meagan Good

On Thursday, the French-Senegalese singer debuts the powerful music video "Set Free" — directed by Good — exclusively on PEOPLE. The stunning new visual is a stark commentary about ongoing racial oppression and the continued fight for equality and freedom.  

Inspired by the summer of Black Lives Matter protests and in the wake of various instances of police brutality, Good shares that the video is a call of action to the public to continue to stay aware of the fight against racism within the country.  

"We don't want you to forget everything that's happened and everything that's continued to happen," Good, 39, tells PEOPLE. "We're not moving on. We have an active role that each and every one of us has to play in this time of history. What are we supposed to be doing to force the hands of change and to make sure people are constantly activated on how we continue to do better?" 

Diarra Set Free
Credit: Ron McPherson

The young emerging artist admits she was starstruck when producer Riley Urick notified her that Good would be directing the video. Diarra, 20, says that she is still in excited disbelief that she got a chance to collaborate with one of her idols. 

"I was working with Riley on the song and then one day he just called me and was like, 'OK, so we got Meagan on board for directing your video,'" Diarra tells PEOPLE. "I was like, 'What is my life right now? Are you talking about Meagan Good? The Meagan Good I've been watching on TV my whole entire life?!'"

Good says she's close friends with Urick and got involved with the project after he posted on Instagram that he was producing Diarra's latest single and needed a director for the video. She texted Urick about wanting to help out and after hearing the impassioned track, she was determined to work with the singer.

"I just fell in love with it immediately and to this voice," says Good. "And I was just like, 'Wow, this is incredible and so I came up with a concept and submitted it. [Diarra] came back and she was like, 'Here's some ideas I have' and both of us kind of just started spitballing on what we thought that it should be. This is what came out of it."

The video is filled with cutting visuals that create a fusion of both Diarra's heritage, with scenes of her in stunning Senegalese attire, and Black American history, with depictions of icons like Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president, as well as members of the Black Panther Party. 

"We also wanted [the video] to culturally represent her," Good explains. "We wanted to come out with a loud bang, and be specific about what's important to her. But we also wanted to leave it up to you to determine how you feel about the video and what you've got from it without necessarily telling you fully."

Aside from fun, animated costumes, the video has serious and emotional portrayals of real-life instances of police brutality and hate crimes. Diarra shares that acting through those scenes in the video were incredibly difficult. 

"Filming those scenes was very emotional to both of us," says Diarra. "Because watching those murders on TV in the news, it hurts really deeply. But then, sadly, it just fades away. People started talking about other subjects on interviews on TV, and it just feels like, 'OK, it happens' but it's not on top of the news anymore. Those things need to be on top of the news until things are different; until things change completely."

The conclusion of the video contains brief and censored clips of the terrifying moments in which Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered at the hands of police and white supremacists. Good says it was a delicate act of balancing sensitivity and necessary urgency when handling the depictions in the video. 

Meagan Good, Diarra
Meagan Good; Diarra
| Credit: Cécile Boko; Ron McPherson

"We were sensitive about it," says Good. "We don't want it to be harsh, but we also want it to be honest; we don't want to shy away from it. We also want it to be something where you realize the saddest part of this all is it's not just these situations, these things continue to happen." 

While the video contains harsh realities and images of racial injustice in America, both Good and Diarra share that they also want "Set Free" to be an uplifting gift for Black viewers. 

"In the same breath, we don't want you to be broken by it," says Good. "We want you to be empowered by what we are capable of, and what we can do. We want you to also say, 'OK, we are beautiful, we've also done this, we've also done that' and 'we also see ourselves this way' and so we wanted it to be kind of a window of both." 

As Diarra continues to establish herself as a solo artist, she plans to release her first solo EP later this year. The blooming star hopes that Black women can continue to be represented in media and that other Black women, like Meagan Good, are opening doors for young women like her. 

"I had this vision of myself when I was younger and I just felt like a darker complexion, couldn't really take over anything like modeling, singing, or acting," says Diarra. "And then, growing up watching people like Meagan Good on TV every single day in movies, she was opening the door for other darker complexioned women like me and other beautiful, young, dark-skinned girls around the world, to be able to make it out there in the industry. I felt really inspired by Meagan throughout this whole process."