Chance the Rapper’s new song, “Together,” is more than just a powerful tribute to the importance of home and neighborhood. It’s a powerful warning about the dangers of eminent domain, an extremely potent tool governments have used—and abused—for decades. 

Eminent domain allows the government to take someone’s private property. Because the tool is so powerful, the Constitution limits its use. Under the Fifth Amendment, officials can only take land if it’s for public use, like roads and bridges, and if they pay the owner “just compensation” for the taking. But in various Supreme Court rulings since the 1950s those protections have been eroded. Nowadays, the government can take someone’s land if they believe there’s an “expected public benefit,” meaning they can permanently displace a family if they believe their land has a better use, even if that use never materializes. Millions of Americans have been displaced from their homes, often communities of color, because of these rulings. 

That threat, especially to communities of color, is a theme woven throughout Chance’s song. While reminiscing about his childhood memories, Chance frequently returns to message that you need to keep the house in the family because, “If you keep the house in the family, you could keep the family in the house.” If you don’t, “It’s gettin’ bulldozed.” 

That’s the exact threat that many Americans like Cynthia Fisher and others face. 

Cynthia, along with some of her neighbors in Ocean Springs’ Railroad District, were blindsided when they found out the city had declared whole swaths of their majority-Black neighborhood as blighted so they could take their land as part of an urban renewal project. Cynthia has lived in the Railroad District for 70 years. Six generations of her family have grown up in the close-knit neighborhood. Now Cynthia and her neighbors are fighting their Mississippi town, so they don’t lose their homes. 

Blaine and Diane Smith, as well as two other families, are facing the same fight, except their battle is against a private railroad, not the government. The Sandersville Railroad Company is trying to use eminent domain to take land from the Smiths and others to bring rail service to one privately held rock quarry. In Georgia, railroads can use eminent domain if they get permission from a state commission. The Smiths’ land has been in their family for 100 years. The family has passed down the land from generation to generation since the time of slavery because it symbolizes independence, sustenance, and building generational wealth. Sandersville Railroad threatens to destroy all of that. 

The Marshall family too is in a similar battle. The Freeport Port in Texas is attempting to take the family’s property, even though port officials have testified that they have no idea what to do with the land after they take it. The land in question has been in Pam Tilley’s family since the 1940s. Forced to move to the area near the port due to redlining laws, the property has become a symbol of resiliency and resolve for the Marshall family. 

Government and private industry’s abuse of eminent domain is a very real threat, and sometimes a silent one. Just ask the Fishers, the Smiths, the Marshalls, the Archies, the Cokings, the Kumers, and others. Even though many states adopted reforms after Kelo v. New London through legislative action or court rulings, that hasn’t entirely stopped municipalities, often aligned with private entities, from continuing to snatch land away from families. Songs like “Together” remind people about the importance of owning a home and the very real danger of losing it to eminent domain. 

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The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest law firm. Our mission is to end widespread abuses of government power and secure the constitutional rights that allow all Americans to pursue their dreams. IJ has represented individuals who faced retaliatory code enforcement for public comments they made, were arrested for posting jokes about their local police departments on social media, or had baseless lawsuits filed against them because of their criticisms of government officials. If you feel the government has abused your constitutional rights, tell us about your case. Visit