D-Lo went viral during the MySpace era. This was long before we gained an understanding of how to use social media in the way we do today.
This documentary chronicles D-Lo's journey - from his rise to fame to recently being incarcerated. He is inarguably one of the most influential East Oakland rappers of all-time. He's made many hit singles - and as his manager says, "he will be paid forever."
One of the challenges we've encountered with filming this piece is the digital divide. Our clients vary widely. Some have smart phones, some have government phones, and most don't own their own computers. Everyone involved in this project has at least a smart phone. But even iPhones have limitations.
Dealing with these unforeseen issues made me think about my own privilege...
I recently had the opportunity to work with Fantastic Negrito.
I had an all-access pass to film the Grammy-winning artist at The UC Theatre.
When I sat down with Fantastic Negrito before the show, he told me that we need to be bold. He said that Oakland fosters fearlessness - and that the onus was on us to be different.
I didn't grow up admiring white collar professionals. I adulated hustlers - anyone who earned money independent of white supremacy.
A lot of times I feel like transplants, especially those who work for non-profits, come to Oakland on a mission - eager to help undo what they see as wrong about this city. They define street hustlers through their fear, because they fail to a) understand our culture and b) they don't realize how important it is for Black people to gain economic independence.
But pimps are a integral part of Oakland culture. They are revered - considered even magical.
I met Dre on Sunday. I was walking down Broadway and his style caught my attention. I nervously asked him for a photograph. He instinctively asked me if I was the police. I laughed. I tried to reassure him that I was only a photographer. He still insisted that I say out loud that I was not the police. And after I did, the tone instantly changed. His energy shifted and he told me he wanted me to capture him. I photographed him for a bit. And after it was over, we exchanged contact information.
I sent him the photos later that night. We decided to meet the next day to work on another project. In my mind, I wanted the piece to center around space. A friend once told me, "There are people in East Oakland who have never been to San Francisco." I believed her. I grew up in the Bay Area - mainly San Francisco and Oakland. Even though I lived in such a vibrant city, I rarely left the house. When I was in an AA meeting once, an addict said "the block was her life." I saw that as a child: drug dealers and addicts would live their entire lives within a one to two block radius. And that was the story I wanted to tell through Dre.
Pain bridges from generation to generation in descendants of the transatlantic slave trade.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) posits that centuries of slavery in the United States, followed by systemic and structural racism and oppression, including lynching, Jim Crow laws and unwarranted mass incarceration, have resulted in multigenerational maladaptive behaviors, which originated as survival strategies. The syndrome continues because children whose parents suffer from PTSS are often indoctrinated into the same behaviors, long after the behaviors have lost their contextual effectiveness.
Black homeless people often have a tendency to share grandiose accounts of their lives. They try to convince you that they're millionaires. One woman once told me that she had music in the Library of Congress. And even though they're clearly exaggerating, I choose to believe them. Because somewhere, in a parallel universe, what they're saying is true.
But in our world today, their identities were stolen by the hands of white supremacy. White supremacy is not only real, but infinite. And the cost of it is Black lives.
"Black Gods vs White Evil" is an upcoming new miniseries filmed in Oakland. The episodes document the superhuman spirits of Black people as they traverse white evil - including its accomplices. There are no actors. The situations are real. But the energy is afro futuristic.
Kim: What does your clothing line mean to you?
Senay: Madow Futur, to me, is our voice. It's our voice as Black people - as oppressed people in general. But specifically as Black people. And it is a proclamation that Black youth are the future. What happens in the world is dependent on our people and what we do. The arts are a way to galvanize and catch people's attention. It's a way to seduce people into positive ideologies. Madow Futur is a wearable proclamation that the future is Black - something that we can make beautiful.
I also grew up watching a lot of science fiction. Futuristic things are really important to me. I try to incorporate into all my work. I'm a bonafide Afro-futurist.
Lacey: Tell me your story of courage. What happened?
Kim: I spent some time in jail for assault. I was terrified. And I'm tough - but there were some women in there who made me feel like prey.
When the correctional officer first brought me to my cell, I almost had a panic attack because of how small it was. I told her I couldn't go in. She just laughed at me. She said I had no choice. And when she closed the door shut behind me, I'll never forget that sound. It was the ultimate feeling of being trapped with no escape. It was concrete in every sense of the world. And you just retreat within yourself - you make every effort to flee the reality.
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In the United States, Africans aren't Black.
Black Americans and Africans are two distinctly different groups. It's difficult for people to understand this because of our shared complexion and origin, but Black Americans are their own people.
Black Americans have an experience in the United States that is specific to the transatlantic slave trade, not their origin in Africa. But African immigrants and first generation Africans have an identity outside of US slavery - especially because they have the privilege of knowing what country in Africa that they originated from.
Kim: What is the trap?
JR: A place in the 'hood that if you stay there too long you get trapped there. The people and circumstances bring you down.