Gaby Moreno recently visited Fantastic Negrito at Blackball Universe in Oakland. Since moving to Los Angeles from her native Gautemala, Gaby won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist. Her music has strong Black Roots influences. Fantastic Negrito later touched on this.
Fantastic Negrito: Every time I tour overseas to different countries, I notice one thing: they're playing Black music. So it's weird. And I get to another country, and it's still Black music with a different language. So what I learned was that as Black people - our history in terms of slavery and what we've gone through - our music is all over the world. I don't think people even know it. It's everywhere.
Despite my overarching “Fuck White People” sentiment, I recently fell in love with a white person. Their name is Elliot. When I worked at Bicycle Coffee, they came in twice a week to order coffee for their job. I was attracted to them, but I initially chose to distance myself energetically. They were patient. Four month later, we spoke in length for the first time. Many conversations followed. This was one of them:
Kim: What are feelings that have come to the surface for you that you didn’t foresee so far?
Elliot: I think that in past relationships I’m used to being treated as disposable when I fuck up. And I feel like I fucked up pretty badly that morning. You texted me that you got fired over some bullshit. And you were expressing how frustrating it was to feel like all these white coworkers are fucking up and there’s no consequences, and how you feel like you have a lack of control in your life because you can invest all this time and energy and be doing better than anyone else is even trying to be and still have it come out of nowhere. And I made the mistake of apologizing and trying to be shitting on white people with you. And you made a really important and generous set of points back to me which was like, I am actively benefiting from the oppression that is oppressing you. And that I don’t get to be compassionate or say I’m sorry, I don’t have the basis for sharing in that moment with you in that way.
It was a lesson in understanding that I need to work on my shit and continue to fight against all I was socialized to do in these situations. And also that you’re not going to treat me as disposable.
This year was phenomenal. And my hope is that 2018 will continue in that direction. In addition to producing videos for some of Oakland's rawest talent, I also work full-time as a barista. I work seven days a week - at least 12 hours per day. That's what it takes. Because unfortunately, a lot of my clients can't afford to pay my full rate. So to supplement that, I have to maintain a steady income outside of videography. In all, it wears on me. And yesterday, I was almost fired from my job at as a barista because of numerous customer complaints about my lack of customer service. Luckily, the owners are incredibly supportive of my talents. And instead of cutting my hours or terminating me altogether, their response was to shift my position to avoid as much customer interaction as possible. I appreciate them dearly for that. Without that job, this project would not be possible. But even with that said, I'd like to highlight how laughable these customer complaints were:
The team at Blackball Universe and I have made significant strides in communicating the feelings evoked in Negrito's sessions. I salute them for trusting me with this project. Because at the end of the day, there isn't any playbook for how to create social media pieces with substance filmed by one person. But I'm writing one. And here it is:
The art of storytelling is laborious. I don't mind giving you the game because I'm 100% sure you don't have what it takes to put in the work.
Burnout Family is a group centered in East Oakland. The FBI recently handed down several indictments against them recent. But the ability to gather and organize communally and politically is one of the most important conditions for a people to determine their own lives. Organization allows for the distribution of resources, the gathering of minds, the support of specific community needs, and the ability to collectively make decisions about how a community is to survive. In this light, the gang injunction is a potent legal weapon for the white supremacist establishment to suppress and ultimately destroy communities of color.
Kim: Describe the vibe on Broadway throughout the day?
Dre: For me, it's cool sometimes - but it's a lot of hatin'. Niggas be sidetalkin', jaw jacking' - just running they mouth. They hate on me because of the way I carry myself. I don't never think I'm better than nobody. But with me, I just mind my business. My patnas come through and I fuck with them. But for the majority, I don't fuck with nobody down here. You just gotta be by yourself down here. It's a lot you can get caught up in. If you don't have a strong mind, you'll get caught up in the drama they got going on. I don't do drugs. But the people that do hate on me because they see me making money. But a lot of people are just hustlin' sometimes just to make money for their drug habits. But that's not what I do.
Kim: How is Fantastic Negrito's new album addressing the current social climate in Oakland?
Tomas: In our first album, we talked about the ways in which Oakland is changing - and how that's kind of a microcosm of what's going on all across the US in urban areas. Those areas are getting flooded with people who are changing the landscape. And Fantastic Negrito still wants to talk about that - but I think there are other angles and perspectives that we want to explore.
Instagram is a powerful tool. It connects people of color in ways that we have not conventionally had access to.
Victor Bolden of the San Francisco 49ers ordered a 2018 Dodge Charger for Next Level Automotive to customize. I was hired to document the experience because of the work displayed on our Instagram page: @talkoakland
D-Lo gained fame during the MySpace era. This was long before we learned 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 and most don't own their own computers. Everyone involved in the D-Lo documentary has at least a smart phone. But even those 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.