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?
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.
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.
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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Kim: I’m just so proud of my people - especially my complexion and darker - standing up and taking ownership of Blackness. I'm not cowering to these privileged norms they’re trying to impose on us. Identity's a two-way street. You can't just blindly assert yourself in this world and demand acceptance. You earn it. We all had to.