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.
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.
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.
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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.
Privilege is what’s assumed by those who are in power. It’s like water for fish. It’s the things you don’t actually think about because that’s just the way things are. And in every society, it’s different. It will look different in Guatemala than it will in the United States or Korea.
But in European influenced societies, the mass migration of Europeans to the world, five centuries ago, created a particular version of that - and a version that we still live with today.
Meanwhile, a slow motion storm of a wholly different kind is surging its way through Oakland, as well as the greater Bay Area, though the nature of this storm is not limited to the Bay Area region by any means. It is something that happens all the time.
In brief, Oakland and other cities in the bay that are in close proximity to San Francisco or San Jose - and the tech bubble those regions imply - are in a state of simmering turmoil, in which displaced wealth, which can't even compete with the extreme concentrations of wealth in urban areas, is flooding in, and lower income communities are finding themselves severely strained in their own neighborhoods, or otherwise priced out and displaced.