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.
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.
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.