The “This Is America” Dancers Look African

In recent years I have been very vocal about Black Nationalism as a social stance. I believe that all Black people have a connection and should embrace it globally. I do not believe in Black capitalism nor do I believe in Capitalism in general. What I believe is that if Black people unite, we can see that we suffer from the same issues wherever we are. And we can build on that.

I watched the live performance of Childish Gambino’s This Is America on SNL. I identified these dancing children as African. Meaning hailing directly from Africa. Making no stops to the islands or the West during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. I don’t know if I’m right. But what I did feel is that they FELT African to me. The music and the dancing made me feel that way. There was a vibe.

People are talking about a South African dance that I never knew existed. They are speaking like the Africaness of the music and dancing really was an afterthought or a non-thought. That it’s African inspired. But it always stops there. But I FELT the motherland when I listened. I’ve never been to the continent but I felt it. How can we explain this?

I think Gambino purposely put African elements in this video. The effects of America does not stop at the borders. What America does affects the world. Did no one else think of Sarafina when they saw the video? Maybe I’m reaching. But I couldn’t help thinking about it while watching live and watching the video. I even noted it in my last piece.

“The young dancers hit each beat with fervor. The backup singers sang harmoniously and I felt Africa upon me.”

Americans tend not to look past America and this applies to African Americans. We tend to think that we, African Americans, define Blackness for the entire Black world and then wonder why other Black people, who don’t deny their African descent, will say they aren’t Black. Black is both a race and an ethnicity. Black, for many others, specifically means African American. African Americans say things like “they aren’t Black like us” but expect solidarity and unity while putting our Blackness and our struggle above all others. We absolutely blame the others for their choice to be different; to be other than Black as defined by African Americans. How dare they embrace their Latin heritage? Why do Jamaicans speak broken English? Why can’t Africans lose their accents? How dare they speak Spanish? How dare they NOT speak English? This Is America.

I am really waiting for Glover to tell us what his vision was. I’m reading so many takes from all over. They are really good and insightful but I can’t imagine that these seemingly African children, these African beats, these African sounds aren’t connected to Africa even though This Is America.

How Should I Feel About Childish Gambino’s “This is America”??

I watched the Apollo this past Saturday. My aunt and I hurriedly turned to SNL when the final act was over. We didn’t even wait to see who won. It wasn’t the finals. We could Google it. The skit “Friendos” was on. I immediately started laughing. And then I saw him… “That’s Danny Glover…. What is his name? He’s the writer and director of that show Atlanta… He’s a rapper” I said. Halfway speaking to my aunt and halfway asking myself. My aunt looked at me “the only Danny Glover I know is old.” I immediately knew I misspoke but I couldn’t remember his name. Either of them. Way before I had a chance to Google the Apollo results, I had to Google him.

“DON____ALD Glover” I said to my aunt relieved that Google had solved my most pressing issue immediately. We watched the skit laughing. You didn’t have to know Migos’ music to know that it was funny. It was laid out for all of us to understand the dynamics of the group, as perceived by the writers.

Then Childish Gambino performed his first song of the night. I stared at the screen blinking. “Why is his shirt open?” I’m asking myself as my aunt asks out loud. We tossed each other a look and laughed. I was disappointed. Maybe I was distracted. But the Redbone singer is who I wanted her to see and frankly, that’s who I wanted to see as well.

“Who is he trying to be? Marvin? Maxwell?” my aunt asks. I was thinking “Terrence Trent D’Arby.” There was something off about his dancing. It was offbeat. It was distracting. I would have to listen again. I was annoyed. My aunt is a lover of music and she could not love him with that performance. I wanted her to love him.

The skits between the first performance and the last raised some eyebrows and some made us howl. “Scoopity poop.” 😂😂😂😭😭😭😢😢😢 I didn’t listen to Kanye’s new anything. My blood is still boiling from that TMZ interview. #IfSlaveryWasAChoice …sigh…

I was impatient. I was anticipating a great performance. The end of SNL couldn’t come fast enough. I wanted him to succeed. I wanted my aunt to love him. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my aunt introduces me to great music all the time and I wanted to return the favor. She plays entire CD’s and instructs me to listen to this and to hear that. I was amazed that she hadn’t heard “Donald” Glover’s music and I wanted her to say she loved him. I wanted her to ask me to YouTube him so she could hear his music and decide if she wanted to buy his albums.

Childish Gambino comes back on stage with his shirt off. “Why?” I ask aloud. But we listen. And I like it more than the first song. Mainly because I know it’s some social commentary on America and it’s horridness. The young dancers hit each beat with fervor. The backup singers sang harmoniously and I felt Africa upon me. The motherland. “I have to listen again. But I like it.” I told my aunt. She, however, is unconvinced of it’s greatness.

When I woke up the next morning, Google put a card in my view notifying me that Childish Gambino released a new video for “This Is America.” Google is always minding my business. One day I’m going to open my screen and it’s gonna say “That pesky gutt that looks like a little butt that you can’t get rid of.” And someone will be looking over my shoulder. So embarrassing. I’m tired of them watching me. But I didn’t dismiss the card. I clicked and watched the video. This time, I was less focused on his dancing lack of clothing and more focused on what was going on in the background. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to understand. And “CHEEZITS! WTF did he shoot that dude in the chair? He was just minding his business!!!! Oh… This is America…” “The choir is about to go in…DAMN WTF?!!! How you just gonna spray….oh this is America.” It happened just like that. I was watching this with my headphones on. Alone. And I felt alone. My aunt was 30 feet away in the next room sleeping peacefully. And I was up at 8am being reminded of what America is. So unfair. Who can I scream to?

It was unsettling to say the least. I know WTF America is. I speak about it often. This isn’t new to me. But the visuals were awful and horrific. When I googled Danny/Donald Glover the night before, I did look to see if he was Black. It’s important to me that artists aren’t culture vultures. Yes. I’m that person.

Throughout the day, I kept seeing this announcement about this new video. But no takes? No one had anything to say? No one? It’s odd. So, while looking for a new clothing line by Eve, the rapper, for my aunt, I stumbled into the forbidden land for me that is known as Twitter. I largely ignored that Childish Gambino was trending. I went to Eve’s page, but not before I saw a tweet by @Blakedontcrack …. It was not at all praising the video. To say the least, Brother B didn’t appreciate the visual of Black people being shot in the church. I was saddened by my own lack of physiological reaction to the harsh visual. Was I jaded? Had I been numbed? I peeked onto Eve’s Twitter page. The same way I had just checked her Facebook page. “Eve has nothing about a new clothing line, Auntie. Are you sure she wasn’t referencing an old line?” My aunt assured me that she wasn’t. And that the clothing line is new. So if anyone knows of a new clothing line by Eve, please inbox me.

Several hours later, I opened my browser and my Twitter window was still open. Hmmm… I was compelled by some outside force, which was my own curiosity, to look. So I looked and I looked… I read post after post of positive comments. But I wasn’t interested in those. I wanted someone who analyzed the video and didn’t think it was great. Or someone who thought it was great “but.” (I wasn’t looking for anyone to say it was a love letter 👀 FOH) And I found them. People had so many interesting takes. #BlackTwitter never disappoints. I listened. I read. I heard. It’s exploitative. Black people don’t want to relive our pain. Black people don’t want our pain commodified. Black people don’t want our pain used as entertainment.

That video was not entertaining. At all. It isn’t to be watched for enjoyment. It’s to be watched for understanding. Most Black people won’t watch it more than once if it’s only just to see it. They’ll watch it more if they want to dissect it. I watched it twice. Once alone and once with my aunt.

I scrolled through posts a few times on Twitter. Never engaging. Always lurking. Something that I loathe. Fed up, I asked why Black Google + wasn’t talking about it. We still aren’t. It’s frustrating and it’s the main reason why I miss Twitter. I want to hear what @anthoknees is thinking about anything and everything. I want to bounce ideas off people that I respect without having to be in the same physical space with them. I despise “likes” when there’s never any engagement. Social media requires engagement… Eventually. I digress. At any rate, I was unswayed by these great minds but I did learn a lot. (What’s up with Kodak Black?) I found an interesting take by Adrienne Gibbs on the web thanks to nosey Google keeping track of my search history.

My baby brother sent me the video this morning. I told him some people are saying that Danny/Donald just discovered his Blackness a few years ago. My brother assured me that he’s always been very Black. I don’t know anything about Mr. Glover. My daughter and baby brother love Childish Gambino and my daughter now loves Danny/Donald because of Atlanta which I can’t commit to. I’m working on it.

So how should I feel about the “This Is America” video???? Exactly the way I do. It’s a statement. It’s not enjoyable. It’s bold. It’s frightening. It’s the America I live in. It’s the America I know and hate. Was it necessary? No. But it’s here. So let’s talk about it. (I actually had to watch the video again because I didn’t remember seeing any white folk. Now I’ve seen them. Yup. I saw them. Yup. I saw them. And now I can’t remember exactly why I was looking for those white people. But I found them 😢)