The Start of Black Art School and Podcast #1

Is this America?

A group art critique of Childish Gambino’s music video  “This is America.”


Get your money, black man (black man)
Black man
You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ay
You just a black man in this world
The first time I watched the music video This is America by Childish Gambino, I flinched. I did more than flinch, actually. I covered my eyes with my hands, peering between my fingers, horrified as the entire party I was attending stopped to watch the screen. It wasn’t until a week later that I was able to sit down and watch the video in its entirety.  It was disturbing.

The cacophony of the perpetual background conflict and discord of the modern age resonated with me. It is a constant struggle to find any emotional resolution admist the cries of detained immigrant children crying for their parents or the murder of a 22-year old unarmed black man by police in his grandmother’s backyard. Making it through the daily news becomes an act of survival.

A friend suggested that I contact some fellow alums from Cranbrook Academy of Art to critique the music video. Since graduating from art school, it is rare that I get to sit in a room with other educated artists to discuss art practice. It is even rarer that I get to converse with educated Black artists about Black art. Fine art is a privileged space, full of insiders and jargon that is almost impenetrable to the public. The critique space is a vulnerable battleground and one that we artists rarely open to those not in the trenches with us. The fact that I was able to take an afternoon to discuss a music video about Black culture with five Black MFA’s was such an uplifting moment against a backdrop of struggle.

Here, I sat with my fellow artists; Ricky Weaver, Ato Ribeiro, Ciara Newton, Jackie Brown, and Marcellus Armstrong to discuss the nuances, symbolism, and meaning of This is America. This is an intimate space, that we’ve chosen to share publicly, and I hope it creates a starting point for those who have previously been too intimidated to join the conversation.

-Jessa Ciel

Subscribe to our podcast on Itunes here: Black Art School Grads



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *