6 // Black Future Month // BUMP + The Factory: History In These Streets

Posted on February 6, 2012

The real attempt of this blog series, this whole Black Future Month campaign, is to try to kick start a conversation about the usefulness of this February tradition. If Black History Month is, as it can be, treated more as a holiday and less as a time for active engagement in historical study, a good deal of its potency rubs off. We wish each other a happy Black History Month, remind ourselves of a few rote anecdotes and regret to do the intellectual work that Woodson had in mind. But it’s not as if those sorts of educational challenges aren’t right up our alley. It’s what many of us do all day, erry day, anyway.

From the kids getting their line ups deconstructing contemporary music playing “name the sample”; to the visual artists who note form, letter, context and historicity as they switch caps and do fill-ins; the dancers who extract, re-invent and innovate from the movers before; and of course the slew of PhD candidates who devote their careers to the study of African Diaspora, to the study of educational praxis, to the investigation of linguistics, to navigating the complete epistemology of the black body — we study. We like to study, we interpret and wield black history on the daily.

So, the usefulness of the tradition, then? What’s it good for? I’d like to think that, in its best incarnation, Black History Month serves as a challenge — particularly to tastemakers, artists and historians — to find new modes of communicating the black experience — present and past. I write about the future because I’m certain that when we get by, we’ll make it by. That if we do our work right, now, the youngest of us will be the best of us — will be the most adept at telling our stories, will employ the right technologies, will speak truth in the right time, and for the widest audiences.

And when I see work like what Oakland Based BUMP Records and The Factory’s youth did with their Summer ’11 video and audio project — pffft. It makes it easy to be faithful. And invest in my own diligent study. ‘Cause the youngest ones are on their game.

BUMP/The Factory Manager Jason Jakaitis wrote me few months back with a write up of their youth’s involvement with The Huey P. Newton Foundation. When I read what he wrote up, I knew it’d be a perfect fit for Black Future Month.

For the HPN partnership, twelve youth from The Factory and BUMP Records took the Black Panther Legacy Tour with David Hilliard. The Factory filmmakers supplemented what they learned from Mr. Hillard with reading assignments from the Huey P. Newton reader and Hilliard’s biography, and then they developed a plan for the documentary project. They wrote, shot and edited the film in six weeks. It’s called History in These Streets:

Part of our summer project was also to learn web-native storytelling techniques (videos made specifically for the internet that take advantage of the web’s capacity for interactivity, engagement, immediacy, etc) and to serve as beta-testers for a new open-source software that Mozilla was developing. Thus, along with the documentary, our youth produced an interactive video that would serve the mission of our partner orgs. For HPN, the filmmakers used Mozilla’s software to devise a “virtual walking tour” that visits eight of the sites on the Black Panther Legacy Tour – they combined Hilliard’s audio interview with Google Street view, some historical images, and other online resources to create an enriching, interactive experience.”

Take the Virtual Tour by clicking here: HISTORY IN THESE STREETS TOUR . (Best viewed in Chrome or Firefox).

I think explaining to you why I think this is Black Future is pejorative. You understand that it’s important that young folks of color are beyond literate, at masterful, in the latest technologies. You feel me when I say it’s crucial that they’re employing these tech advancements to best understand the history of the physical and liminal space they occupy.

Here’s to the legacy of the Black Panther Party, and the ideals of freedom they’ve invested in Black Future. Here’s to the young filmmakers, audio technicians and musicians at BUMP and The Factory, who show us how to participate, fully, in tradition. And turn it into ritual.

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