It was a great honor to have Unarmed appear as part of the YouTube Originals special Black Renaissance. This five-minute film aired alongside segments by Barack and Michelle Obama, Anderson.Paak, Killer Mike, Stacey Abrams, and other luminaries, and directly after a segment about sports and protest voiced by Jemele Hill. Black Renaissance has now topped 3-million views. Here's our segment as a standalone clip:
I was initially approached in November about the idea of pitching something to be included in the special. This was before any of the celebrity names were involved. Someone from Howard University, where I'd attended film school almost 20 years ago, reached out and asked if I'd be interested. I'd just completed our Fall Tour and had buckets of footage under my arm. The film chronicles the history of Unarmed and is as complete a document of the Tour as any I could have made without an outside prompt.
Many of the scenes in the film were filmed in Milwaukee, a city that's supported my work for a long time. The moody fog from a day spent in Kenosha also plays a role in the film. The cover image for the film was shot in Louisville and Minneapolis makes a brief appearance. A collaboration with the dancer and choreographer Edgar L. Page in Denver forms the basis for an emotional crescendo of the film. Edgar is the first person we've ever photographed wearing our Elijah McClain jersey. The dance scenes were shot inside of our exhibition at Leon Gallery. There's even an appearance of our first garment for sale. Being able to use our show as a setting to film marked a coming-together of many strands of Unarmed: storytelling, design, and artwork – all in service of activism.
The final images of the film speak to a campaign we'll be launching, and a message that pervades the entire discussion of race in America: We belong here.