Decoding Childish Gambino's Stunning "This Is America" Visual

Gambino's return to music also comes with poignant messages about our culture. 

Childish Gambino's shift in sound on his 2016 Awaken, My Love! album left many wondering what would follow. As Atlanta's "Robbin Season" winds down and Star Wars SZN heats up, the artist has marked his final trek as his musical moniker with a gripping visual for "This Is America," an ode to today's ways of the world throughout music's colorlines.

Directed by longtime collaborator Hiro Murai, the video provides deep reflection into America's polarizing narratives of racial conflict, police brutality, and how we as people of color deal with it all. Gambino and producer Ludwig Göransson toy with a playful intro before getting into the skeleton of the track. With strategic assistance from 21 Savage, Young Thug, BlocBoy JB and Slim Jxmmi, Gambino points out the normality of the culture's biggest problems. It doesn't hurt that it carries a primal bop.

As the video carried conversations Sunday (May 6), it was quickly swallowed by fans, critics and those curious about Gambino's current mission. Murai and Gambino's visual take on "This Is America" is a journey between living a self-reliant life while carrying the burden social misconstructs on our shoulders.

With so much to unpack in four minutes, here are some revelations:

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1. The "Jump, Jim Crow" Pose 

One of the first images that sticks out is Gambino's uncanny silhouette to the Jim Crow. Penned in 1828 by white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth (T.D.) "Daddy" Rice, the recording "Jump, Jim Crow" marks the journey of yakubians mocking African-Americans in popular music. 'Bino pulling the trigger on the blinded also highlights how we've adapted the mockery in our everyday doings. While busting out a few body rolls, the artist mocks The Boondocks infamous character Uncle Ruckus.

 

2. A Salute To Richard Pryor 

There's something to be said about the creativity that goes into flipping black pain into art. 'Bino has plenty of icons to channel this energy like the late Richard Pryor. His quick homage mirrors Pryor's The Anthology 1968-1992 comedy album. Throughout the album, Pryor makes eerie jokes about police brutality and racial unrest that still happens today.

The photos from the album cover featured Pryor with a gun and an American flag as the backdrop. It was special theme highlighted in iconic photographer Henry Diltz's photos. He did a similar photoshoot with fellow icon David Crosby.

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happy 4/20 America. keep smokin’ em.

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3. Mumble Rap's Avenger Squad

Instead of pulling a Thanos on the mumble-trap world, Gambino brings together the artists who are leading it. While many things have been said about sub-genre, their ad-libs permeating though "This Is America" keep your head bobbing. While artists like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole have been more vocal in social issues, 21 Savage, Young Thug, BlocBoy JB and Slim Jxmmi have done so in other ways. Whether it's providing school supplies to children or playing caretaker to family members, the music they're shunned for making has helped changed their lives for the better.

READ: What Have Young Thug And Childish Gambino Got Cooking?

4. The Children Are Always Watching

They say listen to the kids, but most of the time, they're listening to us. From the start of "This Is America," children rocking uniforms are following Gambino's dance moves (by choreographer Sherrie Silver) as police clash with protesters. One kid is also seen with a Cash Cannon on the roof of a car while others are recording the many juxtapositions on their phones. As the scenes get shorter, the underlying messages get more poignant, showing just how troublesome our attention spans are getting. It also brings about the connection of African and black dance moves like Blockboy's shoot dance to the South African Gwara Gwara.

5. Swimming in the Lack of Luxury

Trends come and go, but some memories rest peacefully in nostalgic culture. A number of Toyotas are seen in one of the closing scenes like the Toyota Tercel 4wd Wagon, the Toyota Corolla AE90 Sedan and the Toyota Corolla KE70 Wagon. With all vehicles dating to the late 70s-80s, it hold's true to Murai's vision of America adapting foreign (in this case Japanese) ideas as our own without merit. We're also blinded by the message with a SZA cameo and Calvin The Second, not Trayvon Martin's father. 

READ: Trayvon Martin’s Dad Was Not In Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Video

6. Black Bodies, Mental Health < The Strap

America's obsession with guns is a stronger duo than peanut butter and jelly. This is showcased multiple times in "TIA," from the reference to the Charleston Nine, to the dragging of bodies. The careful handling of guns by the adult (Gambino) and the children also distracts us from the mental anguish we suffer throughout these times. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, 'Bino points to this with a man falling to his death as the dance party continues.

7. A Message from Stephon Clark

It's unknown how long Gambino took to create his new tunes, but elements from recent police shootings are strongly referenced. The lyric, "This a celly (ha), That's a tool (yeah)," is an ode to Stephon Clark, who died at the hands of police in March when officers used deadly force after mistaking a cell phone for a weapon. Cops and protesters are chasing each other to push their messages as the body count continues.

8. Horseman of the Apocalypse

One of the most chilling references is the most subtle. As unrest continues, a reference to one of The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse comes to a clear view. Highlighted in the Book of Revelation via the Bible, they differentiate in meaning. The white horse holds elements related to death, conquest or at times, the Antichrist.

9. The Ending is a Full Circle Moment

'Bino does a fine job of placing all of the above elements together as the end shows his spirit catching up to the harrowing reality that is America. Inalienable truths will always be on the horizon. Pieces of Young Thug's final words on the track sum it up perfectly, "You just a Black man in this world, You just a barcode." As Gambino runs from the sunken place (hint: Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya introduced Glover's performance of "This Is America" on SNL) he's telling us all to do the same.

Rewatch the video for the fifty-eleventh time above.

READ: ‘Atlanta’s’ Music Supervisors Aren’t Breaking Records, They’re Educating The Youth

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A Look At The Nuance Of U.S. Immigration Through The Lens Of 21 Savage’s Case

For nine days, 21 Savage carried out his day-to-day inside a detention center, a timeframe that felt like two months according to his manager, Kei Henderson. The “A Lot” rapper was detained by the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in Atlanta, Georgia (Feb. 3) on claims that he’s a British citizen who overstayed his visa since migrating to the U.S. city in 2005 at age seven. The detainment occurred when the 26-year-old was pulled over by the Atlanta Police Department (APD), with ICE in tow. APD claims it had an arrest warrant for rapper Young Nudy, a cousin of 21 Savage who was also part of the artist’s entourage at the time of the incident.

On Feb. 12, 21 was released on bond until his immigration court case occurs. Since Savage’s incident reached the national spotlight, petitions and a larger conversation on the nation’s immigration policy have reached a fevered pitch. The situation was accelerated once Jay-Z contracted attorney Alex Spiro to represent Savage, born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph.

While the detainment presumably shocked the masses, the most glaring issue is the fact that Abraham-Joseph was not initially granted bond — that discretion is left up to ICE or a judge. Spiro notes that ICE can also attribute past criminal offenses “into their enforcement policies and strategies,” when it concerns detainment, but given ICE’s controversial statement on Abraham-Joseph (noting his past and expunged felony drug charge), Spiro believes this situation is a “miscarriage of justice, a misuse of resources.”

“And I’ll say two further things,” Spiro continues. “One is even if you take the position that he should have to answer to ICE for any of these issues, why not bond him out, allow him access to his paperwork, to his family, to his lawyers and allow him to fight his day in court like a civilized human being? The second thing is, to talk about the resource question, even thinking about this as an economics question, rather than let this man be at liberty where he provides for so many people, so many people depend on him for their own employment, so many of his dollars go to helping taxes, so many of his dollars go to philanthropy and helping people and rather than allowing him to help society and bring joy through his music and bring happiness, instead of that, what do we do? We take those same government resources and we do an operational target to incarcerate him, to cage him.”

Spiro says he can’t draw up conclusions or “speak to” ICE’s “motivations,” noting that there could be varied reasons behind the agency’s motion. "It may be just as simple as they’re just treating him like everybody else but we’re not used to it as a society becoming so public," Spiro says. "Once it becomes public it’s just troubling and seems disproportionate and illogical, and it may very well be that he was targeted either to set an example or for some other convoluted reason. I don’t know yet because my focus has almost entirely been on the avenues to release, but we’ll get to the bottom of what happened here one way or another."

Now, with Abraham-Joseph awaiting the fate of his status in the U.S. while out on bond and in the midst of an expedited hearing, Spiro states the pieces of this puzzle have to be treated with precision. “When you’re dealing with people’s liberty, you can’t just look at it like an equation. You have to try at least at some level to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think to yourself if they had the power and I had grown up in their country, how would I want to be treated and what would be the decent and right way to treat me?” he says. “If we could do that and have a little empathy I think it would go a long way to solving what anybody in the world outside of America must think is a very troubling problem and a lot of people in America are starting to think is a troubling problem.”

Here, we look at a few terms and past immigration instances that outline the severity of the country’s treatment of migrants and the legislation that can alter the lives of those awaiting legal residence.

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1. How The IIRAIRA Radicalized Immigration:

The combination of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA) allowed the government to separate undocumented immigrants into two sets. According to The Huffington Post, the division is distinctly based off how a migrant entered the U.S. If one came to America with a visa but overstayed its duration, then they will not have to return to their home country in order to file for official residence since they entered legally. If someone entered illegally, they would have to return to their native country in order to file for legal residence.

If an applicant raises a red flag under any “grounds of inadmissibility,” like unlawfully living in the country between 180 to 365 days, applicants can face a three-year penalty, while overstaying more than a year can pin 10 years before someone is allowed re-entry.

“Removal deportation and the laws that govern it are very complicated. Suffice it to say that we are trying to avoid that,” Spiro says concerning Abraham-Joseph’s case. “The other thing that can happen is the visa and paperwork that’s been pending can actually get accelerated and get determined fast enough so that they catch up or bypass the need for removal.”

2. Qualifications For U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa):

It’s been stated that Abraham-Joseph has filed for U Nonimmigrant Status or a U Visa in 2017. Persons that qualify for this form of legal residency have to be a victim of a specific crime (sexual assault, trafficking, extortion, manslaughter, domestic violence, witness tampering) or encountered mental or physical trauma as a result of the crime’s aftermath. Victims can also assist law enforcement in apprehending suspects and helping to solve the case.

In 2013, Abraham-Joseph was shot six times and lost his close friend, Johnny, during the incident. The pair were the victims of an attempted robbery. Spiro notes 21 Savage’s application has remained pending for quite some time. “The backlog is years and years, this site indicates that over five years these visas can be pending before processing,” he says. Spiro believes an increase in employees to handle these types of applications can help accelerate processing times. “Maybe we should put more people to process visas and be humanitarian in the way that they deal with people and less people out handcuffing un-dangerous people who don’t need to be handcuffed.”

If Abraham-Joseph’s U Visa application gets approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), he will become a “lawfully permanent resident” or a Green Card holder, and have access to rights like opening a bank account and attending an “academic or vocational” school. The government caps the amount of U Visas it approves at 10,000 per year. A victim of criminal activity is solely eligible for this form of immigrant status, not their families. The length of the U Visa’s processing time can take anywhere from a year to a year and a half.

3. Detainment Conditions And Mental Health:

Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center is the reported facility where Abraham-Joseph was held. According to Rolling Stone, it’s deemed one of ICE’s worst immigration centers with multiple reports of sexual assault, abuse of solitary confinement by guards, and expired food being served to detainees. In a summary published by Project South, Irwin is also known for administering high bond rates.

Spiro says Abraham-Joseph’s living conditions were “inhumane” and his communication with those on the outside was strictly limited — to have contact with his legal team was a privilege. “He has no ability meaningfully to exercise and have proper nutrition and he’s severely limited in his ability to even get legal help and to protect himself. He can’t respond when somebody says something in public or the media. He’s given no voice,” Spiro reveals. “He’s utterly voiceless and it’s a dehumanizing experience and he’s lucky that he’s so beloved that people are going to be out there protecting him for him but it is a scary thing to not be able to protect yourself. He has young children. He can’t be with them to protect them and it’s a travesty.”

In mid-2018, Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy displayed how dire conditions are within detainment centers, especially concerning children who are separated from their guardians, and the mental health assistance that certain people will need once released. It’s also reported that immigrants dealing with mental health issues have been unjustly placed in solitary confinement. “There is a pattern of people with psycho-social disabilities being inappropriately placed in isolation, not receiving adequate mental health care, and dying by suicide,” said Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. Recently, a 40-year-old Russian man named Mergensana Amar, who was seeking asylum, committed suicide after a year of detainment at an immigration center. The Washington Post also notes that nine people died in 2018 while under ICE’s detainment.

4. The Cost Of Detainment:

In a report by CNBC that analyzed ICE’s 2018 budget, $133.99 per day is the cost it takes to preserve an adult bed. For families that include mothers and children, $319 per day is the cost to maintain that space. The article also outlines ICE’s estimate that immigrants are kept in detention centers for 44 days on average.

“Every single day that he is in there, we are paying for him to be detained,” Spiro says on Abraham-Joseph. “We are paying money to actually put this man in a cage when he can just as easily fight this case from the outside and we can go to court and handle it that way.”

Earlier this month, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gathered 200,000 signatures to demand that fellow Democrats decline future increases in ICE's budget, The Hill reports. Ocasio-Cortez, who has called for ICE's abolishment, took aim at the agency for its treatment of not only Abraham-Joseph but also political game-changers and children.

5. Immigration Across The Globe:

Across the globe, the paths of migration from underserved countries to those with greater economic opportunities continue to shed a spotlight on various nations’ immigration policies. There was the onset of Brexit in 2016, Italy’s crackdown on an influx of those seeking asylum, and Trump’s belief that a border wall between the states and Mexico will drastically cut crime, plus his Muslim Ban proposal.

The Trump administration recently attempted to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which benefited those migrating from El Salvador, South Sudan, Haiti, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Honduras, Syria, Nepal, and Nicaragua. It was meant to protect migrants who left countries ravaged by natural disasters or armed turmoil and are unable to return. Over 320,000 people fall under TPS.

Another sector of immigration that fell under intense scrutiny within Trump’s administration was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In 2017, he attempted to nix any hope of "dreamers" renewing their application, thus putting them at risk for deportation. DACA, which benefits 700,000 young adults, was established in 2012 to temporarily protect children who migrated to the U.S. before they turned 16 from removal. It also presented another form of the term "lawfully present" and would allow DACA recipients a chance to get a higher education and work permits as they went through the proper channels for legal residence.

“I think that young people that are not born here, and so are not given citizenship but come here in their early years, face the question of their place and their status from the moment they start becoming adults,” Spiro says. “As a teenager at some point no doubt where you realize you’re not an American citizen and if something goes wrong, if you don’t have a way to get citizenship, if you don’t have a way to get status, if you don’t have a way to get a visa, that you live a life in limbo and a life that’s insecure in some ways. That’s a troubling thing for people to have to grow up with.”

While Abraham-Joseph was released on bond, his fate is still in the process of being determined by an immigration judge. “There are rules and laws that govern this but at the end of the day ever since he was moving forward with his life as an adult,” Spiro says, “he’s been dealing with this immigration issue and dealing with it in good faith.”

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Six Things To Know About The Mysterious Death Of Tamla Horsford

Georgia officials have officially closed the case of Tamla Horsford, citing no foul play in her mysterious death.

But the case of a mother of five who died at an adult sleepover has raised a vast amount of questions due to the nature and behavior of those present. The mysterious death of Tamla Horsford caught the eye of the public this month, but the 40-year-old was found dead at a friend’s home in Cumming, Georgia in November 2018.

On Wednesday (Feb. 20), Major Joe Perkins with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office told reporters in a press conference that none of the 40-year-old's injuries were aligned with foul play. “It was a party. They were drinking,” 11 Alive reports. “She was drinking. Most of the partygoers had gone to bed at that time, and she was on the deck alone.”

It was initially reported that Horsford accidentally fell off a balcony on Nov. 4, where she was attending a “Football Moms” sleepover with seven other mothers and three men. Local news site WSB-TV shared an early coroner’s death certificate that listed Horsford’s death as an accident but the fall from the deck caused “multiple blunt force injuries” and “acute ethanol intoxication,” known commonly as alcohol poisoning which might have led to the fall.

But friends and the internet sleuths believe there are other layers to the story as it never reached public attention until it was reported that court employee Jose Barrera was fired for illegally accessing documents related to the case. Barrera is also the boyfriend of the woman who owns the home.

Horsford’s best friend Michelle Graves who wasn’t at the party also believed foul play took part in her friend’s death. “It’s impossible to get the injuries that she had from one fall,” Graves said. After speaking to the WSB-TV about the case, she claimed her personal information was released by Barrera and sent to five of the women who were at the party. Only during an investigation into Graves claims it was revealed that Barrera accessed court documents related to Horsford’s case as well as a stalking incident involving his girlfriend.

On Wednesday (Feb. 20), more details were released about the case in the form of a 911 call made by Barrera the day Horsford’s body was found. While Barrera's 911 call was made at 8:59 am, Horsford’s body was discovered at 7:30 am by the homeowner’s aunt. Hashtags with Horsford’s name and videos shared by popular activists like Chakabars who have helped bring the story to public knowledge.

With so many layers to uncover, here’s what you need to know about the mysterious case of Tamla Horsford.

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1. Tamala Horsford Was Found Dead At “Football Moms” Sleepover, But Men Were Present

In a video sent to WSB-TV from the adult sleepover, Horsford is all smiles while singing “Happy Birthday” with friends. What’s also seen in the video are three men, including Jose Barrera who made the 911 call. Many have wondered why men were present if the witnesses claimed it was a sleepover meant for women.

2. Her Wrist Was Cut, But Attendees Believe She Fell Off A Balcony

In the 911 call released Wednesday (Feb, 20), Barrera is heard pointing out a cut on Horsford’s wrist. "She's lying in the yard, basically on the patio downstairs. She's not moving one bit. She's not breathing," he told dispatchers. "I'm noticing a small cut on her right wrist. She's not breathing whatsoever. I don't know if this cut was self-inflicted."

As mentioned above, an original coroner’s report claimed there was blunt force trauma to Horsford’s body from the fall, but close friend Michelle Graves says the family hired another medical examiner who reportedly found multiple abrasions on Horsford’s body. "We're glad we're not the only ones who feel there's something awry with the story and with how she lost her life," Graves told Mike Petchenik of WSB-TV.

3. Boyfriend Of Homeowner Where Horsford Died Was Fired For Accessing Court Files On The Case

In December 2018, Barrera, who worked as a pretrial services officer within the Forsyth County Court system was placed on administrative leave for using his position to “access confidential files on a current investigation surrounding a death in which you were a witness.”

Forsyth County News reported he was later terminated in a letter where Court Administrator Robin S. Rooks wrote he lost confidence in Barrera’s ability to do his job. It wasn’t until February 1 that an incident report was written mentioning Barrera’s actions. In addition to the findings, Graves claimed Barrera stated in the same report that the Georgia native exposed her “work and cell phone numbers, home address, work address and driver’s license, along with information about her height, weight and extended family.” Graves stated the information was given to the other women who were at the adult sleepover.

He denied the accusations but alluded that anyone’s information can be found publically. “For her to believe that her information was leaked by me is grossly incorrect and I will believe that until the day I die,” Barrera told FCN. “Anybody can be found.”

Barrera previously worked as a probation officer in Hall County from March to November 2017 and earlier as an officer of the Department of Community Supervision in Cumming County. He was fired for the latter position but alleged it was an unlawful firing due to an “interoffice disagreement over a relationship with a coworker.”

4. Public Curiosity Believes There Are Racial Undertones To The Case

Friends and relationships exist outside of color lines all the time, just see an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or studies on the population increase of non-white people in America. But Horsford’s case has raised eyebrows because she was the only woman of color at the party. Forsyth County’s history with black people isn’t the most favorable as it was a popular gathering of white supremacists as recent as 1987.

In a segment on the early days of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the former talk show host took a trip to Cumming, where she talked with residents about their disdain for “race mixing” the LGBTQ+ community as well as the difference between “blacks” and “ni****s.”

Weird history aside, the case didn’t get national attention until two months later. History has proven deaths of black women are often overlooked and while this case was heading that way, Black Twitter and black Georgia natives tried to rewrite it.

A GoFundMe was also made for Horsford’s family but hasn’t raised much since it’s creation on November 27, 2018.

5. Homeowner And Other Attendees Of Party Have Received Death Threats On Social Media

Marcy Hardin, Jeanne Marie and Nichole Renee Lawson are reportedly some of the women who were at the sleepover at the time of Horsford’s death. As the story gained traction, the group has been the target of death threats accusations that they played a role in their friend’s death.

Law firm Banks, Stubbs, and McFarland LLP, who is representing the homeowner, issued a statement maintaining their innocence.

“At this time, each of the partygoers and their families have received death threats on various social media postings," it reads. "The threats need to stop. This tragic accident is exactly that, an accident. It is unfortunate, sad, and unbelievably heartbreaking to her family and friends. However, certain very vocal friends and family members of Mrs. Horsford have been describing this accident as a “murder.” Nothing can be farther from the truth."

6. The Case Has Been Officially Ruled An Accidental Death

On Thursday (Feb. 20),  Horsford's case was officially closed, 11Alive reported.

“The State of Georgia has ruled the death accidental and consistent with an accidental fall,” said Major Joe Perkins with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. “None of the injury patterns noted were consistent with foul play.” After speaking to the attendees' police said Horsford's death happened when she accidentally fell from a deck at the house.

None of the attendees saw the fall because they were reportedly sleeping when it happened. “While the injuries sustained appeared to have been likely received in a fall, detectives awaited toxicology and medical examiner reports to verify the findings,” Perkins said.

Horsford’s body was taken to the GBI medical examiner for an additional autopsy report. Her family has told reporters that they aren't ready to speak the public about the case and are hoping to have family photos of Tamla Horsford removed from social media.

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Solitary Alignment: 5 Self-Affirming Reads For Single Ladies On Valentine’s Day

Ahh, the Feast of Saint Valentine—the Hallmark holiday that strikes us with its arrow each year, for better or for worse, depending on your bae status. While the romantic holiday is adored and celebrated by many, if you’re still reeling over, say, your ex’s refusal to commit, chances are Feb. 14 is more of a heartache for you than anything.

But as a wise woman once said, “If they liked it then they should’ve put a ring on it.” So whether V-Day has you scared of lonely or sulking over a lost love, as another wise woman once said, they “would be SUPER lucky to even set eyes on you this Valentine’s Day. That’s it. That’s the gift.” Shout out to The Slumflower.

Sure, having a bae on Valentine’s Day is cool, but so is reminding yourself why you’re just fine without one (cue Webbie’s “Independent”). In fact, single folks have better relationships overall, according to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. You know how the old adage goes: love yourself before loving someone else.

For this Valentine’s Day, VIBE Vixen rounds up a nourishing list of books for our sisters doin’ it for themselves. Consider this your reminder of how badass you are—because you are! Oh, oh, oh. *Beyoncé voice*

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