This weekend I will be sharing the background of my project Be Alarmed: The Black Americana Epic, Movement III - The Triple Deities that was set to debut this past weekend and has been postponed. This is the third movement in my four-part Be Alarmed film series. leading up to the debut of the trailer for the project on this Sunday evening;
Be Alarmed: The Black Americana Epic, Movement III - The Triple Deities is the third movement in the Be Alarmed series. Movement III – The Triple Deities is a multimedia installation and performance that merges art song, exhibition, film, and sculpture to examine the intersections of Black woman intersubjectivity within the context of American society. The Triple Deities draws its inspiration from the art song “Songs To The Dark Virgin” composed by Florence B. Price in 1941 —the first African American woman to have a composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra. The composition takes its name and lyrics from Langston Hughes’s poem which was written in 1926. The work will consider how African American classical musicians historically used the art song form as a critical tool while examining present-day perspectives.
McClodden is collaborating with composer and pianist Courtney Bryan, who will create and perform a score that will include references to Price’s original composition, as well as a range of traditional African American musical genres and styles. Soprano vocalist Janinah Burnett will perform both the work in its traditional form and alongside Bryan’s new compositions in a live performance that will take place within the installation of the film.
I have worked long and quietly on this project and had plans to present it in North Philadelphia in a warehouse space accessible to the community that I have lived in to allow my work an opportunity to be seen first by those who have inspired me and my process, and secondly by the art going community of Philadelphia.
I am working with a group of amazing Black women who have stuck with me as I have navigated fundraising for this project.
Courtney Bryan and I have been in conversation about this piece since 2015, and she is producing an original score for the project accompanied by Janinah Burnette who will provide vocals during the performance. Ladi’Sasha Jones has provided research and thought partner support since I embarked on this Be Alarmed series many years ago when it first debuted in 2014. Pamela Shepard-Hill has provided extensive wardrobe styling. Kimberly R. Drew is currently providing me with guidance on marketing and engagement. My long time collaborators Ashley Tai and Danielle Deadwyler (the sole lead for the entire series, have gifted me with performances so nuanced and thorough it’s hard to edit at times. And lastly, my dear friend, beloved art guide and museum guard of the city, Linda Harris is featured in her first film performance ever.
**Major support for this project has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with the 2018 Project Art Grant, with additional support from 2017 The Astraea Global Art fund, and the 2016 Ossian Arts Fellowship.
I don't want to hear anything about what a Black person did to be killed by the cops.
The reality of what is happening right now in defense of the exclusion of Tony McDade's life in the larger conversation of Black lives is complete and utter bullshit. I'm tired of this happening, it always happens, and now this is something that's starting to circulate within the greater and mostly cis-het Black community.
Everybody remembers what the fuck happened with Dylann Roof. He went in and shot up a church filled with Black people. A white supremacist, in my home state of SC, did this. He had a Black friend who knew what he was going to do. I watch on the news paralyzed. He went into a church in Charleston and killed nine Black people while they were in prayer. People knew who he was before this, knew what he was going to do. We all saw what happened to that white man. We all saw that fucking bowl cut. We saw the cops. We saw SWAT, military, whatever the fuck they are-special unit, find him and arrest him peacefully, place him in a protective vest, then pulled over and got him Burger King before taking him in and they even let him eat it outside. Let him eat it before they then took him to be processed. It was there he admitted he wanted to start a race war. We all saw this. We have seen the recent protests in Virginia capital buildings with gun-wielding violent white supremacist men and women yelling at politicians. We have seen the arrest of the white men at these protests, resisting arrest, reaching for guns exposed on their hips, and being arrested without harm. One arrest made out of 20,000 predominantly white protestors.
There is a show right now on Netflix called I am a Killer, shit got two seasons. All featuring people taken into custody, alive, and living life in prison on a documentary. Mostly white. Serial killers, folks who have done horrific shit. Some don't even have life sentences. Laughing and talking for a show about the things they have done to others how and why they have killed. I have now seen circulated info about Tony McDade, a 38 year old Black trans man, killed on May 27, 2020, excluding him from a growing list of Black names of people killed by police. This is about transphobia.
I don't want to hear anything about what a Black man did to be shot by the cops. I don't want to see another headline with "suicide by cop" as a lead-in.
This is something that has consistently been done to the Black community since the implementation of the police. Justifying presence in life and death. Having to justify our very existence in these spaces. Our life stories being compromised to have our deaths justified. First, it was a lack of having freedom papers to show white slave patrollers on horses while walking, now it's because of swift hand movements from a distance, speaking back, reaching for a requested ID, hands not being put up fast enough, eating, sleeping, walking and running. Looking. Even now, daily, Black folks are still being killed while protesting. There is still COVID-19 killing Black people right enormous rates now. White women contacting our families to secure photos of us as children to draw empathy on our adult lives for likes and white guilt. This is a madness.
When I say our, I'm talking about the LGBTQ+ community and I am talking about myself as a Black queer butch dyke woman living with ASD who also can be read as a Black man, who also can be read as a Black trans man, and lastly who can also be read as non-human and not worth living. Who is silhouetted. Who is called sir, and has seen the eyes of the officer/security when corrected. Who has been attempted to be stopped and frisked on the Broad Street line on the way home until speaking. This is happening to Black people also who are Black women (RIP Breonna Taylor), also who are Black femmes, Black Non-Binary. Yet Black people, MY people want to circulate info in regards to Iyanna Dior, a Black trans woman who was beaten brutally up by a large group of Black men and women. On camera. The response is "Oh, well she started." No, she did not start anything to get jumped by a large group of Black men and women. Especially, when in this nation, a large group of Black men and women will allow a white woman to say some shit to them wouldn't EVER shoot the fade like that. I've seen this with my own eyes. This is about Black patriarchy, sexism and transphobia.
I don't want to hear anything about what a Black woman did to be beaten by a large group of Black people.
I myself have often and purposefully stepped back from speaking up in the ways that I am comfortable with to make space for my trans friends and peers who are actually living their lives, leading their communities, and leading the charge even here now. They are working through all of this, supporting and providing adequate awareness of these incidents as they always have been. But right now in the midst of Covid-19 and a nationwide uprising against police brutality, seeing them weary while fighting through it all, makes my heart ache. This is mental warfare as it has always been, but even more, amplified in this moment in their erasure within the Black fight for justice against the violence of the police. Even as a member of the Black LGBTQ+ community I am very aware that it is important not to take up space and to amplify each other and to let people speak from where they stand, to let the people who are subject also make the film, to write the article, to make the speech, etc. -within this community. I, myself have purposely shrunk, as to not overshadow these leaders due to my own popularity, etc. To make and give space. But if you dare utilize Blackness and Back lives as a mode of protest then you will not exclude Black Trans men and women, we can not exclude Black disabled people, we can not do this! Not in life and not in death. Seeing Black trans people who have to bear witness to this manipulative erasure having to take breaks from online, and wondering if they feel safe to march alongside Black people for Black lives is not okay!
I have supported "everybody Black…", my entire life, knowing that not everybody Black (men, women, fellow Black artists, etc) will support me or has supported me where I stand. This way of being and living is a cognitive dissonance laden mindfuck. This is a very hard way to live, and this is a shared experience from my fellow LGBTQ+ folks but especially my Black trans people. We must stop this type of exclusion. Black death by the hands of police is not justified. To see Black people justifying this kind of behavior of exclusion while Dylann Roof is breathing. While Zimmerman is still breathing. And I'm going to say it right here right now, if any Black organization, Black people who know me personally, if you are not willing to include these narratives and in all these awareness efforts that you're doing do not fucking hit me up. Do not hit me up, do not tag me up, do not ask for my money. That's where it's at for me. A line must be drawn here.
I have put my money and my work on the line, in real life. I like many others around me that are friend, have checked ableist and transphobic response behind the scenes. I've checked it in real life, but now I'm checking it publicly on my little website and also on my little private IG account with my 4,000+ followers. You all need to know where I stand in this because the omission, erasure, the vitriol that I'm seeing in comments online and this exclusion to include these narratives, these names, these people, these lives, these Black lives, it will not be tolerated. This uprising and the call to abolish the police must evolve in real-time to include all Black lives. Black trans lives as well as Black disabled lives are not disposable or conditional to this fight.
We must understand that Black death by police and white supremacist structures is not dependant on behavioral circumstances. Our exceptionalism across the intersections of Blackness will not save us from being killed by the hand of the police, hospital waiting rooms, white men in pickup trucks, white men and women calling the police as we stand well mannered as they describe us as aggressive, COVID-19, etc.
There must be a move towards a Black intersubjective intersectionality politic in order for this to actually work for all Black lives in a police state to combat this level of violence. Being Black and exceptional often is a way to into the door faster to be treated worse than everyone else in the room. A dangerous mirage at best.
You're not going to keep doing this to us and expect us to risk what we have worked for and rightfully earned to be reduced as nameless casualties and non-essential lives. When you march these people are beside you as Black lives, we are beside you as Black lives with just as much if not more at stake here.
2020 © Tiona Nekkia McClodden
#TonyMcDade support the fund in his memory here
In support of Iyanna Dior, support her recovery fund here–> CashApp is $IyannaDIO
RIP #BreonnaTaylor support the fund in her memory here.
And all of the countless other Black LGBTQ+ people who have been harmed from within and out. I stand firmly with all of you.
Please also consider supporting the Emergency Release Fund for Trans people