The music video for Salomon Faye’s song ‘Black Power’ begins with the New York rapper preparing to go to Baltimore, his blazer and unkempt hair nearly obscured in noirish black and white. The camera pans over to a NYPD car as we hear Faye explain the half music video, half uprising documentary’s concept: “Today we’re going to Baltimore to . . . capture the true essence of what’s going on.” That now-infamous CNN coverage of the Baltimore Uprising, with all its repeated violent imagery and endless usage of the word “riots” plays over his monologue. “I want to tell their story. And I want to speak on behalf of our story, really, from my point of view.”
On the track, in a commanding voice that lends his words authority, especially when it meets up with the track’s moody piano chords and finger snaps, Faye raps, “Black power is higher than all towers/ Truer than all liars, stronger than all policies.” Faye and the THEillUZiON arts collective come from Brooklyn, but their feelings of a commonality with the demonstrators in Baltimore form a constant thread throughout their visual examination of events. “Ferguson may feel out of reach for us right now, but Baltimore is right there,” says one member of THEillUZiON in the video. “It was empowering and insightful to get a feeling for what other black people in America are going through,” Faye says over email, and recounts how he was humbled by the city, and how it relates and differs from the black experience in New York.
Throughout ‘Black Power,’ THEillUZiON collective and director Kris Merc wisely keep the focus on the city and small, trenchant moments of humanity: signs that read “WE RIDE 4 OURS #ONEBALTIMORE”; spontaneous dance parties; Faye holding a fist up outside of a Fox 45 news van; the leader of a march chanting “If you cannot say black lives matter, you’re in the wrong march!” The contrast between what we see in ‘Black Power’ and the clips of events from mainstream media is stark. “You know mainstream media talking about the situation, I remember I always heard the word ‘riots, riots, riots, looting, riots’. . . but I go there and it’s a peaceful protest,” he says. Those words are followed by fists of solidarity outstretched in front of men in camo gear carrying machine guns. The sense of unified strength that permeates ‘Black Power’ is affecting, and an authentic musical snapshot of the events in Baltimore from a determined and passionate out-of-towner’s perspective.