Ibra Ake is a writer for the Glover-led TV series Atlanta and serves as the multi-talented entertainer's creative director. WNYC radio caught up with him to talk about the "This Is America" visuals.
"Our goal is to normalize blackness,” Ake relayed to Tanzina Vega on The Takeaway. “This is how we would like to dance, but we have to be aware of the danger and the politics of how we’re perceived and the implications of the history of how we were treated.”
He also said, "With this video, we reduced it to a feeling - a very black feeling, a very violent feeling, but also a very fun feeling."
Ake suggested the creative team was not as calculated with the metaphors as the public assumes, but he confirmed Jim Crow, minstrel shows, Fela Kuti, and the African diaspora were inspirations for some of the imagery in the clip. Additionally, the designer of the “Awaken! My Love!” album cover revealed Gambino’s performance was taken partially from The Mask starring Jim Carrey.
While "This Is America" garnered over 60 million views on YouTube and widespread praise, the video did receive criticism as well. Some detractors were concerned about the depictions of violence against African-Americans.
"I think that’s just the nature of where we are and we don’t control that. I have a lot of people of color who, when we’re seeing a lot of images of violence - especially against us - have to take a break and cry in the bathroom and go back to work. That’s just part of life in America," explained Ake.