NEW SONG (AND EP): Black Spaces

28 Oct

duvernay and cobb

So: as part of my annual nerd weekend sojourn to the New Yorker Festival a weeks ago I saw Ava DuVernay in conversation with Jelani Cobb.

She talked about how she and cinematographer Bradford Young filmed the jail cell scene in Selma in the context of “black faces in black spaces.” They didn’t want any coincidentally convenient (read: “fake”) light corrupting the truth of the scene. It’s a jail cell. At night. In Alabama. It would be dark. If at times we can’t see their faces, so be it. That’s the truth. The realness.

“It’s the hull of a slave ship,” she said.

The folks from the French company financing the film were not impressed when they saw the dailies.

“Why can’t we see their eyes?”

Now she’s making A Wrinkle in Time for Disney; Bradford Young is working on another little Disney film called The Last Jedi.

Speaking of Wrinkle and darkness: Ava said that she is proud of it, and excited about it, but a little nervous about it.

“I feel something very deep in my gut when Oprah’s voice says, ‘There’s a darkness in the world and the only one who can stop it is …’ smash cut to a black girl. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if people are going to feel that like I feel that.”

She said she doesn’t know if the film will satisfy certain audience expectations and, at its core, the film is about a girl of color saving the world. “It’s not shied away from. It is front and center,” said DuVernay. “She is hopping planets and flying and saving the freakin’ world. She’s saving the world. Saving the world from darkness, and in the film, darkness is defined as the darkness within us. She’s saving us from ourselves. It’s deep.”

I LOVED A Wrinkle in Time as a kid. Read it in third grade around the same time I read The Hobbit and Roots. A good year for books!

Related: I also caught Jerry Seinfeld as part of the festival lineup the night before, and watched his 2002 documentary Comedian (an old favorite!) on the train to NYC as sort of an appetizer. The film closes with another one of my favorites, Susannah McCorkle’s take on “The Waters of March.”

Anyway: this is a new song called “Black Spaces.”

(And a couple more songs on something I’m calling The Tiny Black Album because I can’t leave well enough alone and some of y’alls Facebook, ahem, “conversations” are naive and adorable and occasionally dumb and sad.)

If it bothers you, it’s not for you – but it’s probably about you. Cheers.

Black Spaces

Black faces in black spaces, in the dailies they reflect no light.
French money man is begging her to show their eyes.
Black faces in black spaces, on the daily, darkness whisperers.
French money askin: “Ou sont les yeux?”

She ain’t trying’ to be that girl.
Don’t walk her on with “Glory”.
She ain’t trying to save the world.
It’s enough to tell a story.

Black faces in white spaces, collect art with yo aunt and absorb the light.
Black faces in white spaces, daddy’s little spies.
Black panic, white panic, confessor black, tesseract, daddy’s little girl
Hop from planet to planet, she gonna save the world.

Money talks, so you keep talking.
You still broke but ya keep talking.
It’s yo masterstroke that you keep talking.
Cuz they think they woke but they sleepwalking.

A black girl is gonna save the world.
Black girl gonna save the world.

Black faces in black spaces
It’s a jail, it’s a cell
It’s the road to Hell
Paved with good intentions
It’s the hull of a ship
It’s a footstep, it’s a bridge
Will you sink, can you swim
Whozit Whaztit and Which
Fight a might, make a right
Paint with celluloid and light
It’s the promise of life
It’s the promise of life
She was raised on the promises of life
It’s the promise of life
In yo heart, in your heart
It’s the waters of a march.

Keep on tryin to tell our story
Wild nights are your glory.


Because I can’t leave well enough alone: I added a 5th song to this project, which I started writing while watching the new Joan Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold. About 5 seconds after uploading the audio files to Bandcamp. I really thought I was done!

The first part of the song is based on a list of things I try to avoid in songwriting.

This video is from the second part of the song, wherein I break all of the rules in part one while imagining Joan Didion jumping out of the television and punching me in the face.

So of course I had to call the song “The White Album”, right?


SPOILER ALERT: Before he was Han Solo, Harrison Ford was Joan Didion’s carpenter.

So he not only attended dinner parties on her patio, HE ACTUALLY BUILT HER PATIO.

I hear it does the Kessel Run in less that 12 parsecs.

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