Myrlin Hepworth’s Powerful Music Video Tackles Issues of Race and Violence Head-On
Poet and musician Myrlin Hepworth’s, newest music video “Old Story,” featuring Sean Avery, is not a traditional radio single. It forces you to confront some uncomfortable concepts usually left unconsidered.
The song addresses police brutality, white supremacy, misogyny, and the effect it has on youth. The video is a visual experience that dissects themes such as race, class, and gender, addressing a disconsolate narrative for people of color.
Both directed and produced by Hepworth, the video posits that racism is a learned behavior; the images reveal young minorities being influenced by the injustice, racism, and the discrimination racial minorities encounter through stereotyping.
In the opening scene, a classroom occupied primarily by children of color gather around a table while beading bullets to a string — placing bullet after another on a tiny strand, later placing it around the neck of each child like a necklace.
The bullet necklaces represent the reality that some children are predisposed to violence, Hepworth says. Gang violence, drug activity may seem more appealing when it dominates the community — offering no alternatives.
Children dip their hands in a jar full of white paint labeled "supremacy" and then cover the upper body of Avery with white hand prints during the video as a bullet necklace drapes down his neck.
Young boys point a gun directly into the lenses of the camera with a militant body stance. The face of the boys are tough looking, stiffened—one boy even flexes both arms to appear strong. The camera pans to a scene of boys pretending to shoot one another with a play gun.One child acts as if he gets shot by laying still like a dead body on the pavement. Meanwhile, the other child outlines his body with white chalk like a crime scene—but in a school playground.
The visual Hepworth is showing is just as expressive as his lyrics. He raps, “We teach boys that their value is dependent on whether they do violence / little Johnny better man up! Better man up! Better stop cryin' / take this toy gun go run fantasize about somebody dying / and that’s the guidance.”
A portrait reel of Native Americans wearing traditional clothing appears throughout the video. Following one scene the camera cuts to the image of a banner hung in a classroom that states "Happy Thanksgiving."
“People don’t see happy Thanksgiving as a violent symbol but to me it is. The genocide of indigenous, Native American and original folks is something we neglect to even acknowledge as a base point of how this country was colonized,” Hepworth says.
It's difficult you may find yourself watching it more than once.
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