by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Bashi Rose is an East coast filmmaker I met at the San Francisco Black Film Festival a few years back when his film was selected to screen. I recently ran into him at the Tubman House in Baltimore.
The Tubman House is a community center, diagonally across the street from where Freddie Gray was murdered, that the community reclaimed. It is run by the Friend of a Friend collective.
When I came through, I saw a number of the blocks surrounding the area boarded up – whole blocks! In one apartment, a tree was growing out of the roof, marking the decades of neglect.
The ghetto bird was out flying low in response to the people’s reclamation being made public on the land, and the Blue Klux Klan were actively making threats about trying to take the property back. This is where Bashi was at.
He recently worked on two flicks that greatly inspired me. One I saw about the legendary George Jackson’s politics and ideas called “George Jackson: Releasing the Dragon (A Video Mixtape).” It features the words of the Dragon himself, interviews with David Johnson of the San Quentin 6, former Black Panther political prisoner Eddie Conway and Umar Bin Hasan of the Last Poets.
Bashi’s other film that I like is called “Until Them Whores Get Locked Up,” which is about the police murder of Freddie Gray and the people in the recent rebellion. Check out filmmaker Bashi Rose in his own words.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people what inspired your crew to do a video mix-tape about George Jackson?
Bashi: Jared Ball and I both have a lot of respect for George’s ideas and what he stood for. His legacy and analysis is as relevant today as it was when he was still alive. We both wanted to pay homage to Black August and what it represents.
M.O.I. JR: What is a video mixtape?
Bashi: It’s the visual version of the audio mixtape. Back in the days of analog, folk would record their favorite songs on cassette tapes and eventually DJs started putting out mixtapes of what they were bumping in the clubs, late night radio show mixes etc. It was in a sense a grassroots alternative to the corporate label controlled distribution of hip hop music. The video mixtape is the visual cinematic version of the mixtape – not only mixing dope beats and lyrics but also including and emphasizing the ideas and analysis of the Black radical tradition.
M.O.I. JR: What made you include the voices of people like former political prisoner Eddie Conway and Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets in talking about George Jackson?
Bashi: Jared and I worked with Eddie while he was still incarcerated as a political prisoner and helped out with a prison mentoring program called Friend of a Friend (FOF) that Eddie and Dominique Stevenson initially established at the Maryland Correctional Training Center. As a former Black Panther and committed organizer in and outside the prison system, it was only right to include Eddie’s perspective and experience.
Umar Bin Hassan is a living icon and member of The Last Poets. One of my first introductions to him and the Last Poets was in the 1972 documentary, “Malcolm X,” where you hear him spitting his classic poem, “Niggers are Scared of Revolution.” He lives in Bmore (Baltimore) now, so Jared was able to make that happen, but also as an artist it’s important to use our mediums as tools for revolutionary change and Umar is in that tradition. He was profoundly influenced by George Jackson and added a needed layer to the video mixtape.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about the editing process? How did you decide what you wanted in the film and what you didn’t want?
Bashi: We started out with quotes from George’s books, “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in My Eye.” Then we chose excerpts from interviews that George had done. It was important that George’s voice and ideas were the main thrust of the video mixtape.
From there we reached out to our own family members, colleagues, poets, MCs and activists to read quotes from George’s books, spit lyrics, and/or reflect on George’s ideas and organizing. Initially, all the music was J Dilla beats, but we ended up having copyright issues with labels, so we reached out to folk and used all original music.
We consciously left out extended biographical interpretations of George. We didn’t want this to simply be a story about George Jackson’s life. We wanted to magnify his ideas and analysis and place them in the context of where we are now historically. So George’s text and interviews provided the structure for us to lay everything out.
As a film editor who started out in theatre, I’m more influenced by the aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement than I am by film theory in general, but I am also influenced by the ideas of the Third Cinema Movement, which was an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist approach to cinema. Films like “Hour of the Furnaces” and “Battle of Algiers” come out of that school of thought.
M.O.I. JR: Who are some of the other people in the imixwhatilike collective?
Bashi: Bashi Rose and Jared Ball – with original music and arrangements from jazz drummer Billy Kilson, Tim Hicks of the Cornel West Theory, Hec Dolo, Andre McKnight, Jake Freeman and Bashi Rose and readings, commentary and performances by David Johnson of the San Quentin 6, Umar bin Hasan, Maisi and Marley Ball, Bali and Conal Rose, Tallulah Gabriel, Rebel Diaz, K. Amori, Son of Nun, Slangston Hughes, Eddie Conway, Norman Jackson, Bilal Rahman (founding Friend of a Friend member), Laini Mataka, Tim Hicks and Falani Spivey.
M.O.I. JR: What is the Real News Network?
Bashi: It’s an independent, nonprofit, viewer-supported daily video news and documentary service. It provides alternative coverage and analysis to mainstream corporate media and it’s based in Baltimore.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your film on Freddie Gray?
Bashi: It’s a short piece called “Until Them Whores Get Locked Up.” In Bmore “whore” is slang for someone you don’t really fuck with, who you consider a coward or a straight up bluffer. You might use it affectionately if you’re responding to a joke or something a close friend just said about you. You might respond, “Fuck you, whore,” for example.
In the film, “whores” refer to the police and their murder of Freddie Gray. We hear from members of Sandtown Winchester, where Freddie Gray was from, and how they were also mistreated by the police. The people express their rage and the fact that they won’t accept anything less than justice for Freddie.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope people get out of it?
Bashi: I want people to know that the anger and response to the murder of Freddie Gray and systemic oppression was justified and that the people here aren’t putting up with the bullshit any longer.
M.O.I. JR: How could people stay up with you online?
Bashi: My YouTube channel is Nommo theatre and film. I also do some of the editing for imixwhatilike as part of the Real News Network. Look out for work from the up and coming ARM (Afrikan Revolutionary Media) network. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please view and share “Releasing the Dragon (A Video Mixtape)” in your communities and hold discussions.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.