Watch Jamila Woods Video For “Baldwin”

Jamila Woods is running on a hot streak following the much-lauded release of her sophomore album Legacy! Legacy!. The album is a multi-generational exploration and expression of the black experience in America, framed by some of the greatest minds and creative forces within that history. The song “Baldwin” refers to James Baldwin, one of the most profound writers and social critics in American history. Woods pays tribute to him by singing about him as a contemporary who, even though he is no longer alive still gives advice to her – his words echoing through history inevitably intertwining with hers.

The video for that song came out today. In it, she brings Black Girl Magic to Hogwarts and brings Hogwarts to Chicago. She explains, “The song is inspired by James Baldwin’s “Letter to My Nephew.” In that spirit the film revolves around a group of Black youth in an imagined school on Chicago’s South Side, like Hogwarts–but Black.  To outsiders, the school appears to be abandoned – one of the 50 public schools closed under Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s watch in 2013. However, for Black people in the neighborhood this space is a gem, an oasis of Black learning and radical education for young people. We shot part of the film documentary-style, to include young people’s perspectives on what they would want their dream school to be like.”

The director, Vincent Martell of VAM STUDIO, adds: “My goal as director was to keep the integrity of the track and infuse the majestical spirit of James Baldwin. By working with Jamila to place black CPS students in the forefront of the narrative, we create a world filled with overwhelming possibilities and black joy. The black community is magical and opulent and full of vibrancy, in this video we’re just showing the world what we already see.”


Stephen Kaplan