The 23-year-old choreographer for Donald Glover’s “This is America” explains what it’s like to work on a violent video with kids
In the middle of his Saturday Night Live debut as host and musical guest — the latter his musician alter-ego Childish Gambino — Donald Glover debuted a brand new song “This Is America,” and released an accompanying music video that quickly went viral. The video, which is a frank piece of social commentary on racial injustice and violence, has been both highly praised as being “genius” and criticized for being “sensationalistic.”
The video features Glover and five school children dancing in a large warehouse as a series of jarring events take place around them, including Glover shooting a man execution-style, and later shooting a choir with an assault rifle. The video also includes a number of overt references, ranging from Jim Crow caricatures, to the 2015 Charleston church shooting, to Get Out.
Considering “This Is America” is riddled with heavy references and depictions of violence and brutality, it could be difficult to digest the visual of five school children dancing around Glover in the midst of the horrific events around them — one of the many thought-provoking elements of the controversial video.
In a new interview with Glamour, 23-year old choreographer Sherrie Silver opened up about working with the kids on the music video. Silver, who is from Rwanda, revealed that while the safety of the children was the top priority on-set, it was also important for them to understand what was going on around them.
"One thing I can say is that the most important thing was safety first and making sure the interest of the children and their parents were met," Silver told Glamour. "We had several safety briefs, and I made sure I rebriefed them to understand everything that’s going on. That was a very important aspect—them understanding what’s going on. Everyone watches TV, so I’m sure this is not the first time these kids had seen anything violent. Violence is happening in their reality every day. At least they know, with this video, nobody died."
Silver also spoke of the importance of engaging in political discourse through creativity. Of the decision to have the kids happily continue dancing in the midst of the violence, she said, “For me, I was just trying to show that the kids are the light in all the darkness around them. So that was done in a very subtle way of having these happy, amazing children dancing and enjoying their lives and not paying attention to everything going on around them.”
We think it is so important that Silver and those working on the “This Is America” not only ensured the kids felt safe on-set but also took the time to educate them on what they were doing. Glamour‘s entire interview with Silver can be found here.